Monday, 12 May 2008

Something's Missing?

I had to comment on this commentary by Rob Sewell of Socialist Appeal on the Uk local election results. It's not something I normally do, but it's quite misleading. The original article is here.

I wouldn't expect anything else of Socialist Appeal than to use the not too fantastic results of the left (particularly SWP/Left List) in the local elections to say there is no possibility of building anything outside of Labour. But you would thought they would tell the whole story.

The paragraph that offends me most is as follows

Another sect, the so-called Socialist Party, fielded about 15 candidates nationally in the local elections. They all sank without trace - except one. And this was the exception to the rule. This was Dave Nellist, the ex-Labour MP of Coventry SE, who retained his seat in St Michael’s ward with 1,643 votes. This was clearly a personal vote as the other two SP candidates managed to scrape a measly 142 votes (to come bottom of the poll of seven candidates) and 135 votes (to come bottom of the poll out of six). Other results included Alec Thraves in Castle ward, Swansea, who scored 172 votes, Pete Bradley in Nuneaton who polled 88, while in Stoke on Trent the SP candidate got 130 votes. In London, they fared no better, where they stood Chris Flood for the London Authority. He managed to come bottom of the poll (10th out of 10 candidates), with 1,587 votes (out of 146,841 votes caste) in Greenwich and Lewisham. This was even less than the votes cast for the fossilised sect of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which polled 1,588 votes in Lambeth and Southwark!

The results picked are selective - (this is also the case with some of the SWP/Left List candidates who polled fairly well in a few areas outside London where they have been campaigning for several years) But it misses out the four best results after Dave Nellist - which are

18% (377) Pete Glover in Sefton
936 Ian Slattery in Huddersfield (standing for Save Huddersfield NHS)
12% (295) Lyne Worthington in Bagueley, Manchester
12.3% (352) Mick Griffiths in Wakefield

now, these aren't victories but they are better than the results reported by Socialist Appeal, and show that we are building bases of support in several areas around the country.

but also there is the question of why we stand in elections. according to Socialist Appeal we should be standing to win hundreds of seats by the sounds of it (okay maybe I am exaggerating a bit). we know we are only small and the task of building a much bigger organisation remains.

for us however, standing in elections is part of the process of building our support - most of the time we don't expect to win (although it's nice if we do), it's more about increasing our share of the vote, building support for socialist ideas and building the party.


Jim Jay said...

I'm always astonished at Socialist Appeal's analysis which always stems directly from the needs of their organisation. For instance this piece on Italy is completely hilarious. Apparently things are going brilliantly over there. I mean what?

They never miss an opportunity to jibe at the rest of the left in print (or if Alan Woods is making a speech) BUT in the flesh they are really good and sensible people (well the ones I've worked with). It's very frustrating and, I think, stems from a very formulaic, ossified method.

Obviously we all need to guar against this sort of thing but SA seem particularly prone to this particular fault.

ajohnstone said...

Fossilised sect ?? We have managed over our 100 years existence to adapt and re-analyse the many changing features of capitalist society , and our guilt is to remain a living breathing socialist organisation , much to the chagrin of the Left

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I have to agree with you Jim jay, although I haven't met very many SA members, Ren seems to be quite friendly and serious. I think this is the second year in the row they've done this in election reports (i remember a comrade posting something about this on the old militant blog).

Highlander said...

I have often wondered at the many different 'flavours' on the Left which always seems to me to be nothing but divisive. For one flavour to poke fun at the election results of another hardly helps and does not promote the unity so desperately needed. And given our 'inclusive' ideals it hardly leads by example either.

Jim Jay said...

Highlander, I think the key thing here is that Socialist Appeal made the decision some time back to stay in the Labour Party and try to take any opportunity to deride those who took a different view.

They can't afford unity with others on the left in the sense that their members would realise it's easier to be a socialist outside the labour party than in it - particularly when many of their members pay lip service to that position but aren't even members (understandably).

Anyway, as I say they have a number of very good, very reasonable people as well as having an utterly bizarre political analysis on a whole range of topics.