Reflecting a current mood to punish the Con Dem government for their savage cuts, New Labour has increased it’s grip on Stoke-on-Trent city council in the local elections on 5 May.
The Lib Dems have been removed completely and the Tories have lost six seats leaving them with a rump of just two. Community Voice have also lost all their seats along with other independents.
Particularly welcome is the complete removal from the council of the far right, racist BNP but we should not be complacent about this because in the wards where they stood they polled an average of 10% whilst the other far right organisation England First averaged 12.5%.
The average 3.9% vote obtained by the six Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition candidates standing in our first ever council elections are therefore impressive where the desire by many to punish the Con Dems by voting New Labour locally has squeezed the vote for the smaller parties.
This also with a background of the local media completely ignoring our campaign. Compare this to the Sentinel front page coverage (more than once) when the BNP announced they would be standing seven candidates in 2003.
The first time TUSC stood a candidate in Stoke-on-Trent was only last year in the general election when Socialist Party member Matt Wright stood in Stoke Central Constituency. A comparison between then and now shows a small but very significant increase in support for TUSC.
At the 2010 general election 133 people voted TUSC out of the 32,470 who voted across the Central constituency. In these local elections we have stood in six wards. In those wards, from just 12,656 who voted, 486 voted for TUSC. That’s an increase of 353 votes from almost 20,000 less voters! Of some importance also is that our best percentage of the vote, 5.4%, was won in the ward where the leader of the BNP was standing.
The most important feature of these elections was the emergence of TUSC to provide an organised trade unionist and Socialist based opposition and alternative to all the savage cuts implemented by the Con Dem government and the city council. Socialist Party members and other trade unionists particularly from the PCS and CWU formed the backbone of the election campaign.
Disgracefully, local members of the Socialist Workers Party, despite being a component part of TUSC, have completely ignored our campaign. In the words of a prominent New Labour campaign activist they have instead been ‘arse lickers’ to New Labour – “They do anything we tell them”, he said.
New Labour should enjoy their jubilation at winning control of the city council while they can because their problems have only just begun. During New Labour’s election campaign they falsely claimed to have ‘Saved the Children’s Centres’. During the last week of the election campaign Save our Children’s Centres campaigners were out everyday collecting names objecting to the council cut of 30% in funding as ‘unacceptable’. This will increasingly be the music of the future!
In the fight against cuts, the New Labour dominated city council will need to decide individually and collectively which side they are on. They can be part of the Con Dem drive to take us back to the misery, poverty and unemployment of the 1930′s or they can adopt the fighting traditions of the 1980′s – of the miners, of Liverpool’s Socialist Council, of the mass movement against the Poll Tax which defeated Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government.
We are not prepared to stand by while we are taken back to the 1930′s! In the weeks and months ahead we will developing further the fight against all cuts.