Friday, May 05, 2006
Respect has 12 seats in Tower Hamlets (Beeb still reporting 11 for some reason, but their coverage has been awful), having taken the seat of council leader Michael Keith and that of his deputy. This is a bigger result than the BNP one in Barking & Dagenham, but inevitably the focus will remain on the fascist filth - partly for good reasons, but mostly for the reason that Labour talked these guys up endlessly before the election, particularly Margaret Hodge who disgusted local Labour activists in giving these bastards such a propaganda boost. Respect also got a stunning result with Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham Sparkbrook - an enormous landslide, with over 4,000 votes. Elsewhere, some excellent seconds and thirds in Birmingham, Preston, Bristol (where Jerry Hicks stood), Manchester, Sheffield, Camden, Ealing and Haringey. One hopes for a seat or two in Newham, where our mayoral candidate got a very strong second. In short, and with some considerable exhaustion of patience, an excellent result for Respect.
Labour still control Tower Hamlets, but the right-wing leadership has been booted out and there will be many Labour councillors who will tend to side with Respect on the key issues for the area.
Perception management from the big three is obviously rife. New Labour did a wee bit better than expected, because they went round telling the papers that they expected to lose 400, and 'only' lost 250. No amount of bullshitting and reshuffling will hide the truth, however: after ten years of Blairism, people are just sick to death of it. The Tories did much better than expected, partly because they were careful to keep quiet before the vote. The 'Cameron Effect' is obviously working with a certain kind of middle class conservative who might previously have been embarrassed by the Tory right's xenophobia. The Lib Dems, by contrast, did shockingly badly, and no amount of spin can cover that up. They were perfectly placed to benefit from any anti-Labour sentiment, much of which was driven - as Respect showed and Newsnight polls suggested - by hostility to war and privatisation. In Tower Hamlets, they were crushed. In many boroughs where they had gained from Labour, they lost seats and in Islington they lost the council to 'No Overall Control'. The foolishness about Charles Kennedy's drinking problem which was the manufactured occasion for the 'Orange Book coup' has probably contributed to this. Menzies Campbell is pleasantly pompous grandee, but is pathetically unappealling as a party leader, and they don't seem to have much to offer in the way of policy.
The BNP approximately doubling their number of seats to get 46 in total is worrying. We shouldn't overstate their success, and their new seats would have been scattered without the Barking & Dagenham result. However, in some areas (such as Stoke-on-Trent and Burnley) these new seats were consolidating a pocket of support they already had. It's easy enough to look for excuses - poor housing, BNP lies, Labour blunders and so on, but the simple fact is that these results would not have taken place without a surge in racism over the last few years. It's going to take a hard antifascist campaign in these areas and what is more, this can't be burdened with a position that says 'you should vote Labour', since it is obvious that people there don't want to vote Labour. As much as racism lies behind these results, the voters who picked the BNP are not largely fascists and if they understood the depth and breadth of the BNP's violent fascism they would be less inclined to vote for them. Campaigns across the country have limited and diminished the fascist vote before, sometimes utterly destroying the bastards. The Nazis could once claim the area around Poplar, Bow, the Isle of Dogs and so on as a potential territory, but they're now a joke in the area. We can do the same in Barking and Dagenham. Also interesting that the Tory, Lib Dem and Residents Association vote was eaten into by the BNP. RA are sometimes used as fronts by the Nazis, but I don't know if that's true here - what I do know is that elsewhere in the country, RAs have been quick to condemn and work against the filth. The Tories and Lib Dems are probably pretty useless, but Labour activists will certainly be central in fighting these scum.
Anyway, new territory is opened up for Respect. In areas where we never really campaigned before, we got some solid votes. And having solidified a base in the East End, we can now start to cultivate this new ground.
Update: Three new councillors in Newham, with one ward to declare. Lots of very very strong Respect seconds and thirds across the borough as well.