Socialism Today            Socialist Party magazine

Election 2001: the socialist vote

JUNE’S ELECTION WAS the first national poll contested by the Socialist Alliance. Bringing together individuals, including some from a Labour Party background, with the forces of different socialist organisations (with the exception of Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party - SLP), the Socialist Alliance was enabled to stand candidates in 98 constituencies in England and Wales.

The best results were in Coventry North East, where Socialist Party member Dave Nellist was the candidate, and St Helen’s South. There former Labour councillor and regional Fire Brigade Union leader Neil Thompson stood against Shaun Woodward, the millionaire ex-Tory MP who had been effectively imposed on the local Labour Party in this previously rock-solid Labour seat.

Overall the Socialist Alliance polled 57,553 votes, with nine candidates winning over 1,000 votes. In addition the Scottish Socialist Party, which contested all 72 seats in Scotland, polled 72,518 votes, with 31 candidates recording more than 1,000 votes (see box on p11). Yet, encouraging though the votes for socialist candidates were, they were more a symptom of things to come than heralding the arrival of a new, mass alternative to New Labour.

The election further confirmed that, like workers in the USA, British workers now face two main big business parties competing for their support. It also confirmed that, at this stage, there is no authoritative force capable of pulling together trade unionists, public service users, environmental campaigners and young people, into a new mass alternative, a new workers’ party, to represent their interests.

The most significant expression of this was the mass abstention, particularly in the working class Labour ‘heartlands’. Also symptomatic was the unprecedented vote in Wyre Forest where the Kidderminster hospital campaigner polled 28,487 votes (58%) in one constituency. Another sign of the alienation of the most oppressed sections, and their search for an alternative, was the vote for the Birmingham-based People’s Justice Party, established initially as a Kashmiri party, which captured over 4,770 votes (13.02%) in Birmingham Small Heath and 2,122 votes (6.71%) in Birmingham Ladywood. In both cases they heavily outpolled a socialist candidate.

The Greens also doubled their vote compared to 1997 (scoring 166,477 votes in 144 seats) and, in another indication of the state of consciousness at this stage, outpolled Socialist Alliance candidates in all the 31 seats where there was a direct contest. Also, more ominously, in the eleven seats where a socialist clashed with candidates from the neo-fascist British National Party (BNP) and National Front (NF), only three – Socialist Party members Dave Nellist in Coventry and Simon Donovan in Walthamstow, and an SLP candidate in Leicester – outpolled the fascists.

Overall, the SLP suffered from miners’ leader Arthur Scargill’s refusal to participate in the Socialist Alliance or the Scottish Socialist Party. In 1997 the SLP, then still a relatively new force, contested 64 seats and polled 52,110 votes, with 13 of its candidates winning over 1,000 votes. This time with 111 candidates it polled 57,289 votes, with only five recording more than 1,000 votes. Nevertheless, it still outpolled Socialist Alliance candidates in 12 of the seats where there was a direct clash, showing the limits to how effectively the Socialist Alliance has established itself even as the authoritative force on the left.

Recognition of this, a sense of proportion about what the Socialist Alliance represents, will be critical for its future development. The case for an Alliance that can draw in future ‘Kidderminsters’, trade unionists fighting privatisations etc – where such campaigners, and the different political groups involved in the Alliance, are able to retain their separate identity while working together – was strengthened by the election outcome. Indeed, the results proved that such a ‘federal’ approach can enhance not diminish the Alliance’s electoral performance – the Socialist Party provided 12% of the Socialist Alliance candidates, for example, but contributed 15.5% of its total vote. In addition two Socialist Party members who stood against the Labour left MPs John McDonnell and Neil Gerrard, who on this occasion in a compromise agreement stood without Socialist Alliance backing, polled above the Socialist Alliance average.

With New Labour now so clearly another capitalist party, albeit of a more ‘liberal’ character than Hague’s Tories, a new workers’ party is necessary to overcome the crisis of working class political representation. The election results show that the Socialist Alliance could be a ‘herald’ of such a force, a pre-formation of a new workers party. For this to happen however, clarity within the Socialist Alliance, on the need for a federal structure that can accommodate workers moving onto the political plane at different speeds, and even on the need for a new workers’ party, will be critical. But again, above all, it will be events, of workers responding to the deepening crisis that Blair’s second-term Labour government will face, that will fill out the processes signposted by the election into the basis for a new mass workers’ party.

Clive Heemskerk


The Socialist Alliance votes


Coventry North East Dave Nellist 2,638 (7.08%)

St Helens South Neil Thompson 2,325 (6.88%)

Hackney South & Shoreditch Cecilia Prosper 1,401 (4.62%)

Lewisham Deptford Ian Page 1,260 (4.33%)

Nottingham East Pete Radcliff 1,117 (3.76%)

Coventry South Rob Windsor 1,475 (3.68%)

Tottenham Weyman Bennett 1,162 (3.68%)

Liverpool Riverside Cathy Wilson 909 (3.56%)

Manchester Withington John Clegg 1,208 (3.45%)

Holborn & St Pancras Candy Udwin 971 (3.12%)

Islington South Janine Booth 817 (2.90%)

Poplar & Canning Town Kambiz Boomla 950 (2.79%)

Leeds Central Steve Johnston 751 (2.75%)

Wigan Dave Lowe 886 (2.64%)

Vauxhall Theresa Bennett 853 (2.55%)

Barnsley Central Henry Rajch 703 (2.55%)

Hornsey & Wood Green Louise Christian 1,106 (2.51%)

Sheffield Central Nick Riley 759 (2.51%)

Makerfield Malcolm Jones 858 (2.46%)

Streatham Greg Tucker 906 (2.45%)

Bootle Pete Glover 672 (2.44%)

Dulwich & West Norwood Brian Kelly 839 (2.19%)

Birmingham Erdington Steve Godward 669 (2.19%)

Leyton & Wanstead Sally Labern 709 (2.10%)

Camberwell & Peckham John Mulrenan 478 (1.90%)

Tyne Bridge Sam Robson 485 (1.86%)

Salford Peter Grant 414 (1.84%)

Dudley South Angela Thompson 663 (1.82%)

Oxford East John Lister 708 (1.78%)

Manchester Blackley Karen Reissmann 461 (1.74%)

Middlesborough Geoff Kerr-Morgan 577 (1.71%)

Brent South Mick McDonnell 491 (1.71%)

Hull North Roger Smith 490 (1.71%)

Cambridge Howard Senter 716 (1.67%)

Portsmouth South John Molyneux 647 (1.65%)

Hampstead & Highgate Helen Cooper 559 (1.58%)

Lewisham East Jean Kysow 464 (1.54%)

Doncaster Central Janet Terry 517 (1.52%)

Telford Mike Jeffries 469 (1.52%)

Ashfield George Watson 589 (1.50%)

Greenwich & Woolwich Kirstie Paton 481 (1.48%)

Ealing Acton & Shepherd’s Bush Nick Grant 529 (1.42%)

Sheffield Brightside Brian Wilson 361 (1.41%)

York Frank Ormston 674 (1.40%)

Wakefield Mick Griffifths 541 (1.31%)

Blackburn Jim Nichol 532 (1.31%)

Croydon North Don Madgwick 539 (1.29%)

Walsall North Dave Church 410 (1.27%)

Hove Andy Richards 531 (1.26%)

Warwick & Leamington Clare Kime 664 (1.24%)

Birmingham Perry Bar Caroline Johnson 465 (1.24%)

Regent’s Park & North Kensington China Méiville 459 (1.24%)

Bristol South Brian Drummond 496 (1.21%)

Rotherham Freda Smith 352 (1.20%)

Norwich South Dave Manningham 507 (1.19%)

Darlington Alan Docherty 469 (1.15%)

Liverpool Wavertree Mark O’Brien 349 (1.09%)

Stevenage Steve Glennon 449 (1.06%)

Southampton Test Mark Abel 442 (1.06%)

Huddersfield Graham Hellawell 374 (1.06%)

Pontefract & Castleford John Gill 330 (1.05%)

Stockton South Lawrie Coombes 455 (1.03%)

Basildon Dick Duane 423 (1.03%)

Newark Ian Thompson 462 (1.02%)

Exeter Fran Choules 530 (1.01%)

Northampton North Gordon White 414 (1.00%)

Harlow John Hobbs 401 (1.00%)

Aldridge-Brownhills John Rothery 379 (1.00%)

Chesterfield Jeannie Robinson 437 (0.98%)

Walsall South Peter Smith 343 (0.98%)

Leicester West Steve Score 321 (0.97%)

Bolton West Dave Toomer 397 (0.96%)

Dagenham Berlyne Hamilton 262 (0.95%)

Waveney Rupert Mallin 442 (0.94%)

Brentford & Isleworth Danny Faith 408 (0.92%)

Watford Jon Berry 420 (0.91%)

Reading East Darren Williams 394 (0.90%)

Tyneside North Pete Burnett 324 (0.86%)

Bradford South Ateeq Siddique 302 (0.86%)

Edmonton Howard Medwell 296 (0.85%)

Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath Salman Mirza 304 (0.83%)

Bristol East Andy Pryor 331 (0.82%)

Plymouth Devonport Tony Staunton 334 (0.80%)

Ipswich Peter Leech 305 (0.78%)

Carlisle Paul Wilcox 269 (0.77%)

Luton South Joe Hearne 271 (0.69%)

Birmingham Northfield Clive Walder 193 (0.65%)

Crawley Muriel Hirsch 251 (0.64%)

Milton Keynes South West Dave Bradbury 261 (0.58%)

Southampton Itchen Gavin Marsh 241 (0.58%)

Gloucester Stewart Smyth 272 (0.56%)

Gillingham Wynford Vaughan 232 (0.55%)

Candidates: 92

Total votes: 55,300

Average per seat: 601 (1.72%)

Deposits saved: 2

Seats with over 1,000 votes: 9



Welsh Socialist Alliance

Neath Huw Pudner 483 (1.38%)

Torfaen Steve Bell 443 (1.26%)

Cardiff South & Penarth Dave Bartlett 427 (1.19%)

Swansea West Alec Thraves 366 (1.14%)

Aberavon Martin Chapman 256 (0.85%)

Cardiff Central Julian Goss 283 (0.81%)

Candidates: 6

Total votes: 2,258

Average per seat: 376 (1.10%)



Socialist Alternative*

Walthamstow Simon Donovan 806 (2.34%)

Hayes and Harlington Wally Kennedy 648 (2.0%)

Candidates: 2

Total votes: 1,454

Average per seat: 727 (2.17%)

* Under electoral law the Socialist Party has been barred from standing under its own name.


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