Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.


Few heroes, one zero: the election and the left

James O'Nions scours the election results in search of succour for the left

June 8, 2015
4 min read

James O'NionsJames O'Nions is a former Red Pepper editor. He is the head of activism for Global Justice Now.

  share     tweet  

As the shock exit poll hit us at 10pm on 7 May, socialists all over the country were frantically looking for a glimmer of hope. While the scale of the SNP victory was confirmed relatively early, with Blairite Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy’s defeat a strong contender for most satisfying for the evening, we had to wait until the following morning to hear that the Greens’ Caroline Lucas had been returned with a majority increased by 11 per cent.

The Greens didn’t manage a second MP, though Darren Hall got 27 per cent in Bristol West, a constituency where they lost their deposit in 2010. Another Green target, Norwich South, saw a slight drop in the Green vote to 14 per cent, though they beat the Liberal Democrats, who had previously held the seat. The consolation here is that the new Labour MP, Clive Lewis, is on the left of the party.

Overall, the Greens saved 123 deposits (up from six in 2010) and won 1.2 million votes. In addition to Bristol West, they came second in Sheffield Central, Liverpool Riverside and Manchester Gorton. Like their better results in London (among them 15 per cent in Hackney North, 12 per cent in Hackney South, 10 per cent in Camberwell and Peckham), these are all safe Labour seats. But there were some exceptions to the pattern, such as the 9,400 votes they got in the safe Tory seat of the Isle of Wight.

Peter Pinkney, the RMT president who stood for the Greens in Redcar, made less of an impact than he might have hoped, with 880 votes (2.2 per cent) in a seat Labour took from the Liberal Democrats. The Greens’ best result in the north east was Newcastle East, with 8.7 per cent.

The National Health Action party did reasonably well in a few seats, such as Louise Irvine’s 8.5 per cent in Surrey South West, though they seem unlikely to win seats any time soon. Despite leader Leanne Wood’s increased profile in the election debates, Plaid Cymru just failed to increase their representation from three to four seats when they missed out on taking Ynys Môn by 200 votes.

Meanwhile, Socialist Party vehicle the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) fielded 135 candidates, up from around 30 in 2010, and enough to get a TV election broadcast. TUSC achieved over 1,000 votes in two parliamentary constituencies, Tottenham and Coventry North West. Creditable enough perhaps, but the latter candidate, Dave Nellist, has stood three times previously in neighbouring Coventry North East under the flag of previous left formations, getting 2,638 in 2001, 1,874 in 2005 and then 1,592 in 2010. The TUSC candidate in Coventry North East this time got just 633 votes.

Nellist clearly has a small personal vote dating back to his time as a Labour MP, but it appears to be in long-term decline. Undeterred, the TUSC website claimed ‘the parliamentary votes are just a small reflection of the support – including electoral support – for TUSC’s socialist, anti-austerity message’ and attempted to play up its only slightly less modest local council results.

Elsewhere the majority of TUSC candidates hovered around the 200 votes mark, or around 0.5 per cent. Left Unity’s more modest ten candidates, seven of whom were joint candidates with TUSC, got similar votes, with 949 in Bethnal Green and Bow the main outlier.

To the joy of zionists and hyenas everywhere (apparently), George Galloway lost the Bradford West seat he spectacularly won in a by-election in 2012, following a campaign characterised by some disgraceful behaviour towards his Labour opponent. Needless to say, the electorate will be hearing from Galloway’s lawyer.

Of the left Labour and SNP candidates highlighted in the last issue of Red Pepper, all were elected, including Labour’s Richard Burgon, Louise Haigh and Cat Smith, and Tommy Sheppard and Philippa Whitford for the SNP.

The progressive regionalist parties Paul Salveson wrote about fared as well as could be expected in a general election, with Paul himself getting 572 votes in Colne Valley. Yorkshire First’s 479 votes in Morley and Outwood was slightly more than the number former shadow chancellor Ed Balls lost by, though it seems unlikely they would all have otherwise voted for him.

Lisa McKenzie, the Class War candidate we interviewed who stood in solid Tory Chingford, got an unsurprising 53 votes. Not as few as a TUSC council candidate in Medway, however, who scored the remarkable total of zero. He swears he and his wife both voted for him, but calling for a recount hardly seems worth anyone’s while.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

James O'NionsJames O'Nions is a former Red Pepper editor. He is the head of activism for Global Justice Now.

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead