Socialist Worker

Election winners and losers—and why we need to step up the fight against austerity

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2503

The Tories vicious dogwhistle politics failed in the campaign for London mayor

The Tories' vicious dogwhistle politics failed in the campaign for London mayor


We should celebrate Sadiq Khan’s election as London mayor. He defied a disgusting racist campaign run by his Tory opponent Zac Goldsmith to become London’s first Muslim mayor.

Khan was a right wing Labour candidate. But many people will have backed him last week because they back Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, not as a rejection of him.

Last week’s elections underline the need for a stronger anti-austerity challenge to the Tories.

We don’t need Labour to move to the “middle ground” as the party’s right wing claims.

Many “experts” had predicted that Corbyn’s leadership would mean Labour would lose 150 or even 200 council seats. In fact Labour is down by 18 council seats overall, compared to the Tories’ loss of 48.

But a BBC analysis suggests its share is up 4 percent on the general election in key wards, with the Tories down by a similar amount.

Such figures say the problem for Labour is the right, not Corbyn. The 2012 elections were held in the immediate aftermath of a rise in working class struggle. Some 750,000 had marched against austerity in London and then the 2.6 million-joined the pensions strike of November 2011.

Labour’s vote share was down on 2012 when those seats were last contested. But the years of Ed Miliband’s leadership and Labour copying many of the Tories’ fundamental ideas lost votes. In contrast Corbyn’s leadership has led to a limited revival.

Sadiq Khan was a right wing but many will have backed him for London mayor to back Corbyns leadership

Sadiq Khan was a right wing candidate but many will have backed him for London mayor to back Corbyn's leadership


The Labour right must also take the blame for constantly assaulting Corbyn and pumping out slurs about antisemitism in the days just before the votes.

However, there are facts that must be faced.

Given the Tories’ disarray, and the brutal austerity policies they are implementing, Labour cannot be remotely satisfied by the results.

This is the first time for more than 30 years that an opposition party has lost seats overall in council elections not held at the same time as a general election.

Labour would have done better if its councils opposed and defied Tory cuts rather than meekly implementing them.

Seeing your local council slashing services is little incentive to go and vote.

The key task for socialists, whether inside Labour or not, is to build the strikes, protests and struggles that can give workers confidence to hurl back the Tories’ assault. Manoeuvres inside the Labour Party are not the crucial factor.

We need more solidarity with the junior doctors, a campaign of defiance against the new anti-union laws and teachers’ strikes to defend education.

We need resistance against racism, pressure to force Cameron to let in more refugees, and support across the trade unions for the 18 June convoy to Calais.

We need a fightback in the workplaces and the streets to stop the Tory millionaires, racists and hypocrites.

Another win for SNP in Scotland but Sturgeon’s shine beginning to fade

The Scottish National Party (SNP) won the Scottish parliament elections convincingly. It now has 63 seats—two short of an overall majority and more than the next three parties combined. Leader Nicola Sturgeon intends to lead a minority government.

But between the six Green MSPs and the SNP, the Scottish parliament still has a pro-independence majority.

The SNP’s 2015 landslide general election victory garnered 1.5 million votes but its constituency vote this year was 400,000 less.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is set to lead a minority government at Holyrood

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is set to lead a minority government at Holyrood (Pic: First Minister of Scotland Flickr)


Its victory masks big slumps in its vote—by up to 18 percent in Aberdeenshire, 12 percent in Perthshire, 6 percent in Dundee and 8 percent across the North East.

The Tories are in opposition after they picked up 31 seats. They ate into the SNP’s traditional base in the rural north east and highlands. But they picked up votes everywhere.

The party campaigned as the clearest unionist option and this played an important role in its vote doubling since 2011. But at around 22 percent of the vote, it hasn’t even matched hated Tory Margaret Thatcher’s vote in Scotland.

The SNP’s two terms in government have seen no real change. The so-called “anti-austerity” party has made cuts and its new Tory opposition will make it even easier for Sturgeon to blame Westminster than take the blame for cuts. She is still riding high on the post referendum wave and picking up Labour’s hemorrhaging vote in working class areas. But for some the SNP is starting to lose a bit of its shine.

Labour’s manifesto was to the left of the SNP, pledging to tax the rich more and fund public services. But no one was listening. It came third for the first time in Scotland since 1910 with 24 seats.

The Edinburgh PFI schools scandal served as a reminder of the New Labour politics that sowed deep disillusion in its heartlands. The disillusion turned to open anger after Labour’s alliance with the Tories against independence.

Many now wonder how Labour can ever recover in Scotland.

Some 1.3 million extra people voted in the 2014 referendum than voted in 2016. While socialists should support calls for a second referendum, making it a focus lets the austerity parties off the hook and won’t inspire many of those who haven’t voted since 2014. The key focus now must be on struggle.

Raymie Kiernan

Standing up to Ukip in Doncaster outside the party national conference in 2014

Standing up to Ukip in Doncaster outside the party's national conference in 2014 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Ukip gains are a warning—keep fighting racism

Ukip made some gains in local council elections in England. In Thurrock Ukip gained six seats and missed being the largest party in the council by just one vote. In Rotherham Ukip went from 12 councillors to 14, while in Hartlepool it gained three seats.

It has snatched seven seats in the Welsh Assembly—it had none before last week’s elections. It is a worrying example of how the anti-immigrant rhetoric spouted by mainstream politicians can boost the hard right.

Some commentators claim that Ukip is stealing working class votes from Labour.

The evidence doesn’t back that up. It’s true that Labour has lost overall control of the Welsh Assembly. It is now seeking to form a minority Welsh government.

But Labour holds the most constituency seats in the Welsh Assembly, 27, and has two regional seats. It lost one seat in these elections—the lowest loss of any party.

By contrast the Tories lost three seats and the Lib Dems lost four. Ukip’s share of the constituency vote has grown by 12.5 percent since 2011.

There’s no evidence this has all come from Labour. Labour’s share of the constituency vote fell by 7.6 percent since 2011. The Tories’ dropped by 3.9 percent and the Lib Dems’ by 2.9 percent.

And Ukip’s gains are small compared to previous years. In 2014 Ukip gained 161 seats in local elections, taking its total to 163. This time, Ukip gained far fewer.

In Oldham Ukip won two seats in 2014, this time it won none. Ukip hoped to make gains in Bradford and made none.

In Basildon, Essex, Ukip gained 11 councillors in 2014. This time it gained two. It won 39 percent of the vote in 2014, compared to 27 percent this time.

Ukip may not have won nearly as many seats as it did two years ago. But in many areas it grabbed high votes.

In two Westminster by-elections on 5 May it came second to Labour. In Ogmore, South Wales, it took 16 percent of the vote and 20 percent in Sheffield Brightside. Campaigners need to remain vigilant against Ukip and other racists.

Sadie Robinson

We need a united alternative

The left of Labour vote was small nearly everywhere.

In Scotland both Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity and the new Rise formation both gained only low numbers. The best result was around 1 percent for each across Glasgow.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) took around 2,000 votes in three constituencies in the city. The results underlined the need for a united left.

Elsewhere TUSC saw mostly disappointing returns. But in some council wards it won more than 5 percent. In the Liverpool mayoral election TUSC’s Roger Bannister won 4,950 votes, 5 percent of the total. He beat the Tory, an independent and the English Democrats.

The best council result came in Warrington where former Labour councillor Kevin Bennett won 921 votes and was just 77 short of election. Kevin was suspended by the council Labour group in April 2013 after voting against the cuts and he left Labour in January last year.

See full TUSC results tusc.org.uk

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