Saturday, May 15, 2010

What sort of election did the left have?

How well did the left do at this election? 'Not brilliantly' is the quick answer, and depending upon your party loyalties that could be upgraded to 'disastrous' or even 'abysmal'.

I've already mentioned that the Labour Party did far better than we might have expected and left-wing Labour MPs actually performed very strongly within that doing very well in mobilising their support.

Green victory

The headline for the left is, of course, that anti-capitalist leftoid Caroline Lucas has been elected to the House of Commons making her the first Green MP in British history - but this result does conceal disappointments elsewhere.

Adrian Ramsay performed well in Norwich South almost doubling his vote to 14.9% (up 7.5%) taking almost all of Labour's hemorrhaging vote in the constituency. Tony Juniper also polled well in Cambridge at 7.6% but largely the vote was heavily squeezed in the course of such a momentous election.

This is, of course, partly down to the heavily targeted strategy the Greens pursued as well as the electoral circumstances, but it's disappointing none-the-less despite the great achievement in Brighton Pavillion.

Respect did quite well

Outside of the Green and Labour Parties there were three left results of any note what-so-ever - all from Respect. While Respect may have taken a pasting in Poplar and Bethnal Green they still polled very well with 16.8% in Bethnal Green and Bow (down a massive 19.8%) and 17.5% for George Galloway in Poplar and Limehouse (with the far smaller reduction of 0.7%). These areas also saw a near wipe out of Respect from Tower Hamlets council.

On the other hand Salma Yaqoob performed extremely well in a hard fought election in Birmingham Hall Green more than doubling Respect's vote to 25.1% (up 13.9%). Other results for Respect were not as cheering but should not be allowed to cloud their well deserved results in these three strongholds.

McCann: the boy done good

In Foyle Eammon McCann (who I mentioned previously) polled extremely well in a very polarised environment.

He managed to receive 7.7% of the vote as a 'People Before Profit' candidate up from his 2005 performance of 3.6% when he stood as the Socialist and Environmental Alliance backed, if I recall correctly, by the local Green Party.

This is stirring stuff, particularly when we've seen that the voters in the North of Ireland are beginning to loosen up in their political affiliations and consider alternatives, albeit ones with a solid history - which McCann has.

TUSC et al - poor to piss poor

The Morning Star has printed a little guide to how the left did here which shows that generally we are talking about 1%ers in decline. However Tommy Sheridan provided the Scottish left with their best result in Glasgow South West at 2.9% and Jenny Sutton provided the best London result for TUSC with 2.6% in Tottenham.

If we take a look at the left's electoral trajectory it makes for depressing reading. I was sent an email from the 'Cambridge Socialists' saying what 'a great start' they had made having just received 0.7% of the vote, which did make me feel a little bit like I was being expected to have a five second memory.

Cambridge: Martin Booth who is an excellent, open minded socialist and stood for TUSC got 0.7% of the vote. In 2005 Tom Woodcock (part of TUSC) stood for Respect and got 1.1% of the vote and in 2001 Howard Senter (who is now a Green) stood for the Socialist Alliance and got 1.7% of the result. Over nearly ten years the left vote has declined by more than half in Cambridge.

Coventry: This mirrors a similar picture elsewhere. Dave Nellist, for example, who got one of the best TUSC results of the night in Coventry North East with 3.7% of the vote, received 5.04% in 2005, getting his deposit back and 7.1% in 2001. Again, Nellist's vote has almost halved since 2001.

Lewisham: Ian Page in Lewisham Deptford is often held up as one of the Socialist Party's great white hopes but his result of 1.6% this time was down on his 2.4% in 2005 which itself was down on his 4.6% in 2001. Page polled a third of his 2001 result in 2010.

These are not campaigns which are building up the socialist vote but are demonstrations of the hard left's (temporary?) decline. Feel free to give me examples of a left vote that went up from 2001 to 2005 to 2010 - I need cheering up!

This should make sobering reading for the non-Labour left and, I hope, sparks some sort of calm reflection on where to go from here. These are people who contribute far, far more to their communities and to the left than these small votes reflect and it will no doubt be hard to pick themselves up and keep at it.

Obviously I joined the Greens sometime ago and found it an interesting home for a socialist, although for those who like their socialism full of quotes and by the book I suspect the Green Party would be a hard terrain to negotiate. Others will reassess whether they want to be involved in electoral work altogether, which may well be the right decision for them. Party loyalties aside though I really do hope we haven't seen the last of the likes of Sutton and Nellist whose contributions are much appreciated by me - if not necessarily the electorate!

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