The Socialist Unity Network

Second preference for Livingstone

Andy Newman

The London mayoral election is unusual because voters can vote for both a first preference, and second preference candidate. What is more, the second preference votes are very important, as they will determine the outcome unless one candidate wins more than 50% outright on first preference votes.

Lindsey German is a strong candidate for Mayor, and the RESPECT manifesto for London is imaginative and thoughtful. Socialists should use their first preference to vote RESPECT. The manifesto is very good because it addresses the day-to-day issues facing Londoners, and puts forwards solutions that are socialist, and at the same time achievable.

Ken Livingstone praised RESPECT's campaign in the Morning Star, 29th May, saying it was "consistent and principled" that Lindsay is calling for the second Preference vote to go to Livingstone. He notes that this, "allows her to campaign for her political position without risking a Tory victory". Ken is absolutely right.

Ken is also right to point out that it is important that it is him and not Norris who wins on June 10th. Norris is promising to scrap the congestion charge, which despite early misgivings does seem to work. The Tories will also reverse improvements in bus services by relaxing requirements on frequency and reliability. Norris also promises to increase bus fares by reducing subsidies. One of Livingstone's most progressive policies is his requirement that 50% of all new housing builds are "affordable"; Norris will scrap this as well.

The Lib Dems are showing their true right-wing face in the London mayoral election, simply campaigning to get rid of Ken. The Greens are also showing their unprincipled side by refusing to call for a second preference for Livingstone - the Greens consistently put short term electoral considerations for their organisation above the interests of getting progressive environmental policy enacted, let alone policy in the interests of working people. Do the Greens really think that there is nothing to choose between Norris and Livingstone? Or are they just worried that calling for second preference for Livingstone might cost them a few right wing votes, so they may get one less seat on the GLA.

Personally I would want to see a second preference go to Labour, even if they were standing a right winger. Labour is still "our side", as long as they have their links to the unions, and as long as the majority of working class activists still look to Labour. The Socialist Alliance were correct not to stand a candidate in the last mayoral election, as it allowed a first preference vote for Livingstone, who was then standing as a left of Labour independent, and a second preference for Dobson, the official Labour candidate.

Although he has rejoined the Labour party, we must recognise that Livingstone is a left candidate. Indeed, Livingstone's readmission to the Labour party, pretty much on his own terms, was a victory for the left. Ken could not have opposed the war on Iraq more forcibly, and he has always taken a principled socialist position in solidarity with the Irish national struggle. His policies as London Mayor have been generally in the interests of working people, but only within narrow limits because Ken has worked within the restricted powers that his office allows. (His weakness has been that he has not been prepared to confront national government to go beyond those limits, which would have been possible over some specific policies, like tube privatisation.) If the Tories win in London then this will be a major defeat for the left.

Because the voting system allows a second preference there is no danger that by standing a candidate RESPECT will let the Tories win. It is therefore correct for RESPECT to stand Lindsey German against Livingstone, as it gives an excellent opportunity to publicise socialist policies, and if we get a good vote this strengthens our hand to campaign on these policies after the election. However, it is a weakness that RESPECT is not officially calling for a second preference vote for Livingston - this being only Lindsey's personal recommendation.

When it comes to a choice between Livingstone and Norris, socialists must take sides. We must say: Vote RESPECT first preference; Vote LABOUR second preference; Re-elect Livingstone as mayor!


June 2004


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