Friday, May 07, 2010

Three Against the Stream

AFTER weeks of trivia and pretend "presidential" politics, the media experts and scarcely-disguised Tory propagandists seemed to have a job keeping up with what was going on Britain's general election last night. Large numbers of people decided to vote, even queueing up in the rain to the surprise of officials who were unable to cope. They did so on real issues, from MPs corruption to closure of steelworks, and in all sorts of contradictory ways.

Former Labour Home Secretaries Charles Clarke and Jacqui Smith both lost their seats, the latter at least partly perhaps because of embarrassing expenses claims. But Hazel Blears amazingly got back in Salford, in spite of her daft grin and funny ways with flipping property claims. Dave Henry, a young campaigner who stood against her for the newly-formed Trade Union and Socialist Coalition got 730 votes.

While the party leaders work out how they are going to cobble together a government to reassure the markets, keep on rewarding the bankers, and cut our public services, the pundits rabit on about electoral reform, and nobody mentions Afghanistan or Trident. Tory David Cameron is even able to woo the Lib Dems by mentioning civil liberties and ID cards - such is New Labour's sorry baggage.

Enough! Let's notice something the television talkers have not commented upon, though Tory MEP Daniel Hannan hoped for "patriotic people who know there are unpopular decisions to be made". As we know that whatever government is formed we are are going to be resisting its attacks on jobs, rights and services, how about those few MPs whom we might count on as on our side?


In Hayes and Harlington, west London, left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell, who opposed his own party on the third runway and much else, publishing his own left-wing manifesto, has been returned with a bigger majority. The votes are: John McDonnell - 23, 377.
Scott Seaman-Digby(Tory) - 12,563
Lib-Dems -3,726
BNP -1,520

Labour majority -10,824. John McDonnell's percentage of the vote, 54.8 per cent, on a 60.7 per cent turnout.

JEREMY CORBYN (Cuban Solidarity Campaign photograph)
In inner north London, Islington North, MP Jeremy Corbyn gained 24,276 votes on a 64 per cent turn out, compared with his 16,116 votes last time around. His nearest opponent was Rhodri Jameson-Ball, Lib.Dem, with 11,815 votes. Adrian Berill-Cox, the Tory, got 6,339, and Emma Dixon, the Green candidate got 1,348.
I've seen Jeremy on many a demonstration, opposing war and privatisation, and my friends in Islington North say he is at least as familiar, popular and energetic taking up issues for his constituents.


From the other end of the country comes good news that Katy Clark is back, as Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, the semi-rural Scottish constituency she has represented since 2005. Like John McDonnell, Katy is a member of the Labour Representation Committee, formed to fight New Labour's right-ward shift, and she has supported issues like Iraq, Hands Off the People of Iran(HOPI) and trade union rights, signing Early Day Motions.

The results for North Ayrshire and Arran were:
Katy Clark (Labour) 21,860 (47.40%, +3.48%)
Patricia Gibson (Scottish National Party) 11,965 (25.95%, +7.99%)
Philip Lardner (Scottish Conservatives and Unionist) 7,212 (15.64%, -2.73%)
Gillian Cole-Hamilton (Scottish Liberal Democrats) 4,630 (10.04%, -6.39%)
Louise McDaid (Socialist Labour Party) 449 (0.97%, +0.29%).

Officials stated that 46,242 people in the constituency cast their vote, representing a 62.3 per cent turnout, though 126 papers were rejected. This compared with 60.6% in 2005 where there was a turnout of 72,986 - a difference of 26,744.

Right-wing Labourites, trade union "moderates", and so-called "realists" and "modernisers" have always been ready to explain Labour setbacks and defeats as due to socialist policies and tell us that the electorate will never support principled, working class loyalty. ("the longest suicide-note in history" was the way the cynics tagged Michael Foot's 1983 manifesto). So now that New Labour and Gordon Brown's leadership have done so well they are having to plead with the Lib Dems to help them, let us just note how three Labour MPs who have stood against the stream are not only safe, but have increased their majorities.

We will look forward to having Jeremy, John and Katy on our side, and with us in coming campaigns.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition(TUSC), formed by left-wing groups with some informal trade union backing, did not achieve any breakthrough, seldom getting into four figures. But it was early days yet, the groups having been late to realise the need to unite, and it may have been pushed to the side as working people concentrated on opposing the Tories. Dave Nellist, a former Militant Labour MP, did get 1,592 votes in Coventry, and among the newer faces (to elections, though not to left-wing activism), Jenny Sutton got 1,057 in Tottenham.

Outside the traditional labour movement left, Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas made it their business to support many a campaign and demonstration, and Caroline Lucas visited Iraq and Gaza. Now she is to be the first Green Westminster MP, having gained 16,232 votes in a close three-women contest in what used to be right-wing Tory Julian Amery's constituency, Brighton Pavilion. She beat Nancy Platts, Labour, who got 14,986, and Charlotte Vere, 12,275, Tory. Though our politics differ, I hope Caroline Lucas will continue campaigning and make her voice heard at Westminster.

Another MP who, though not of the Left, has visited Gaza and Israel, to support the Palestinians and a just peace, is Lib Dem Sarah Teather. She was the most active of Brent's MPs in defending healthcare provision in in North West London. With constituency reorganisation the Brent East Lib Dem had to fight Brent South's Dawn Butler for the new seat of Brent Central. Readers of this blog will not be entirely surprised to hear that Lib Dem Sarah won by 1,300 votes over her Labour rival. Elsewhere in the borough, Brent North's Labour MP Barry Gardiner, whom we've criticised actually increased his majority. What Sarah Teather's constituents have to say about her party if it joins a Tory coalition we will have to see.

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