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The anti-cuts fight in Stoke goes on
Reflecting the current mood to punish the Con-Dem government for their savage cuts, New Labour increased its grip on Stoke-on-Trent city council in the local elections on 5 May.
The Lib Dems were removed completely and the Tories lost six seats, leaving them with a rump of just two. Community Voice also lost all their seats along with other independents.
Andy Bentley, Stoke Socialist Party
Very welcome was the complete removal from the council of the far-right, racist BNP. But we should not be complacent about this because in the wards where they stood they polled an average of 10%, whilst another far-right organisation, England First, averaged 12.5%.
The six Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates, standing in our first ever council elections, achieved an average vote of 3.9%.
This was with a background of the votes for smaller parties being squeezed as a result of the desire by many to punish the Con-Dems by voting New Labour; and also with the local media completely ignoring our campaign.
The first time TUSC stood a candidate in Stoke-on-Trent was only last year in the general election when Socialist Party member Matt Wright stood in Stoke Central constituency.
A comparison between then and now shows a small but significant increase in support for TUSC.
In the general election 133 people voted TUSC out of the 32,470 who voted across the Central constituency. In the six wards in which we have stood in these local elections, from 12,656 who voted, 486 voted for TUSC.
That is an increase of 353 votes from almost 20,000 less voters. Of some importance also is that our best percentage of the vote, 5.4%, was won in the ward where the leader of the BNP was standing.
An important feature of these elections was the emergence of TUSC to provide an organised trade unionist and socialist based opposition and alternative to all the savage cuts implemented by the Con-Dem government and the city council.
Socialist Party members and other trade unionists, particularly from the PCS and CW unions, formed the backbone of the election campaign.
New Labour should enjoy their jubilation at winning control of the city council while they can because their problems have only just begun. During their election campaign they falsely claimed to have 'saved the children's centres'.
During the last week of the election campaign Save our Children's Centres campaigners were out every day collecting names objecting to the council cut of 30% in funding, calling it 'unacceptable'.
This will increasingly be the music of the future.
In the fight against cuts, the New Labour councillors will need to decide individually and collectively which side they are on. They can be part of the Con-Dem drive to take us back to the misery, poverty and unemployment of the 1930s or they can adopt the fighting traditions of the 1980s - of the miners, of Liverpool's socialist council, of the mass movement against the Poll Tax which defeated Margaret Thatcher's Tory government.
We are not prepared to stand by while we are taken back to the 1930s! In the weeks and months ahead we will developing further the fight against all cuts.