Canvassing everywhere

Nottingham Socialist Alliance does not know whether to be elated or deflated. On the face of it we received the fifth biggest SA vote (1,117 or 3.8%), yet this delight was tempered by disappointing results from elsewhere.

However, we managed over 50,000 votes for socialism in England and Wales, with 70,000-plus achieved by the Scottish Socialist Party. This is what should be celebrated -the geographical spread of votes hardly matters at this early stage.

Thinking back now, the whole final 24 hours was a somewhat bizarre experience. Up at 5.30am, over to campaign headquarters, and haranguing a Barbara Cartlandesque Tory ?activist? outside a polling station by 7. There then followed an exhausting day of intensive, last-minute campaigning consisting of follow-up calls to those who said they would vote for us; driving continuously around the constituency with a klaxon blaring out, constant manning of polling stations, impromptu stalls, and, of course, more leafleting. Oh, and some Socialist Workers Party comrades hit upon the idea of hiring an open-backed lorry, chucking a sound system on the back and driving around the city centre - well, you had to be there really ...

Amazingly (and I think this has been the secret of our success) a hardcore of around 15-20 activists kept this up until 9pm, by which time we were all knackered and looking forward to the relative respite of the count.

Arriving at the count around 10.30pm, our eventual party of around 20 comrades wandered around like innocents abroad (a couple of SWPers even brought fish and chips in). The whole scene was remarkable. Sweaty Labour and Tory activists crowded round tables mysteriously marking prepared sheets whilst we looked over their shoulders, desperate to know our progress. We were not to be disappointed, as it turned out.

Before the count I was talking to our candidate, Pete Radcliff of the Alliance for Workers? Liberty, about what sort of figure we should be looking at. He said he would be happy with around 700-800 votes, and I think we had all basically settled for this in truth. So to poll over 1,100 votes was a remarkable effort.

At times during the count we were pushing the Tories into fourth place, especially in our ?heartland?, Sherwood ward. New Labour candidate John Heppell was rattled, make no mistake. He rushed over to our area in the final stages of the count, looking nervous and fidgety. As we jeered him throughout his victory speech, he made pathetic comments regarding the fact that the SA was ?still cheering, even though they?ve lost?. He chastised comrades who had gone out late on June 6 to cover Nottingham East with placards. The fact that he chose not to deal with our politics was telling.

He was even joined by the wife of the humiliated Tory candidate in Nottingham East, who screamed, ?I don?t know what you?re shouting at: you lost? - to which we replied en masse, ?So did you!? She retreated, muttering that, if she had her way, she ?wouldn?t let us into the country? - who did she think we were? Asylum-seekers?

Pete Radcliff yet again gave an inspirational speech from the platform. It was noticeable that three-quarters of the audience stayed, whether they were Labourites, Tories or Lib Dems. He pointed to the fact that in just seven short months we had established a base upon which we can build for the future.

It is important to recognise the enormous amount of work comrades in Nottingham (and from elsewhere) put into this campaign in the city. The dedication and organisational skills of election agent Bill Walton (ex-Socialist Party), the tireless treading of the streets by SWP comrades and the passion of Pete Radcliff should be harnessed and built upon. We canvassed extensively, and out of 40,000 homes, it was calculated that we had missed just three streets.

But to keep these people on our side we must engage with them. To simply drop leaflets through doors will be to let down our class. Political debate is not just something to be introduced at meetings - it is a necessity if we are to engage with the working class in the struggles ahead.

Nottingham SA has given itself something to live up to. We will relish the challenge.

Sam Metcalf