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There is a space for hope

Right now the left has a lot on its plate and a very small spoon to eat with. Our forces are more fractured than they have  been for some time and the Coalition’s offensive is bull-dozering any half-hearted opposition that Labour occasionally give. However, Left Vote editor  Jim Jepps argues, there is a space to be hopeful.


The far-right in disarray

socialist space workers tm russia 1973After a decade of a rising far-right, the BNP is truly a beaten force internally fractured and no longer seen by the public as an effective way of poking mainstream politicians in the eye the organisations will, no doubt limp on but is not the kind of national threat it might once have been.

Caught in a pincer movement between the rising right-populism of ukip and highly targeted work by anti-fascists the swamp of hatred my not have been drained but the foul lizards that crawled out of it have been.

As Hope Not Hate argues “The BNP has been on a downward spiral since it was heavily defeated in Barking and Dagenham in 2010. This year is likely to see that continue and as a consequence we are likely to see the far right, including the EDL and its numerous splinter groups, increasingly turn away from the ballot box.”


Space for the left

Labour have refused to oppose the austerity agenda of the Coalition government or outline positive alternatives confining itself to sneering. They hope that millions will simply fall into their laps come the 2015 general election, and this could well be true, but it’s an approach with two weaknesses.

First, they aren’t trying to win the arguments, just the election. That makes any gains they make short term, and abandons attempting to influence government policy in the here and now. Telling Cameron to be less rubbish is not politics but tribalism, but they shy away from going on the attack over public spending or taxation for fear of the right wing press. Worse they cow tow to the racists on immigration instead of trying to shift the national debate.

Second, Labour’s poll lead is long but not strong. Where others can convincingly put themselves up as the real alternative they are able to reap rewards, hence Farrage’s latest outrageous fortunes. That means that while the left in general is not making the running the space for it still exists, if we do the work.

As Harry Blackwell says on Socialist Resistance;

“Recent council by-elections have shown the potential for newer left wing parties.  The Lewisham People Before Profit group achieved a magnificent result in March’s Evelyn by-election, coming second to Labour and taking nearly 24% of the vote.  TUSC recently won its first by-election in the Yorkshire town of Maltby; albeit a parish council and with only one opponent (notionally independent), it was nevertheless a good result for them.    TUSC also won over 8% of the vote in an election last week in Prescot, Merseyside.  Even though this was slightly down on their result in the election last year, the sudden appearance of a Green candidate, who only got 14 votes, explains most of the small decline. In Lewisham Evelyn ward, the People Before Profit group came to an agreement with the Green Party to highlight campaigning on local environmental issues in return for their support.”

We will discuss the kinds of electoral strategies the left should pursue in more depth in later articles but local organisations have shown it is possible to make real advances in the here and now. It’s not “easy” to become seen as the real opposition in any area, but there are people that are proving it is “possible”.

We cannot simply wait for Labour’s betrayals to begin the work. In five years time we can have a network of local groups who have already laid the ground work and made a name for themselves. That longer term thinking would put us in a stronger position, if we do it right.

13 Responses to There is a space for hope

  1. James W says:

    Votes for partys such as Lewisham People Before Profit take votes away from the main left of Labour Party in Lewsham i.e. The Green Party and result in council seats going to Labour or Lib-Dem.

    With the likely collapse of the Lib-Dem’s because of their involvement in a right-wing government council seats will be up for grabs across the country this time round.

    The Lib-Dem vote will go potentially 4 ways.

    1. A resurgent Labour Party could get their vote.
    2. The left of Labour could get their vote – that includes The Green Party or
    3. parties like LPBP or Respect or whatever new version of Respect is being
    4. They will stay with the Lib-Dems.

    The question is how big will the Labour resurgence be?
    And whether the collapse of the Lib-Dems will just be in certain places or nationwide. Indeed whether it does happend as many of us predict.

    Most votes for left of Labour parties tend to be wasted votes as unlike The Green Party they don’t operate a target to win strategy so end up competing against other left of Labour parties and shoot themselves in the foot by left-wing sectarianism.

    In Lewisham LPBP has let in Labour and the Lib-Dems by continually fighting seats that the also left of Labour, Green Party are competing. This is foolish left wing sectarianism and leads nowhere politically.

    LPBP would be much better working as a pressure group and asking their members to vote for the Greens.

    • Nick Long says:

      James, in past, it is not PBP who have let in Labour, but the Greens in standing in Telegraph hill ward against long standing Socialist Party Cllr’s Ian Page and Chris Flood. This is where the hostility and anger from the SP and the Green party stems from. The Green stood a full slate and ran a very effective campaign,well resourced and helped get x3 Labour candidates elected in 2010!
      PBP have a measure of support in the ward and we are hoping that in return for PBP not standing in the Green Party strongholds of Ladywell and Brockley, the Greens stand down candidates in Telegraph Hill, and our target wards of New Cross and Evelyn. In addition we would ask that the Greens give John Hamilton a clear run in the borough Mayor election.

      • Jim Jepps says:


        I don’t think this is true either. The Greens did not let Labour in in Telegraph Hill in 2010. The results are here;

        The lowest Labour candidate (who was 500 behind his nearest Labour candidate) got 2231 votes.

        The highest Socialist candidate (Ian Page) got 1362 votes which was significantly more than the other two.

        The highest Green candidate (the lovely Darren Flint) got 1023, much better than the other two.

        We can only say that the Greens cost Page the seat if we ignore the fact that *lots* of people voted for both Flint and Page (hence the fact that the two lead candidates were ahead of their own teams – a fact that makes the Greens ‘costing’ Page the seat mathematically impossible).

        Also we have to believe that had the Greens not stood at all their voters would have switched *with such iron discipline* that over 90% would have voted for Page specifically and that less than 5% would have voted Labour.

        It simply is not believable.

        While PbP have never come close to costing the Greens a seat (which is just fantasy) the Greens clearly did not cost Page his seat in Telegraph Hill (and indeed Flint easily beat one of the Socialist candidates)

  2. James W says:

    May have repeated my theme there but you get the gist. Parties need to work out if they are a pressure group or a political party. If they are the latter they must stop competing against other effective left of Labour Parties.

  3. Jim Jepps says:

    Thanks james. You win a prize for first ever comment! What that is is anyone’s guess…

    I think this point about pressure group and political party is really interesting partly because the question never goes away no matter how big you get – look at the Lib Dems. One of the frustrating things about Labour at the moment is that they refuse to promote what the government should be doing so they aren’t even trying to do anything except take power when they could be improving the situation in the two years before the general election.

    You lot are rubbish doesn’t cut it.

    That’s why I think PbP have been right to stand because they have, in fact, shown that a significant number of people back their approach which makes them harder to write off – even while they have been doing good works like the food bank they set up and occupying those homes!

  4. James W says:

    Yes but the food banks and the occupations would still work if they were a pressure group or called themselves a ‘party’ but didn’t stand in elections.

    It could in fact make them even more effective as it would allow members of other left-wing parties to support their ‘actions’ if they didn’t stand in elections.

    Come to think of it when did the SWP last stand in an election?

    They have the word ‘party’ in their name but don’t stand in elections.

    Left of Labour parties need to be very selective about where they stand and whether they are in effect standing for the other side by dividing the left of Labour vote.

  5. Jim Jepps says:

    Well PbP just came second with over 20% in a byelection in Lewisham, does that mean everyone should stand aside for them? I’m very wary of this sort of blackmail to be honest partly because it encourages a “we got here first” mentality where people think they own their patch. That’s for the voters to decide.

    I think it’s the way PbP have demonstrated that politics is practical and put their time and effort where their mouth is that helped them get that impressive result.

    btw I don’t think it’s true that PbP have cost other lefts or the greens a seat. Do you have any specific ward / election in mind?

    On the other – There are (possibly) some SWP candidates standing as tusc in the county elections. Before that they were in Respect and before that the Socialist alliance. The last time they stood as the SWP would ’77 or ’78 – ish

  6. The SWP last stood under their own name in the 1999 elections to the Scottish Parliament in five constituencies, winning 2,757 votes (Aberdeen South, Edinburgh South, Glasgow Cathcart, Paisley South, West Renfrewshire). They had a pact with the Scottish Socialist Party for the constituency elections at that time.

  7. In relation to the points made by James W about Lewisham and PBP/Greens, I took a look at last year’s (May 2012) Mayoral and GLA results, which are calculated at ward level (though postal votes are counted at Borough level, so the ward results are not completely reliable). Voters had three ballot papers filled in at the same time.

    It’s interesting that James W’s assertion that PBP will always “take votes away” from the Greens is not supported by the evidence. The Green percentage vote in the List and Constituency Member elections, when there were left wing parties of TUSC and PBP standing, were actually significantly higher than the Green vote in the Mayoral elections, when there were no left parties. The Labour vote in percentage terms was virtually identical in all three elections. The Tory vote was significantly down in the List and Constituency elections compared to the Mayoral with the LibDems marginally up.

    There was probably not a simple ‘transfer’ between the ballot papers going on here though (eg superficially it might look like a significant number of Tory voters switched to Green – this is unlikely). It is much more likely that a significant part of Johnson’s voters was ‘anti-Livingstone’ and switched to Labour and UKIP in the List and Constituency elections, while some pro-Livingstone voters were left voters voting tactically to keep Johnson out and switched to both Green and left parties for the List/Constituency vote. It’s purely accidental that this left the Labour votes fairly similar.

    This makes the general point that it’s not purely about movement between left parties that matters, but which left party is best placed to win support from those who would otherwise (reluctantly) vote Labour if they have no opposition.

    The data also confirms Nick Long’s more general point that in terms of ‘party recognition and identity’, since PBP outpolled the Greens in Evelyn and New Cross wards in the most recent elections, there is therefore a strong case for the Greens not standing there, especially if it is reciprocated by PBP in the best Green wards of Brockley and Ladywell (where the Greens lost 5 seats in 2010).

    The PBP vote in the Evelyn by-election, nearly 24%, was significantly up on the combined vote of PBP and the Greens in the GLA List election (9.1% and 7.0%).

    The special case of Telegraph Hill suggest each party standing one candidate apiece (Green, SP, PBP).

    This would therefore maximise the chance of getting 15 left councillors elected, rather than zero if they all go head to head in every ward.

  8. Mayoral/GLA data – Lewisham by Ward May 2012, Green, PBP and TUSC votes. (see if it works!)

    Ward Green Mayoral|Green ListList – TUSC %|Green ConstituencyConstituency – Lewisham PBP % 
    Catford South…..5.0%|8.5%…0.7%|7.0%…5.1% 
    Crofton Park……9.4%|19.0%…1.8%|17.1%…5.4% 
    Forest Hill…….8.2%|16.1%…1.7%|13.7%…3.2% 
    Grove Park……..4.3%|7.8%…0.6%|7.1%…3.9% 
    Lee Green………7.4%|13.9%…1.5%|11.3%…5.6% 
    Lewisham Central..6.5%|13.6%…1.4%|10.8%…6.7% 
    New Cross………6.6%|13.8%…2.0%|10.6%…13.6%<<<
    Perry Vale……..7.2%|14.9%…1.8%|13.1%…4.9% 
    Rushey Green……5.5%|10.8%…1.5%|8.8%…7.9% 
    Telegraph Hill….9.8%|18.9%…4.6%|15.8%…11.7%<<<

    Postal votes – Lewisham…5.3%|10.9%…1.0%|9.4%…5.9% 
    Lewisham TOTAL….7.1%|14.2%…1.6%|12.2%…6.5%

  9. Sorry my last post didn’t like my html tags – maybe Jim can tidy?

    • Jim Jepps says:

      By no means perfect but hopefully a bit more readable. Coding tables into comments would be useful for so many things but it doesn’t seem to like them.

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