It is less than ten weeks before local council elections across England on 2 May. In London every council seat will be up for grabs. The elections will be a chance to challenge New Labour and the other main parties.
Councils across the country are now pushing through cuts. Some have held back from their biggest cuts, fearing an electoral backlash. But many are still forcing through vicious attacks and huge council tax rises. The average rise is likely to be around 8 percent but in some councils will be 12 percent or even more.
The Socialist Alliance will be running hundreds of candidates across England. Socialist Worker urges all its readers to support these candidates and get involved in the campaign. The national council of the Socialist Alliance met last weekend to discuss its approach to the elections.
The alliance brings together thousands of socialists from different organisations and those who do not belong to any group.
There was discussion at the meeting about whether to concentrate on local issues or to also raise wider questions. Socialist Alliance executive member John Rees expressed Socialist Worker's view when he said, 'The election is not just about the council but also a referendum on the Labour government. Some people will ask, 'How would you run things differently on the council? How will you tackle the problems of this area?' Of course, we have to provide a socialist answer to those questions. But there is a bigger audience for us who want a wider view, broad things that chime with how working class people feel about their situation. It is absolutely right to make the war and the defence of asylum seekers key points for us. They should be points for all our election material.'
The great majority of delegates supported this approach, and supported a set of slogans which we print on page 15.
There was also discussion about how many candidates to stand, although such decisions are in the end up to local alliances. There was near unanimous agreement that the aim should be 'to maximise our vote while at the same time standing enough candidates to make us credible'. This will involve selecting certain council wards to stand in. Even if we stand in several wards, some will be targeted for campaigning.
In order to raise their profile in the run-up to the formal election campaign, local Socialist Alliances should consider initiating stunts around the setting of council budgets.
Candidates could lead militant opposition to cuts and take part in direct action at meetings where cuts are being passed. Other tactics could include mass leafleting of estates in target wards, car cavalcades, and stalls in busy shopping areas.