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The Left Vote
Lost in Barking: losing 1 cllr is a misfortune… but 8?

Will the trials and tribulations in Barking and Dagenham never end? It was only a short while ago that the far-right BNP was making historic gains in their patch.

While organisations like Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism mobilised their shock troops and provided much needed show leather ultimately it was down to Labour candidates to get more votes than the fascists in order to kick them off the council – which they duly did, winning every single one of the 51 seats in the borough. But was there a cost?

Of these 51 councillors a total of eight have left Labour, from a total of seven different wards. One councillor has gone independent, another Conservative, and more recently four defected to UKIP and two to Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party – the Liberal Democrats must be scratching their heads wondering how they got left out of such a rich mix.

Labour have claimed that all of the recent defectors had not been re-selected to fight their wards for Labour, although it’s not entirely clear whether all of them had put themselves forwards and seeing as this group includes the former Mayor and activists who have decades of experience in the party EACH the trouble cannot be quite so easily dismissed.

Cllr Jim McDermott (SLP)

Councillor Jim McDermott (pictured, right), who has now joined the SLP, was a Labour member for 50 years so he can hardly be accused of not giving the party a fair go. He said “I feel the party as a whole is no longer standing up for the ordinary people most affected by attacks on living standards and public services.”

 

What will May hold?

There’s no chance at all that the beleaguered BNP will win seats again in the borough, particularly when UKIP has become a local force. The BNP’s forces are dispersed, demoralised and their previous momentum is almost entirely spent. The national leadership went out of its way to destroy this local party, which it saw as a threat to Griffin’s hapless leadership so their presence will be a sideshow at best.

One thing in favour of mass defections is that at least voters in the borough won’t be faced with the unappetising prospect of a one party state to cast their vote in. Sadly it’s unlikely to see a thriving multi-party democracy any time soon as Labour’s stranglehold looks likely to continue.

While the Tories may get a toe back in the council chambers and UKIP have a good chance of winning over enough ex-BNP voters to snag a seat or two there’s unlikely to be a strong left presence on the council after May’s elections. Good luck to anyone trying though!

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