The Socialist Unity Network

Reaction to the local election results

Andy Newman

The thing about local election results is that they are, well local. There is considerable variation across the country in terms of how strong a challenge the Lib Dems make for example. There can also be variation in whether the elections happen to coincide with local campaigning issues that left candidates are associated with.

However, a quick over view of the National picture means we can try to learn
from each others' experience.

First the biggest success for left candidates is undoubtedly Oxford where the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) won three seats, to add to
their existing councillor. Now the IWCA is not everyone's cup of tea, and they are notable in not taking up issues that they regard (rather inaccurately) as the preserve of the chattering classes - for example their manifesto does not address the issue of the war.

I think the IWCA would themselves agree that they no longer necessarily
consider themselves socialist. Nevertheless, there are two areas where we
can all learn from them. Firstly, although I wouldn't agree with every aspect of their manifesto they start with the immediate concerns of working class communities, and seek to find solutions based upon working class self
reliance. We should all be doing this, but should also recognise that workers are not only in communities, we also work and the most powerful expression of our self reliance is our trade unions. The second thing we can learn from the IWCA is that they have stuck at it - working on the estates through good times and bad - not just at elections, and they have been undeterred by poor elections results in the past.

Secondly, the results in Wrexham, with one councillor elected and another
denied only by a whisker is a tremendous step forward, added to their existing seat in the Welsh assembly. Huw Pudner has also achieved an outstanding result for RESPECT in Wales. The task now in Wales is to put behind us the controversy about both RESPECT and FW both contesting the Euro elections, and all the left should unite in a single organisation.

Thirdly, the RESPECT results in Preston are very impressive, and the RESPECT results in Manchester seem higher than those achieved by candidates standing under a socialist banner. This is only an impression based upon slight evidence, and a report from Manchester is necessary to flesh out the details. Undoubtedly Michael Lavallete and Preston RESPECT have done a fantastic job, however it is not yet clear how well the Preston experience transports to other towns.

Finally, the Socialist party in Coventry again did exceedingly well retaining two seats in St Michael's ward. Although in other parts of the town they do not seem to get significantly better results than the rest of us.

There are a couple of general observations that are worth making.  The results are good - I haven't done a full comparison but they generally seem better than last year's results. There are more results in the 7% and 8% bracket and less around 2% and 3%. So far I haven't seen many poor results (less than 1%) which we have had in the past. Obviously we have only stood in a few wards, but the level of vote is not hugely less than that achieved by the far left in other European countries. It is a base to build upon.

One important point is whether we were competing against the Greens or not
seems to have been a very significant factor on whether we got a modest
result or a good one. This year the Green party made a conscious policy to
stand as many paper candidates as possible. In Swindon they scored good
votes - including on working class estates where they have no base - although our vote in Swindon's Gorse Hill and Pinehurst was as good as any
Green result in the town.

All in all - these local election results show that Socialists can make a real impact campaigning in their local communities. We need to do the hard graft and build local pockets of support and spread out from there, not assume that any particular combination of circumstances in national politics will allow us to leap over this necessary stage.


June 2004


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