Socialist Worker

Tories lose out in local elections - resist the racists

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2351

Counting the votes

The Tories lost 335 councillors in last Thursday's local elections. They also lost control of ten councils including Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Oxfordshire, home to David Cameron's constituency.

It was a dismal showing.

Labour gained 291 seats and two councils, while the Lib Dems lost 124 seats.  

This number was kept down because they were mostly fighting Tories for seats and their vote also went down. 

Disturbingly in the seats contested the far right Ukip now has 147 councillors—up from eight. 

This dangerous development pushes anti-immigration politics further into the heart of the political mainstream.

In more positive news, in Burnley, Lancashire, the Nazi British National Party lost its last councillor. The town is free of Nazis on the council for the first time since 2001.

The elections, many of which were in Tory heartlands, put Labour on 29 percent of the vote and the Conservatives on 25 percent.

Ukip came in third with 23 percent and the Lib Dems in fourth with 14 percent.

Labour held onto the parliamentary seat in South Shields. But Ukip  pushed the Tories into third place and the Lib Dems were crushed into seventh. The by-election there was held after David Miliband shuffled off to the US. Labour also won a  Witney Central council seat in David Cameron’s constituency.

But the most dramatic gains in the election went to Ukip. Tory attempts to counter Ukip by echoing its anti-immigration message while treating the party as joke failed. 

Ukip leader Nigel Farage in part tapped into disillusionment with the establishment. He  says that the other political parties' leaders are “all the same” and went to the “same schools and Oxford colleges”. 

But Farage is the son of a stockbroker who went to private school and worked in the City.

Ukip's populism is about more than simply its leader Nigel Farage constantly being photographed holding a pint.

A lot of Ukip's vote was a right wing protest. It was also often in places where the Tories would be secure and their supporters, still mourning the death of Thatcher, want a lurch to a right.

The problem is they may get one. 

The Tories have already said that next week's queen's speech, where the government announces its plans, will be a concerted attempt to address Ukip voters on immigration and welfare.

The government wants to push through ever greater cuts, and attacks on the welfare state and the living standards of millions of ordinary people. They won't hesitate to encourage racism along the way.

More promises of an EU referendum and tough talk on immigration will only further encourage the bigots.

Unfortunately Labour is also keen to emphasise its commitment to being tough on immigration. Labour thinks the best way to win working class votes is to limit immigration, instead of resisting austerity.

There is a nasty consensus in establishment politics. All mainstream politicians believe that the “issue” of immigration has to be tackled. By that they don’t mean standing up to racism. They mean either whipping it up or pandering to it.

The key thing is to resist this foul consensus and for activists to make anti-racism part of our resistance to austerity.

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