Friday, March 22, 2013

The turnout

Official result here, showing that the turnout was 24.2%.

Socialist election activity in Islington

We have stood in Islington before, but mainly in the south, in the Islington South & Finsbury constituency, three times in general elections (1979, 1983 and 1987) and in 1981 in the GLC election. Despite having a super-active branch we never did well in terms of votes or percentages (around 0.2%). This was attributed to the constituency being a marginal Labour/SDP (remember them?) one. But then we contest elections, at the moment, to publicise the case for socialism.

We did contest Islington North (into which Junction ward falls), forty years ago, in the 1973 GLC elections and got one of our best results ever in London:

Labour 7463, Con 2798, Socialist 284 (2.7%)

But no doubt this was in part due to us being the only opposition to the two main parties, but there was an unpopular Tory government in power centrally under Ted Heath.

Our percentage of 0.8% in Junction ward is in fact higher than the 0.3% we got in Vauxhall in the 2010 General Election. If we'd have got that percentage there, we'd have had 300 votes.

We'll probably be back again in the London borough elections in May next year.

Just a bit of fun...

Just a bit more analysis, based on the vote movement:


#Lab 1343 (62% +23%), #Green 381 (18% +6%), #LibDem 276 (13% -27%), #Con 120 (6% -4%) #BNP 31 (1%) #SPGB 18 (1%) #Lab GAIN

Also last night, this ward took a vote too:

St Georges:

#Lab 1,698 (71% +37%), #LibDem 371 (16% -27%), #Green 206 (9% -5%), #Con 87 (4% -6%) #BNP 20 (1%) #Lab HOLD

Noticeably, Labour have gained, hugely. I recall noting when going through our historic London votes how our vote rose during an unpopular Labour regime, and then fell under the Tories, as people veered back to Labour. I would have expected a higher vote for us if we'd stood three years ago, say, in the same ward. Those numbers look horrific for the Lib-Dems (and the Greens in Junction may be soaking up some of their votes and the general protest vote).

Out for the count

If it'd had been an episode of some soap or other, the audience would have tutted at the lazy clich├ęs: the tousle haired besuited Tory; the shabby bejumpered Greens; the studenty Labourites; the naked goat sacrificing Lib Dems (OK, small lie, earnest and bebeiged Lib-Dems); and the BNPers keeping themselves to their own, which in this case meant two lads in bomber jackets and DMs, and an agent-cum-ring master in a smart suite and dodgey glasses.

There were more polling agents than counters, and for some reason they spent the night trying to guess the result, rather than just watching the process for fairness. Why on Earth they were trying to count the votes for their party during the ballot verification count I'll never know. As you'll have seen from the size of the turnout, the whole process didn't take long, about an hour and a half, beginning to end.

I did at least come close to taking Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn's seat from him, when I realised he was sitting on my jacket, but he stood up anyway before I could make that joke. Bum. When the results we announced he cried "Shame!" when the BNP vote was announced. For a while I thought we were in with a chance of beating them (I was disturbed to hear their Glorious leader say they'd only distributed a couple of hundred leaflets on their easier to post-through streets). I spotted him looking twice at a Labourites lap-top why was emblazened with "This machine kills fascists" on it's top, he didn't seem fazed by it.

Thanks and praise are due to the election count staff who did their job efficiently and accurately (and with good humour). Also they gave out a little sheet explaining the process of the night, which I told them other councils haven't done, it was good to have some grasp of the order of events.

The people have spoken...

Labour 1343 (61.9%)
Green 381 (17.6%)
Lib Dem 276 (12.7%)
Con 120 (05.6%)
BNP 31 (01.4%)
Socialist 18 (00.8%)

Turnout:2,181 (24.2%)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Vote early, vote once...

Well, that's what I did today. I made my way round the warren of a School to find the ballot box (I kind of went through the wrong door, but was pleased to see, unlike my old school, this primary school has a school council made up of infants, so at least in Islington they are being taught about democracy from a young age).

There was a Labour polling agent, who informed me that they were only checking my number so they didn't come round later knocking me up: I'd be impressed if they were actually organising a get out the vote campaign. More likely, they just want the data for future canvassing purposes.

So, for the third time in my life, I vote me! (No ego kick there, then). I always enjoy voting, it's strange how a quiet prosaic act, so insignificant in itself, can wield such power and, I'll say it, majesty. I look forward to the time when we have enough of a base to put out polling agents and a get out the vote campaign, that's the other lesson of contesting election, you see how it's done and organised, something stay away rrrrrevolutionary groups won't see.

Better late than never

The Islington Gazette's website has this morning published the names of all the candidates. This, apart from the official council communications, is the first time that any of the local media have published the names of all the candidates together. So, in most cases those going to vote will only discover who they can vote for when they get their ballot paper. It is unclear what a team of foreign election observors might make of this. A low turn-out seems inevitable.

No doubt, our candidate, who lives in the ward, will be reporting later today that he voted for himself for a change.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beware of fakes

The ex-Militant Tendency organised a meeting earlier this evening in Archway using our name. Their leaflet for the meeting, about the Whittington hospital, could have caused confusion but, while we can stop them using "Socialist Party" on the ballot paper when they contest elections, unfortunately we can't stop them using this on leaflets. For the election tomorrow we're on the ballot paper as "The Socialist Party (GB)".

We made sure that all 8 people who turned up received a copy of our election address.

Last pushes

Well, I've not done my Robo-leafletter routine this time out, for many and several decidedly pedestrian reasons. I finally got out last night, and, is it me, or are the stairs getting steeper? I only did one street and council estate. I decided to disregard my usual compliance with 'No Junk Mail' stickers, since I was giving out so few. I know our counter argument is that an election address isn't junk mail, but that won't make people actually read it or look to twice to see it isn't a pizza flyer.

I was looking forward to leafletting Aveling House (a reminder of Islington Loony Left days, no doubt), however, I found that having got myself buzzed past the external intercom, that each landing had a locked door/intercom system. Obviously, people on an estate are entitled to feel secure, but there is a democratic question of how we can get to deliver leaflets to them. I know I've ranted about this before.

On my way home, I discovered quite a crowd of Labour activists actually canvassing my street, which is quite intensive to any local election. They didn't call on me, someone must have had the sense to take my name off the list.

Maybe Labour are learning the lesson of Eastleigh, national level elections are won one ward at a time. Certainly, we've now leafletted the entire ward, so thanks and congratulations to hard working comrades for managing that at short notice. I overheard one woman point blank telling the Labour canvassers that she simply wasn't going to vote, I hope there's not too many of them, and of those who do vote, they at least consider the message we have distributed.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Turn up again, Dick Whittington

As I write, otherwise placid people are outside, demonstrating. In modern political parlnce, demonstration simply means the right to petition. More pertinently, it means demonstrating how strong you are; how many you are; and just who you are. Clearly, the civil society of Islington, Camden and other nearby boroughs have turned out, and a good couple of thousand are marching in the cold and rain; supported extempore banners from nearby residential windows and the beeped horns of cars. I wonder if politicians take their holidays in summer, because that is the time we'd have bigger and better demos -- best for them to make the unpopular decisions at cold times of the year.

A small group of us turned up at Holloway tube, and handed out our leaflet (based on my blog post, below, about the Whittington sell off). The march passed us by in fifteen minutes, and we got shot of a few hundred leaflets. We'd turned up a bit too early, because I'd suggested meeting at the same time as the march's muster, even though that meant it wouldn't be passing that station for another 45 minutes. My appologies to those who waited in the cold and rain. Our leaflets were taken pleasantly,by the contingents in the march. As predicted, Jeremy Corbin, the Islington North MP, and the leader of Islington Council were at the forefront of the march (actually, behind the jazz band in the bus, only in Islington). The Green Party, Labour Party and even the Liberal Democrats had contingents. There were leafleteers from the SWP, Militant andeven the fabled Socialist Equality Party.

The campaign has already had some success, the hospital had an advert in the Gazette for a series of public meetings, so that's going to be the second chance top make the point clear, whether or not the cuts are stopped or changed, a clear point has been made by the local community.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What they printed

Here's what they printed:

In contrast, Bill Martin, the Socialist party candidate in Junction, highlighted their lack of focus on his election. “My colleagues out and about have run into someone from the Labour party, but it has been a very low key,” he said.

“I haven’t had any leaflets through my door, put it that way. I haven’t seen anything that looks overtly Liberal or Labour in the area, which you do get in other campaigns. I think it’s treading water. I’ve only seen one or two election posters in windows; one was Green and was I think the other was maybe Labour, but that could have been from five years ago.”

The grammar is all wrong as Bill was talking about the Labour campaign not ours. At least people will know we're standing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Talking to the press

I have a horrible habit of just chatting to journalists, forgetting that their lizard brain is constantly on the search for a story angle. I dislike treating them the way that professional politicians do: ignore what they ask, give them your prepared statement, and duck and weave around inconvenient questions. Of course, these formats are a game, and both sides know they're playing.

Anyway, I got a call from someone at a local news outlet call Islington Now. His line he was trying to establish was that the Liberal Democrats and Labour aren't really campaigning in Junction Ward, because it is expected to be a Labour victory, and there is a tighter contest in St. George's. I said that local elections don't normally see much action, and by-elections often less, since, given the participants usually have to actually have to work, the lack of a decent lead in to take holidays and plan (and the like) means activity will be limited.

I did point out that the Whittington Campaign is predominating in the area, and that, unlike other campaigns I've seen around London, no party was trying to get their name on the campaign (I was thinking of a campaign to stop a Police station closure in Willesden Green a couple of years ago I'd seen where the Lib-Dems put they're name over lots of posters).

I told him we expected to come last: best be honest with journalists, eh? But that it was quality not quantity that counted. We don't want people to vote for us, unless they mean it and understand what socialism is. I also said our platform was to promise nothing: if they vote for us, they're making the promise. Promising to campaign and fight for socialism, and letting their fellow workers know this.

We'll have to see what comes of the chat.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A day's leafletting

Most of the ward was leafletted yesterday by 5 of us. Only about 400 or 500 of the 3000 leaflets remain and a few streets near suicide bridge to cover. We met a Green canvasser and a Labour one and saw some LibDem leaflets but no sign of the Tories or the BNP. The Green leaflet called for a 20mph speed limit on Holloway Road, but as Holloway Road is the A1, the main road out of London to the North and three lanes both ways in some parts, this seems a bit nimbyish. The Labour man said that he had explained to his fellow Labourites that we were not trotskyists. We thanked him. After the leafletting we went to a local pub for a drink just in time to see the start of the Ireland-France rugby match. It turned out to be an Irish pub and when the Irish national anthem (the Soldiers' Song) was played a couple of the customers stood up to attention, the ejeets. A reminder that this used to be an Irish area with an Irish MP.

Friday, March 08, 2013

The cuts and what to do about them

Although this is not an issue in this election as there is no candidate standing on anti-cuts programme promising to oppose all cuts, this passage from an introduction to a reprint a couple of years ago to a pamphlet Unwaged Fightback: A History of the Islington Action Group of the Unwaged, 1980-1986 makes the same point as us against this strategy:

In Islington itself, Labour councillors implement savage cuts to services one day and lead the 'anti-cuts' marches the next. During the 1980s rate-capping struggles many people invested much support and hope in their elected representatives; disillusion was probably bound to follow, partly because brave lefty leaders get cold feet, or end up sacking workers and making cuts in the end ('with a heavy heart'), usually on the grounds that it's better for them to be in charge than someone worse, they have no choice. In reality they do have little choice, because their real room to manoeuvre IS limited, by central government funding, legal obligations, and so on, even more now than in the '80s.
What to do, then? Harry Lynch, the author of the 2011 introduction, says:

It would be great to have an independent workers movement, that answered both austerity and attempts to co-opt rebellion by Labour councillors, union full-timers, and professional lefties with the proper politeness: occupy the lot, strike, not for a day but for good, and lets run the world ourselves. Time will tell as to if that develops, and how.

Yes, of course. If such a movement existed, then socialism would be just round the corner, not that staging a syndicalist General Strike to try to overthrow capitalism would be the most intelligent way of proceeding.

Still, it is true that, given capitalism in an economic crisis, there is not much that workers can do other than protest in the hope of getting a few exemptions or slowing the cuts down.

The real lesson is that, since all that capitalism has to offer is austerity and cuts, we should concentrate on organising to bring it to an end by political action aimed at ushering in a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production so that there can be produce for directly for use and not for profit, and distribution on the principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs". Socialism.

Ah, go on then...

Some rotten buggers seem to have found footage of a previous time I stood as a candidate, when I attended the GLA Hustings at the famous location of the Putney debates...

Obviously (very obviously) it's the case not the face that counts, and the clip does give (very briefly) the case.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Our election address

Here's our leaflet (click to enlarge). The first 400 were distributed today. As the last post said, the big issue seems to be Whittington Hospital as there are a number of "Save Whittington Hospital" posters from the Labour Party in people's windows. This is Labour territory, where Old Labourite Jeremy Corbyn is the MP.

A BNP sympathiser claimed that there was a website He's right. There is, but it's So what? They are just propertyless workers moving from one part of the world to another in search of an income on which to live. As it's a local election, as EU citizens, they can also vote. Perhaps we should do a leaflet in Polish. In the meantime there's the articles on the World Socialist Movement website.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Save the Whittington

The big issue in the Junction ward by-election is the campaign to save the Whittington Hospital, and their plans for a major sell off of land and reduction in beds, see here.
On Wednesday 23 January 2013, the Whittington Health Trust Board agreed an estates strategy that will see more services provided in health centres across Haringey and Islington. The strategy responds to the health trends of our local population. More people are receiving healthcare in their homes, health centres and GP surgeries. Technology will increasingly support more care, especially for people with long term conditions. The frail elderly are often best cared for in community settings. Over time, the dependency on hospital wards will decrease, which will see some staff relocate to health centres.
You could expect, if clinical need was the driver of the change, that they would roll out the community service, and then reduce beds and staff accomodation based on proven reduced need. This press release from a local MP suggests this is at least nominally the case:
Following a meeting with Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr David Winskill, the Whittington Hospital has offered assurances that no services will be lost during their reorganization until equal or better replacement services are in place.
It is more likely, that the below quote from another of their leaflets is the real driver(PDF):
All hospitals are obliged to become Foundation Trusts or risk acquisition by other Foundation Trusts – our investment plans are a major part of our effort to become a Foundation Trust.
This is the reality, and why the hospital is threatened (again), and will be (again) even if the campaign succeeds. Hospitals forced to behave like businesses rather than providing a needs based service must start looking at the value of their estate as a priority. The position of the Socialist Party is clear: we will not campaign for election based on supporting any given set of reforms: but we do support the struggle of workers to defend their living standards and services (indeed, Unite The Union is at the forefront of the Whittington Campaign). We will not seek to take over the campaign like so many other organisations do. It's too easy for a Councillor or an MP to campaign to Save our Hospital/School/Police Station, because they can't lose. If the campaign succeeds it was because of them, if it fails it was despite their valliant efforts. If elected to council, our delegate will vote, as instructed, in the interests of the workers, but we won't kid on that we will be the saviors of them. Our election promise is to fight for the common ownership of the wealth of the world so that our health needs can be met directly without commercial consideration. That is the real issue behind the repeated campaigns to "Save the Whittington", as government funds are squeezed by falling commercial profits (and thus reduced tax take) they seek to cut or commercialise the costs of health care.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

A press cutting

This week's Islington Gazette mentions that we are standing. Their main article on the by-elections (there are two on the same day, but we are only contesting one) will obviously be appearing next week or the week after. What it says can be found on page 6 here:

New Hopeful
A new leftwing candidate has entered the fray in the forthcoming Junction ward by-election. Bill Martin, 36, a university librarian, who lives in Hargrave Road, Archway, will stand for the Socialist Party of Great Britain on March 21.

In the meantime the 3000 election leaflets arrived in Clapham. Distribution starts next week.