Everything points to a Labour government headed by Sir Keir

Local election barometer

Things are on course not for a hung parliament, but a thumping Labour majority. As for the left, apart from George Galloway’s WPB, the results were statistically and politically almost irrelevant. Mike Macnair says the way forward lies with principled unity which will allow for effective mass work

On Monday May 6 The Times chose as its front-page headline ‘UK heading for a hung parliament, says Sunak’. The basis of Rishi Sunak’s claim (which has been extensively rubbished in the same issue of The Times itself, as well as elsewhere) is the analysis by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher of what the vote share in these local elections would produce, if directly translated into parliamentary elections. Rallings and Thrasher have been producing analyses of this type after every England-wide set of local elections since the mid-1980s.1

Comments on the argument make the point that inferences from local election results to general elections are seriously problematic. In the first place, turnout in general elections is in recent years usually in the mid-60s percent,2 while in local elections the mid-30s. But it has fallen further this year; for example, the Manchester ward turnouts were predominantly around 30%, but in a couple of cases down to 20%-21% and only in a few cases above 40%.3

Secondly, the barriers to small parties and independents are much higher in parliamentary elections than in local elections. So the issue is posed as to how to analyse where ‘independent’ votes will go in a parliamentary election. In the present election, some independents were anti-war candidates - will the voters still vote for anti-war independents in a general election? Others were pro-car candidates (anti-emissions controls, against ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’ and 20mph speed limits), who will presumably return to voting Tory or perhaps go with ‘Reform UK’ in a general election.

Sunak is obviously clutching at straws for anything that might help Tory morale - their retaining the Teesside executive mayoralty has been bigged-up, as has the narrowness of their defeat in the Birmingham mayoralty. But the main burden of media commentary has been the disastrous character of the Tories’ results, and this judgment is plainly correct.

What about the intervention of the left? Phil Burton-Cartledge, who has in the past analysed left election interventions on his blog, so far has not produced detail, but only a polemic.4 The Workers Party of Britain stood in a limited number of wards, and has published the results: it has won four and achieved respectable minority results in the majority of the others.5 The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has stood in many more wards, but at the time of writing has not yet published the results.

It is worth looking at a couple of prominent mayoral results where left interventions were involved, as well as those in three very different localities: the London Assembly; Manchester City Council (where the WPB, Tusc and Communist Futures all stood); and Oxford City Council (a moderately sized town, where I happen to live, which also saw this year an (over)-ambitious attempt by Tusc to stand in several wards). Hopefully these examples will illustrate some issues regarding the elections.


Directly elected executive or metro mayors were introduced by the Blair government, starting with London in 2000. The form is an Americanisation and an extension of the principle of monarchism or ‘one-man management’. It was also supported by the Murdoch press in the expectation that, as in the US, it would give more political power to the corporate media barons. Further extensions have occurred since then, with central government leaning on local government to adopt the form.6

Trevor Phillips in The Times argues that “Mayors are the political disrupters we need” (May 6), meaning that they are as an institution anti-party. The reality is that directly elected executive mayors, together with all sorts of other cuts in local democracy (judicial review, central government intervention powers, police commissioners), lie behind the notorious recent incompetence of central government: by destroying local democratic political life, they tend to undercut the foundations of political life at the centre, restricting the political career to the passage through trainee and ‘adviser’ positions, to Renaissance-style court clique intrigues at the ‘courts’ of Blair, Cameron, Johnson … the Tory descent into chaos, under Johnson and since his fall, results from the principle of the directly elected leader. The problem of court clique-style intrigues was already present in the London mayor’s office under Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson …7

The Tories engaged in a good deal of hyping up regarding the prospects of their candidate in London, Susan Hall, but in the event there was a swing from Tory to Labour.8 There was no left intervention in the election, but it is perhaps significant in relation to results elsewhere that the Greens (on just under 6% of the vote) were only 70 votes behind the third-placed Lib Dems.

In the West Midlands mayoral, Labour narrowly defeated the Tory incumbent. But it has been widely noticed that third-placed was independent pro-Palestine candidate Ahmed Yakoob with 69,621 votes (10.4%). The Green candidate (4.7%) was slightly behind Reform UK on 5.2%, but well ahead of the Lib Dem (1%).9

In July last year, Kevin Ovenden argued in the Morning Star: “There is now the possibility of a left independent - Jamie Driscoll in the north-east of England - winning a major mayoralty before the general election and a probable Starmer-led government.”10 Driscoll did indeed stand, and achieved a respectable result: second-placed with 28.2%. But Ovenden was over-optimistic: Labour’s Kim McGuinness, the sitting Police and Crime Commissioner, won with 41.3%.11

London Assembly

The London Assembly is elected by a complex combination of a party list system plus constituency candidates. The Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain stood in the party list element, while candidates from the Socialist Party of Great Britain and Tusc stood in constituencies. The party list element was headed by Labour (38.4%), followed by the Tories (26.2%), Greens (11.6%), Lib Dems (8.7%) and Reform UK (5.9%). The CPB ranked 13th at 0.4% (10,915 votes) - an improvement on last time, when it obtained 0.3%.12

Among the constituency candidates, Labour took 10 seats, the Tories three and the Lib Dems one, with the Tories taking the ‘white flight’ areas of outer east London and the Lib Dems the outer south west, reflecting the Tory decline in Surrey.13 Outside the one seat the Lib Dems won, the Greens tended, though not invariably, to outpoll them. On the left, the two SPGB candidates both came in last, with just one percent of the vote.

Among the Tusc candidates, in City and East Lois Austin came in 7th (after an independent) with 4,710 (2%); April Jacqueline Ashley in Croydon and Sutton was 6th with 2,766 (0.7%); Andy Walker in Havering & Redbridge was 7th with 2,145 (1.3%); and Nancy Taaffe in North East was 6th with 5,595 (2.7%). These results show Tusc polling in the same range as the SPGB, though ahead of the CPB.


In the Manchester City Council elections, the Labour Party took 29 seats, the Tories none, the Greens one, the Lib Dems one, and the WPB one. The Greens outpolled the Lib Dems in 27 seats, and the Lib Dems outpolled the Greens in four.14

The WPB, as already indicated, won one council seat of the six contested - Shabaz Sarwar in Longsight. Beyond this, Syed Ataur Rahman in Burnage came third with 707 votes (16.8%); Chowdhury Murtahin Billah in Fallowfield also came third with 331 (15.6%); Muhammad Iqbal in Levenshulme came second with 1,200 (23.4%); Naznin Hussain in Rusholme was also second with 823 (22.1%); and Tanvir Marth in Whalley Range came third with 663 (16.4%).

Tusc and Communist Futures had much less success. Tusc only stood one candidate: Sam Hey came last with 81 votes (3%), although he was only 33 votes behind the Lib Dem candidate! Communist Futures stood three candidates, all of whom came in last, with around one percent. Credit to the comrades for a first attempt at electoral work that is a gesture, but not significantly worse than Tusc’s results and slightly better in percentage terms than the CPB achieved in London.


Oxford offers a rather different picture. In this set of elections Labour took 10 seats, the Lib Dems five, the Greens four, and the recently created Independent Oxford Alliance - actually a pro-car campaign against LTNs and related initiatives - four, plus backing one successful candidate who stood simply as an independent.15 It is possible that the Independent Oxford Alliance will morph in due course into a means for the Conservative Party to recover lost ground.

In one ward the Greens stood down in favour of one of the councillors who broke with Labour to become an Independent Socialist over the Gaza war (she lost to Labour, but got 13.6% of the vote). In the other wards, the Greens were ahead of the Lib Dems in 16 wards; the Lib Dems were ahead of the Greens in seven wards.

Tusc stood in nine wards, concentrated in East Oxford, where Labour holds the parliamentary seat. They agreed that the WPB, whose branch in Oxford was formed at the last possible time to nominate candidates, could take on one of the wards they had originally intended to contest. Tusc obtained significant votes in Blackbird Leys, where two seats were being elected and one of its candidates, with 52 votes, outpolled the Liberal Democrat and one of the Greens; and in Churchill ward, where the Tusc candidate outpolled the Liberal Democrat with 111 votes (10%). All the other Tusc candidates, as well as the WPB candidate, came last, with votes ranging between a high of 31 (WPB) and a low of 14.


What are we to learn from this? The areas I have discussed are areas of Labour strength, and it is noticeable that the Greens seem to be in process of superseding the Lib Dems as the ‘non-Tory alternative to Labour’ in such areas. In addition, the toxicity of the Tory ‘brand’ promotes various forms of small-C conservative independents - as it has in the past produced ‘non-political’ (Tory) clubs and ‘moderate’ (Tory) candidates.

What about the left? Phil Burton-Cartledge argues rightly that Tusc is a decidedly uninspiring project. But what he proposes as the alternative is to abandon SPEW’s “narrow, Leninist view of themselves”, since “their allies in Tusc, the rest of the labour movement, and so on are but foils for their grand ambitions”, and go instead for a version of the 1960s-70s ‘Liberal revival’ through the example of Nadia Ditta: she came second in Southampton Bevois ward with 848 votes (32%)16 as a “community rooted campaigner who has and is likely to continue working her seat”. It seems to have escaped comrade Burton-Cartledge’s attention that the Greens’ approach to local government has been much more ideological than the old ‘Liberal revival’ and present-day Lib Dem one.

Meanwhile, comrade Burton-Cartledge doubts whether we should “count George Galloway’s ‘Workers Party’ as a leftwing organisation” (he is probably too young to remember the pre-Eurocommunist orthodox Stalinism to which Galloway’s and the WPB’s politics are close), and contends that the WPB is “giving the enemies of the labour movement another stick to beat us all with”. This latter point underestimates the extent to which we are now past peak “equality and diversity” because of the close tie between this ideology and neoliberalism.

The WPB has been able to ‘leverage’ George Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election. It has the advantages of apparent novelty, for this reason. It is totally clear on its anti-war and anti-Nato line and, unlike Tusc (and equally unlike Communist Futures), it is a clear party project that new people can just join up to, not a coalition or a mere name.

The far left in general is blocked from real electoral effect by the Monty Python image of the Judean People’s Front competing with the People’s Front of Judea. Each group imagines that it radically outweighs the rest and fails because it does not: hence the generally poor performance. The path to progress does not lie through ‘mass work’ in elections (or in the Labour Party, or in trade unions), but through demanagerialisation to the possibility of unity, and from unity to the ability to do effective mass work.

  1. news.exeter.ac.uk/faculty-of-humanities-arts-and-social-sciences/esteemed-research-centre-which-predicts-election-results-now-part-of-the-university-of-exeter.↩︎

  2. www.statista.com/statistics/1050929/voter-turnout-in-the-uk.↩︎

  3. E Uberoi, ‘Turnout at elections’, House of Commons Library, No8060 (2023); www.manchester.gov.uk/directory_record/456988/local_elections_2024/category/1392/local_elections.↩︎

  4. averypublicsociologist.blogspot.com/2024/05/what-is-point-of-tusc.html.↩︎

  5. workerspartybritain.org/elections-2024.↩︎

  6. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directly_elected_mayors_in_England is a useful summary.↩︎

  7. Eg, ‘Livingstone hits back at ‘fiefdom’ allegations’ The Guardian January 24 2008; www.onlondon.co.uk/london-assembly-report-urges-stronger-city-hall-controls-in-wake-of-boris-johnson-jennifer-arcuri-controversy.↩︎

  8. ‘Sadiq Khan wins historic third term as London mayor’ The Independent May 5.↩︎

  9. www.wmcaelects.co.uk/results.↩︎

  10. Discussion and references are in my article, ‘Blind leading the blind’ (Weekly Worker July 27 2023): weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1453/blind-leading-the-blind.↩︎

  11. www.sunderland.gov.uk/media/32504/CAM-Regional-Results/pdf/Web_PARO_Declaration_of_FPTP_Count_correct_as_of_Friday__3_May_2024_14_14.pdf.↩︎

  12. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2024_London_Assembly_election.↩︎

  13. For Surrey see www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surry-local-election-results-maps-29112565.↩︎

  14. www.manchester.gov.uk/directory_record/456988/local_elections_2024/category/1392/local_elections.↩︎

  15. www.oxford.gov.uk/elections-voting/oxford-city-council-election-results-2-may-2024.↩︎

  16. www.southampton.gov.uk/media/4d3pfqq5/lge_2024-dorp.pdf.↩︎