Socialist Worker

Local elections: Big losses for Tories as voters reject austerity

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2301

The election results last night show a profound rejection of the coalition and its assault on working people. Voters slaughtered the Lib Dems across Britain, with their results as bad as those in the immediate aftermath of the betrayal over tuition fees.

The Tories, who used the Lib Dems as a human shield in last year’s elections, themselves crashed this time. The party's losses have already kicked off internal fighting with calls from senior backbenchers for even nastier and more right wing policies.

Labour, the default option for most people when they wanted to punish the coalition, has made real gains. So far the party has won an extra 470 councillors and is on track to win more than 700.

But Labour still leaves many voters uninspired—as we may see today when the results for the London mayor and Glasgow city council are announced. And a genuinely popular Labour party would have pushed up the turnout in the elections. Overall less than one in three people voted.

Candidates running to the left of Labour showed the potential for resistance through the ballot box as well as on the streets.

In Preston, Socialist Worker supporter Michael Lavalette won a tremendous victory, beating the well-rooted Labour councillor by nearly 100 votes—despite a hugely concentrated attempt by Labour to hold on to the ward.

Michael’s success came from years of work since the start of the Iraq war, his previous record as a councillor, a lively campaign and the feeling against cuts, racism and imperialism.

In Bradford, Respect won five of the 12 seats it contested. Its continuing success in the city included defeating the Labour council leader. He had been a councillor for 17 years.

Partly as a response to the coalition's NHS privatisation bill, in Wyre Forest the Independent Community and Health Concern group won a further three councillors, taking its tally to eight.

In other places the move to Labour squeezed socialist candidates, with Dave Nellist regrettably losing his Coventry seat.

But Tony Mulhearn won nearly 5,000 votes standing for Liverpool mayor for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. TUSC supporters also recorded good results in areas including Cambridge, Barnsley and Manchester.

Meanwhile the Nazi BNP has had a bad election so far, losing three councilors and gaining none.

The coalition government is rocking. Overall the Tories (31 percent of the vote) and the Lib Dems (16 percent) have less than a majority. They have no mandate and no plans except to hit workers harder and to divide the opposition through racism and scapegoating.

The strike on Thursday, 10 May, is a key opportunity for everyone to weaken the coalition further. It's time to pressure the union leaders to call more and bigger united action that can ram home the advantage against this tottering government.

And the left needs to discuss how we can build a stronger and more united opposition to the Tories and Lib Dems and a more powerful socialist challenge.


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