On the surface, not that much has seemed to change in this years council elections in Leeds. Labour remain firmly in control of the council, losing a seat to the Greens but also gaining a seat from the Lib-Dems. Yet under the surface huge anger is boiling against mainstream political parties and the squeeze ordinary working class people are coming under.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Benefitting from masses of publicity in broadcast and print media, and the coincidence of the local and European elections, UKIP were the main beneficiaries of this in Leeds, coming second in 14 wards, mostly behind Labour (except in Harewood and Wetherby where they were second to the Tories and Farnley and Wortley where they were second to Greens). Care must be taken not to overstate this surge, however, in Headingley ward they came last as they did last time they stood there in 2011. The Lib-Dem vote continued to fall, including collapsing in Headingley where their sitting councillor decided not to restand for local elections but this was the only seat they lost this year.
The Greens however, were the only party to make gains from this, in the seat where they previously had two councillors. They also came second in two wards, in both cases beneficiaries of the collapse of the Lib-Dem vote in those wards after councillors stepped down (in the case of Hyde Park & Woodhouse ward, this was two years ago).
The result of this has been a squeezing of the genuine socialist & anti-cuts vote across the city. Compared to two years ago, the total AGS vote is down in the four seats they contested from 1278 to 1125, despite increasing the total vote in both Roundhay and Chapel Allerton wards. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition vote also disappointingly dropped in the two wards we had contested previously, Armley and Horsforth from 306 to 111.
To most of us that have been involved in the campaign, this seems somewhat paradoxical given the warm response we have received when out campaigning. The issues we were raising such as scrapping zero hour contracts, axing the bedroom tax and capping rents all were widely supported. However, all of these issues were ones where parties with higher profiles could claim the same thing – despite either in practice or detail this not being the case. Labour leader Ed Miliband pledge on zero-hour contracts is full of loopholes requiring an employee to work on a zero-hour contract for a year before action would be taken to give them job security, whilst on rents he has only proposed a cap on increases in rents, not on rents themselves. UKIP pledged to scrap the bedroom tax, despite its leaderships politics being described as ‘Thatcherism on speed’ with wealthy donors backrolling the party and their billboard campaign.
But in other ways the campaigns were our most succesful. In several areas we received the active support of anti-bedroom tax campaigners from Hands off Our Homes as well as local trade unionists. We recieved numeorus applications for more information about both TUSC and the Socialist Party and held more succesful election public meetings than in previous campaigns. One text we received on election night was indicative of this “Question for ye. When are we guna have a revolution, sick wasting my energy voting for dead beats that do nowt. Will try your party, tusc”
Our election campaigning was more refined, with a little more press than previously including a virtual reprinting of our press release on the FBU strike by the online paper the Yorkshire Times (http://www.yorkshiretimes.co.uk/article/TUSC-Offers-Full-Support-To-Striking-Firefighters). Yet this was still below the abysmally low press coverage many other areas where TUSC was standing received. With TUSC in Leeds standing more than twice the areas we’d previously contested, this increased active support was spread out across a wider area, but it has helped us put down better roots for the future in a number of areas.
Yet whilst the major parties can swerve left to reap the votes of those fed up of austerity, then being placed in a position of power will show whose side you are on. Neither Ukip, Labour or Greens have an alternative, the latter have been implementing it in practice where they control councils whilst Ukip’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall recently called for ever bigger cuts! Those elected councillors for these parties who are genuinely anti-cuts will face the same issues anti-cuts Councillor Keith Morrell did when he voted against cuts and was pushed out of the Labour Party as a result. (Keith, now part of TUSC, was re-elected in these election in Southampton with a huge 900 vote majority).
The TUSC West Yorkshire steering committee will meet to review the election results across the whole of West Yorkshire where the best TUSC result so far is the 323 votes for first time candidate & Mid Yorks NHS strike leader Dave Byrom in Stanley and Outwood East ward. We will be discussing plans to stand more anti-cuts candidates in next years local and general election, as well as keeping up the pressure in the meantime by following up the excellent response our campaigning for the council to set-up its own letting agency to scrap the rip-off fees they charge and attempt to bring down rent levels has received on the doors.
TUSC results in Leeds
Armley – 65 – 1.3%
Bramley & Stanningley – 44 – 1.4%
City & Hunslet – 87 – 1.8%
Farnley & Wortley – 30 – 0.5%
Horsforth – 56 – 0.8%
Hyde Park & Woodhouse – 98 – 2.5%
Kirkstall – 56 – 1.1%
Morley South – 51 – 1%
Weetwood – 40 – 0.7%