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12 May 2010

Lewisham: socialists will be at forefront of struggle

Ian Page, Chris Flood and Jess Leech won our best votes ever in the council elections for the Telegraph Hill ward of Lewisham, south London. But this increased support for socialist candidates, and the fantastic support we have received during the campaign, was not enough to overcome national factors.

Chris Newby, London Socialist Party

The three Labour candidates won, reflecting the fear of what a returning Tory government would mean, rather than any support for the attacks of the Labour government and the minority Labour council in Lewisham.

This mood was best summed up by one voter who had gone into the polling booth with the intention of voting for the Socialist Party candidates yet, at the last minute, succumbed to the fear of the Tories getting in and rubbed out the crosses next to the Socialist Party candidates and voted Labour instead.

The fact that this election was held at the same time as the general election resulted in increased votes for some of the parties with a national profile. In Telegraph Hill the Liberal Democrat vote increased by over 300% on the 2006 result.

The Green Party had made the Lewisham Deptford constituency one of its three main target seats in the general election under their "target to win" strategy. The Telegraph Hill ward is a part of this constituency. Partly as a result of their national profile and this extra concentration on the area, the Green vote in Telegraph Hill more than doubled from 2006.

The Socialist Party has repeatedly made attempts to come to an agreement locally with the Greens in an attempt to maximise the vote against the three main parties. Yet the Green Party has consistently rebuffed these approaches. Sue Luxton, a recently defeated Green councillor in Lewisham, commented in 2008 that there was no way in hell she would support a decision not to stand in Telegraph Hill in 2010 ie against the Socialist Party!

Yet the Greens also suffered from the prevailing national mood losing five of their six Lewisham council seats to Labour that now has a big majority on Lewisham council. The elections in 2006 produced a hung council with Labour being the largest party. Labour now has no-one to hide behind when it implements savage cuts.

Lewisham People before Profit, a local coalition in which the Socialist Party participates, stood in every ward in Lewisham with the exception of Telegraph Hill and gained some creditable votes.

A fighting record

In spite of this defeat in the election Lewisham Socialist Party will not be going away. As Chris Flood said in our election meeting, we have a record, which is second to none, of standing up and fighting in the interests of the working class in Lewisham. During the election campaign we were often contacted by those who had received our leaflets and agreed with us. We met many people who are interested in finding out more about and joining the Socialist Party, including someone who works at the Ford plant in Dagenham, east London.

Our message throughout this campaign was that there are big attacks on services in Lewisham coming, both from the government and Lewisham council.

While Labour will attempt to use its council majority to push through a cuts package of 50 to 60 million, we will make sure that we are in the forefront of the struggles to oppose these cuts alongside workers in Lewisham.