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Issue 31, October 1998

Socialist election results

MIKE WADDINGTON, (Socialism Today No.29) is incorrect in reporting that Lewisham Socialist Alliance candidates gained only 2% of the vote in May's local elections. With limited resources, the recently established Socialist Alliance (SA) candidates gained 5% in Rushey Green and almost 4% in Marlowe ward. This was with only a handful of activists, a single leaflet only partially delivered to homes in both wards, and a single public meeting. Rather it was the CPGB who stood a candidate on an ultra-left platform in Manor Lee who got only 2%.

A number of SA supporters helped in Ian Page's campaign and a representative from the Socialist Party (SP) spoke at our public meeting in Catford. The Lewisham SP branch is now working with us to build a campaigning SA.

The election of Dave Nellist in Coventry is a victory that all socialists can celebrate, but it has been built on the campaigning work not just of the SP but the 350 SA supporters in Coventry and Warwickshire over six years. An additional SA candidate in Nuneaton also gained 8% and a candidate in Radford ward in Coventry, campaigning as part of the SA to fight proposals to privatise tenants' homes, gained 10%.

The Walsall Democratic Labour Party, a constituent of the Socialist Alliances Network, gained over 20% in target wards in Walsall. Greens gained seats also after years of campaigning work. The message of the local elections for the left is serious campaigning work in local communities is the way forward. However, I would argue that the combination of PR and working within an alliance offers the potential for socialist and green parties to make a breakthrough as part of a broad alliance. The experience from Europe and New Zealand is that as part of an alliance parties can jump from the 2-3% level to double figures in national and regional elections and gain representation. The potential tragedy is that we could see the SLP, SP, SWP, Greens and SA all standing separately and failing individually.

Nick Long

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