Vote 2001 Campaign review

Stockton South candidate Lawrie Coombs gives a candidate?s view of the general election

Well we didn?t win - we even failed to save our deposit. So was it worth it? I can honestly say that I personally feel that it was. Initially in Teesside there was a reluctance to stand in even one seat, let alone two. Therefore should we have concentrated our fire in one direction? I suppose it is hard to get scientific proof either way. Nevertheless standing locally in Stockton South as well as in nearby Middlesbrough was, I think, the correct thing to do.

We started the campaign with a group of people - largely members of the Socialist Party - who, I think it is fair to say, are not the most active branch in the country. There was also shift work and family commitments representing a barrier to activism. Initially there had been discussions about one of the SP fold putting up, but centrally they were not given the go-ahead. So, as a regional representative of the CPGB, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and eventually the candidacy was anointed.

The campaign was slow to get off the ground and for a large part of the early days it seemed to end up being me and SP John doing the bulk of the work. However, the stalls we did, together with knocking on doors, created something of a bandwagon effect. We now have dozens of names to follow up and, as time went on, we actually were able to integrate interested people into working for the alliance campaign. On a few occasions teams of four or five were going out, even when John or myself were unavailable.

In the end you do have to set some store by the result and I was a bit disappointed with our 455 (just over one percent) - although, considering our resources, the limited personnel we had to call on and the fact that this historically has been a Tory seat (Labour came third back in 1987), I think in retrospect this represents no disgrace.

We now have a network of activists and we have people to call on: 13 came to the count - all from the borough of Stockton-on-Tees. A follow-up meeting on June 12, despite a number of apologies, took place in a very positive atmosphere, with proposals for interventions at various summer festivals, notably the Durham Miners Gala, being suggested. The intention is to recanvass our target area, integrate ourselves into community issues and put the Socialist Alliance at the disposal of the class, so to speak, Likewise we have no intention of letting newer comrades remain as pure leafleteers: we intend to institute a regular programme of debate, discussion and education (there was some talk that our meetings up to now might have been a bit too much on the technical side).

So, no, we didn?t set the world alight, but we are stronger than we were and we have a more worked out idea of what is needed in the longer term, based on the electoral intervention. But of course now it all depends on what happens nationally.