The importance of local elections

By Garth Frankland, Alliance for Green Socialism

Over 100 socialists stood in the local elections under different left political banners. In the main they consisted of people who had subscribed in different ways to the early days of the Socialist Alliance. The numbers standing were not very different from that organisation at its height.

The biggest concentrations were on Merseyside with 51 candidates, Coventry with 14, Leeds with 14 (12 Alliance for Green Socialism and 2 Socialist Party) and Walsall with 10. There were other candidates across the country. Respect stood very few local candidates.

Dave Nellist and Karen MacKay of the Socialist Party were re-elected under the new boundaries while Rob Windsor lost by 16 votes. This might be because he generously took time out to launch our election campaign in Leeds. Pete Smith in Walsall standing under the banner of Democratic Socialist Alliance People before Profit ran New Labour a close second.

Alliance for Workers Liberty member Alison Brown considerably increased her vote in Sheffield.

The Alliance for Green Socialism stood 12 candidates in Leeds as well in the Yorkshire and Humber Euro elections. Our results were mixed. We failed to break through in Chapel Allerton, where I stood, despite an excellent and long campaign. We did achieve our highest ever local vote at 1188. Our second candidate Bev Samuels (Red Rose) standing for the first time also did very well with 932 votes. Around 60 people helped out. The campaign focussed on the occupation in Iraq and its cost to Leeds tax payers, the importance of the environment and the need for a democratic open council.

The New Labour candidates were forced to issue a leaflet saying they personally were against the Iraq war however Leeds City Council couldn't be involved in international politics. That is why the previous Council invited Nelson Mandela to open Mandela Gardens in the city centre!

The Liberal Democrat's propaganda kept on mentioning the "war" but failed to call for the troops to be withdrawn or to link the issue to the £100 million a week the occupation is costing. Our stance on the war did win us votes but the Lib-Dem literature helped to create some deliberate confusion.

In the rest of Leeds the AGS came in front of two Tory candidates in Harehills and polled over 500 votes in the Moortown and Roundhay wards. In the three wards where the AGS clashed with the BNP, although they got more votes, their totals were about a third less than in the rest of the city.

The AGS collected over 5500 votes in Leeds. Respect polled over 500 votes in the only ward in which they stood.

Despite my disappointment over Chapel Allerton I believe that the only way of building a real living socialist movement is from the base up. This is the opposite approach to that of the SWP and MAB.

Local election campaigns especially those that are linked to campaign issues such as hospital, school and post office closures are essential. They take us out of meetings on to the streets to work with real people. It is a method of testing our ideas out in practice and above all it gives us the possibilities of learning about the realities of politics.

It is not the only way but the results of an election are a litmus test that shows the gap between what is needed and where we actually are. And our job is to bridge the gap.