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If you want clear-cut analyses, the June election results are annoying. With Euro votes of 6.2 per cent for the Greens, 5.2 per cent for the Scottish Socialist Party and 1.7 per cent for Respect, the left did not break the mould of British politics. But there were some very significant results, especially in the local elections. The new electoral map reveals the real and different strengths of the Greens and Respect, and also how several left organisations have made local breakthroughs through sheer persistence and well-respected local candidates.
Take London. Respect achieved some stunning successes through providing a voice to Muslim voters radicalised by the war. In the east of the capital, it topped the poll for the GLA elections in Tower Hamlets and came second in Newham, with 20.4 per cent and 21.4 per cent, respectively. Its vote in Lambeth and Greenwich, however, was less than what the Socialist Alliance achieved in the equivalent elections in 2000.
Other key results for Respect, especially considering the forthcoming by-elections in the two cities, included its relative success in Birmingham, where it won 7.4 per cent of the vote, and Leicester, where it polled 10 per cent. The coalition also did very well in Preston’s council elections, averaging 30 per cent of the vote.
London and Preston aside, in the Euro elections Respect was less successful – securing only 1.7 per cent of the vote. There were many sighs of relief, including from within Respect itself, that it did not cost the Greens its seats. In three regions Respect stood against other left organisations: in Yorkshire and Humber it polled twice the number of votes the Alliance for Green Socialism gained; in the southeast it won the same number of votes as the Peace Party; but in Wales it only achieved a third of the vote for Forward Wales – the new socialist grouping led by Welsh Assembly Member John Marek and former secretary of state for Wales Ron Davies.
Outside of London Respect’s share of the European vote was almost identical to the performance of the whole of the socialist left – the Socialist Alliance, the Socialist Labour Party (SLP), et al – in 1999. In all but one of the 10 regions where Respect stood the vote was only marginally different. Even the best results outside London involved a rise of less than 1 per cent.
In the council elections several other socialist organisation stood candidates with some impressive results. The Socialist Party had two councillors elected in Coventry. Peter Smith in Walsall polled 32 per cent for the Democratic Socialist Alliance. Roy North, a Socialist Alliance supporter, polled 11.4 per cent in Swindon. The Independent Working Class Association got three councillors elected in Oxford. Mike Lane for the SLP won 9.2 per cent in his Liverpool ward. Garth Frankland for the Alliance for Green Socialism won more than 1,000 votes in Leeds, and Glyn Davies in Flintshire stood for the Communist Party and still managed to win 21.6 per cent. There were far too many good votes to mention them all, proving that, like the Greens, the socialist left can build a local base if it works at doing so between as well as during elections.
The Greens, like Respect, had pockets of excellent results. Norwich and Oxford provide two excellent examples of how they built on existing support: the party won three extra seats in the former and another four in the latter. The party’s biggest success, however, was in Brighton where it topped the poll and beat Labour with 20 per cent of the vote, thus creating the chance of the first Green MP at the next general election. Having said this, its Euro vote was slightly down on 1999.
Two conclusions can be drawn from these results. First, that the Green and Respect votes are not in direct competition: the two organisations have different constituencies, despite a great overlap of policies. There are few places where both organisations have strong, rooted candidates. Respect managed to tap into the “Muslim vote” in an unprecedented way and should be congratulated for that. The Greens simply do not have a foothold in this community, but they were able to draw on a far wider layer of support.
Greater cooperation across the left would obviously be ideal – if agreement could only be met. In some areas, the left and the Greens have already made informal deals and have good relations, but other areas will require much more work. Negotiations will need to proceed on the basis of cooperation rather than “stand down or else”.Jim Jepps is the webmaster for www.socialistunity.co.uk
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