Comparing the two Greater London Authority (GLA) top-up elections, this becomes clear.
After the 2000 GLA elections Socialist Worker pointed that out if other socialist candidates had united with the Socialist Alliance we would have won a list seat with 5.3 percent. This time Respect, with no socialist competition, won 4.7 percent on the list, although accidentally spoilt ballot papers cost some votes. The Green vote fell from 11.1 percent to 8.6 percent, while the far right (BNP and Ukip) went from 5 percent to 12.9 percent.
In Wales anti-war Plaid Cymru lost more than a third of their Euro votes, and left wing Forward Wales got 1.9 percent. We can’t assume good Euro results in localised areas (Tower Hamlets, Newham) will translate into general election results. The Greens found this: their average 6.3 percent in all seats in 1999’s Euro elections became 2.9 percent in the 2001 general election in the quarter of seats they chose to contest.
How has this happened, when we were right about Iraq and helped organise brilliant demos? Blaming the lack of publicity doesn’t help – we can’t expect fair play from the capitalist media. While Blair is hugely unpopular, protests have shrunk, and with strikes historically low, people can see the movement as another heroic failure.
The far right vote is not just about confusion or media manipulation. A Rowntree Foundation study found BNP voters identify strongly with its racism. The Ukip and BNP vote is strongly anti-asylum, Islamophobic and xenophobic. Ukip supports ‘five freedoms’, including ‘freedom from political correctness’ and ‘freedom from overcrowding’ – they claim ‘the UK is already full up’. Sadly, this is more likely attracting votes than Ukip’s anti-Brussels rhetoric.
The disastrous occupation, while still a blow to the imperial project, can fuel a fascist anti-foreigner and anti foreign war position. Although the BNP were disappointed by their vote, they did win 7.5 percent of all votes in the West Midlands. Ukip poses as the acceptable face of racism, and has establishment and business backing that the BNP lacks. This shows the danger of focusing on the BNP without prioritising the frightening level of racism.
This is not a council of despair. We have formed important new relationships and improved left wing organisation. We can challenge anti-asylum racism. Strikes can win. But we need to think through our strategy, not be overoptimistic, and fight in the circumstances we’re in.
Rachel Aldred and James Woodcock
A spotlight on Australia’s immigration system
Celebrate Colston 4 victory
NHS workers speak out against Tories