Friday, March 21, 2008

The left on the London Mayoral Candidates

In the second comment to my suggest a topic request (feel free to add more if you so wish) John asks "Urm... this is more left sectariana, but what could you give us the differences between the Green, Left List, tankie, Gallowayite and other platforms for London Mayor? I need to know who to give my second preference to."

Well, despite the fact that this might be leading me into waters I don't necessarily want to go into it would be rude not to oblige. There are three candidates for Mayor that you could consider to be "of the left". In reverse order (in terms of the number of votes they'll get) we have;

Lindsey German (pictured) who is a long serving central committee member of the Socialist Workers Party and probably is best known for being a leading spokesperson for the Stop the War Coalition. Lindsey is probably the most straightforward leftist candidate in that she suffers from unadulterated democratic centralism and so has a very specific kind of relationship to Lenin. She is standing under the newly invented Left List banner.

Sian Berry has excellent leftists credentials and, all things being well, is fully expected to be a London Assembly Member come May 2. Sian is the Green Party candidate and comes from a campaigning, direct action background. She has been heavily involved with protests such as those against 4x4s, the war and trident. You wont hear any fossilised nineteenth century jargon pass her lips but Sian has excellent leftist credentials, more on this soon.

Ken Livingstone is the candidate for New Labour although his journey there has been far from straight forward. Labour stitched up the selection procedure in 2000 to ensure that their candidate, cuddly Frank Dobson (whose political career was ruined by the move), was selected instead of Livingstone forcing our Ken to stand as an independent against them - risking a Tory victory with a split Labour vote. Once Ken had soundly thrashed both Tory and New Labour stooge to become Mayor he set about winning back his Labour membership. He has good (but not excellent) left credentials from the 80's but is probably best defined as a red tinged populist these days.

Both Lindsey and Sian have clearly stated that they are for a second preference for Livingstone. Livingstone is for a second preference to Sian.

There are, of course, those on the left who are not standing for Mayor and I'll do my best to outline their positions as I see them (people should correct me where I'm wrong).

George Galloway and Respect Renewal. Galloway is clearly backing Livingstone and advocates a first preference vote for him. Despite the fact that a first preference for Ken is of the same value as a second preference he has decided not to advocate a first preference for either of the candidates to Ken's left. Renewal has no formal position on this however, and a number of them will be voting for their old mucker Lindsey German, although I'd like to think that with Socialist Resistance's new turn towards "eco-socialism" some of them might consider a vote for Sian.

The Morning Star. The official organ of the Communist Party of Britain has been, in recent years, attempting to broaden its political appeal beyond those who feint with pleasure at the thought of living in North Korea or Albania. Greens and SWP members have not infrequently written articles for the paper and the rigid vote Labour line no longer seems to hold.

However, considering Livingstone wrote a long opinion piece on Wednesday (the day after the launch of his Mayoral campaign) it seems likely that even where the Morning Star has no official line they will be backing Livingstone's campaign above all others, although I'm sure both Sian and Lindsey's voices will be heard in its pages over the next month and a bit.

The Socialist Party. They have two councillors in Lewisham and although their influence does not stretch far and wide across the big smoke they may have sway in some quarters. They have a clear position that people should vote for Livingstone. Unfortunately, the Socialist Party does tend to emphasis its differences with the rest of left a little too strongly sometimes and they have a history of inappropriately harsh attacks against both the SWP and the Greens so its unlikely that they will be advocating a first preference for either the Left List or the Greens in this election.

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I'm for a Sian Berry [1] and Livingstone [2] vote. Whilst I have every sympathy with those who'll be voting for Lindsey German as their first preference, and I do hope she does well, I'm of the opinion that her candidacy has less to do with London and more to do with the SWP's stature in amongst the left. As such I think the venture can contribute very little to the broader political scene.

A strengthened Green vote will lead to more left of Labour assembly members, which will impact the way London is run for the next four years. A good turn out for the hitherto unknown Left List will unfortunately be a soon to be forgotten face saving exercise and nothing more. If we're serious about changing the world for the better rather than simply marking out our leftist territory then, it seems to me, that campaigning for a Green [1] vote is definitely the way to go.


Anonymous said...
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Charlie Marks said...

The CPB's "Unity for Peace and Socialism" ( thing is to be wheeled out for mayoral and local elections. A mistake, I think.

weggis said...

The Green Party are looking at a nightmare scenario.
Doubling their number of Assembly Members but losing the influence they have had over the Mayor's budget for the past four years.

Does that give you a clue?

I am considering not casting a second preference at all, but if I do I will have to cleanse myself afterwards.

peter said...


I'm happy to defer to you on matters concerning far left politics. Do you think it's possible that the leaders of Respect / the Left List have been more shrewd and strategic than we might give them credit for. For these London elections, it's actually in their interests to have two separate parties.

If they are optimistic, they will believe that Galloway has a fighting chance of winning the City & East seat. They will also believe they have a fighting chance of getting more than 5% on the top-up list.

However, if Respect achieved both of these, it would only get one seat (due to the proportionality forumula).

By splitting, they can maximise their chances of winning both. That way, if Galloway wins City & East, and the Left List gets 5.01%, they will end up with two representatives on the Assembly instead of one.

Of course, it's more likely they'll win neither, but they may as well try and maximise their chances.

If Respect is not standing for the top-up list, and the Left List is not putting up a constituency candidate in City & East, it would confirm my suspicions that they are being canny about it.

Jim Jepps said...

I believe that both groups have a list and are standing constituency members (although whether that is a full slate or not I'm not yet sure)

However if it were true that "it's actually in their interests to have two separate parties." and I understand the maths you're using here, it would be something they had done accidentally rather than as a deliberate policy. I'm afraid the left isn't quite as sophisticated politically to do anything so strategically nuanced.

Anyway, the experience of Scotland is that two parties formed from a publicly damaging split leads to a much reduced combined vote, and I believe that this is what will happen here.

Incidentally activists from both groups seem more concerned about whether their candidates beat the other left group than anything else - which I find rather sad.

peter said...

Yeah - I just saw on UK Polling Report - that they are both standing in City & East, and both standing for the top-up list. So the most self-destructive strategy possible.

Anonymous said...

SP-wise it's calling for a 2nd pref or Livingstone and for anti-privatisation/pro working class candidates for first pref and the lists. In other words, a free left vote.

Jim Jepps said...

avps - that's a very good position, I like it

Anonymous said...

Yes, a lot of people in Socialist Resistance will be voting for Sian first (and, of course, Ken 2).