Diminishing returns and megalomania
Arthur Scargill?s report on the general election, dated June 16, has been published on the SLP?s website. We reproduce extracts from this catalogue of falsehood, quack analysis and daft spin
The 2001 general election saw New Labour?s vote slump by over three million votes, whilst the Tories, whose vote had already collapsed in 1997 by 4.4 million, saw a further drop of 1.25 million, and the Liberal Democrats? vote slumped by over 420,000.
The Scottish Socialist Party, which did not contest in the 1997 general election, saw its vote fall by one percent, compared with its result in the European parliamentary election in 1999 - more important, its vote was 40% below the support projected in the Scottish Socialist Party?s general election manifesto.
The Socialist Alliance, formed a year ago in a blaze of publicity with the aim of opposing the Socialist Labour Party, not only failed miserably in that aim, but according to the journal Tribune, which had given it substantial publicity, the Socialist Alliance simply ?bombed out? in the general election, and completely failed in its bid to become ?the major minor party? in UK politics.
The Socialist Labour Party, on the other hand, not only secured an increased vote and an increased percentage of the vote compared to 1997, but in contesting 114 seats, the SLP contested the largest number of constituencies ever by a single ?left? party in the history of elections in Britain ....
It is important ... that we examine what effect - if any - other left parties or alliances had in terms of our performance in 2001 and, equally important, examine what they achieved or failed to achieve, particularly in light of their declared expectations.
There are those on the left in Britain who claimed that an alliance of ?left? political parties/organisations in a Socialist Alliance could win substantial electoral support in a UK general election, yet it has to be said that those who argued to establish such an alliance, involving at least 15 separate political parties or organisations, cannot seriously have believed that such a body, with its disparate policies, could make significant electoral impact ....
In 1997, the Socialist Labour Party secured 52,516 votes - 0.16%. In the 1999 European elections, our party, contested on a UK-wide basis involving all 641 constituencies in 11 regions, securing 86,749 or 0.86%, on a turnout of only 23%. An accurate comparison therefore can only be made between what the SLP achieved in the general elections of 1997 and 2001, with some reference to last year?s Greater London Assembly and metropolitan borough elections.
In the general election of 2001, the Socialist Labour Party secured 57,497 votes, or 0.22%, thereby increasing both our share of the votes and our percentage. The fact that our party was able to increase its vote by nearly 5,000 compared with its result in 1997 represents a major achievement and has confounded our critics.
In this election, unlike that of 1997, we were faced with a direct challenge not only from the Tories, New Labour, Liberal Democrats, UK Independence Party and the Green Party, but from a Trotskyist Socialist Alliance ... The combined Socialist Alliance vote of 57,304 is in fact lower than the Socialist Labour Party?s UK-wide vote, and the SLP either maintained or improved its vote compared with our 1997 general election performance throughout the UK.
We faced a challenge from the Scottish Socialist Party, another Trotskyist organisation, whose main affiliates are the former Militant Tendency and the Socialist Workers Party. The SSP in their manifesto confidently predicted a vote of five percent, or 116,000 votes out of the 2,314,000 votes cast in Scotland.
The SSP failed to achieve its target, and whilst it polled 72,518 votes, its percentage in Scotland of 3.1% was well below its 4.02% vote in the 1999 European elections, and its total vote was also below the 86,749 votes secured by the Socialist Labour Party on a UK-wide basis in the 1999 European elections.
A major difference in the 2001 general election was that the Socialist Labour Party in Scotland contested in only 12 seats, whilst the SSP stood in all of Scotland?s 72 parliamentary constituencies. In the 1999 European elections, the SLP?s average vote in the list system was 130 per parliamentary constituency - whilst in the 2001 general election, this figure increased to 265. In real terms, the Socialist Labour Party in Scotland actually increased its vote on a pro rata basis ....
It is important to note that the Socialist Labour Party in Scotland maintained its percentage vote compared with the result in the European elections of 1999.
In Wales, the Socialist Labour Party, standing in six seats, polled 2,805 votes, and was clearly the most successful ?left? party. There can be no doubt that the Welsh Socialist Alliance, another Trotskyist organisation involving both the SWP and former Militant Tendency, were determined to secure more votes than the Socialist Labour Party. The fact that they failed to do so is a testament to our political integrity and our refusal to be associated with this unholy alliance1....
In London ... the Socialist Labour Party polled 7,244 votes and maintained its percentage compared with its result in the 1997 general election. On the other hand, the Socialist Alliance, which polled 15,940, experienced a reduction of 11,132 from the 27,072 votes it secured in last year?s Greater London Assembly election1...
Yorkshire and Humberside
In Yorkshire and Humberside, the Socialist Labour Party increased its vote compared with its result in 1997 and easily secured more than any other ?left? party. Our candidate in Hull East secured 2.7% of the vote against New Labour?s deputy leader, John Prescott, and we won substantial votes throughout west and south Yorkshire as well.
In the East Midlands, the Socialist Labour Party not only beat the Socialist Alliance, but gained more votes than the Green Party - more important, our party soundly beat the BNP. Significantly, here, too, the Socialist Labour Party increased its share of the vote and its percentage compared with the general election result in 1997.
In the West Midlands our party polled the same percentage as the Socialist Alliance - but, more important, our party maintained its percentage of the vote compared with its result in 1997. In this region, we also beat both the BNP and the National Front.
This was a very creditable performance, especially bearing in mind the organisational problems we have experienced over the past couple of years - as well as the phenomenon of the ?wild card? candidate who stood as an ?independent? supporting a hospital. It is highly likely that had it not been for this intervention many of the votes cast for that candidate may have gone to our party.
In the North West it was particularly pleasing to see the Socialist Labour Party secure the highest vote of any ?left? party. The tactics of the Socialist Alliance in St Helens South gave the lie to the alliance claim that they do not seek to contest against our party?s candidates. Our party had declared its intention to contest in this constituency and named its candidate over a week prior to a New Labour defector being put forward as an alliance candidate. This action alone should demonstrate to all our members that there must be no electoral pacts, no discussions and no involvement with the Socialist Alliance, a Trotskyist organisation whose component parts have a record of entrism both in the Labour Party and in other parties, including our own.
In the North East, again, our party was the most successful on the ?left?, polling more votes than both the Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Britain combined. It was also pleasing to note that the Socialist Labour Party came out ahead of the Green Party and - more important in these dangerous times - the BNP ...
In the South West, too, our party emerged as the strongest ?left? force in the region, and in the process maintained its percentage vote compared with that of the 1997 general election. This is particularly satisfying, as both New Labour and the Liberal Democrats saw their percentages of the vote decrease ....
The party?s performance in the South East was, again, very creditable. In polling 3,194 votes, our comrades increased the party?s percentage vote compared with 1997. In the process, our party came out ahead of both the BNP and the National Front. The Socialist Alliance polled more votes than we did in this region, but this may well have been due in part to its targeting strategy ...
Despite a history of organisational difficulties in this region, our party maintained its percentage share of the vote compared with that of the 1997 general election ... On this occasion, we were affected by the fact that one of our prospective candidates was not able to get her nomination papers in on time due to technical reasons. Had her nomination been accepted, the result for our party in this region may have been improved ...
During the course of this election campaign, our party held some of the most successful public meetings we have seen since founding the SLP in May 1996. We held packed rallies in London, Yorkshire, East Midlands, West Midlands, North West, North East and Wales. Two of them exemplify both the obstacles in our path and the potential support there is for our aims and policies: one in St Helens, where our local comrades faced harassment from the establishment, saw the meeting?s venue cancelled twice with no credible explanation and in the end the SLP was forced to hold the event out of town, where a packed rally heard our candidate, Mike Perry, SLP general secretary Arthur Scargill and Ricky Tomlinson deliver powerful contributions.
In Hartlepool, a second packed rally was so large that people had to be turned away; here, Arthur Scargill and Ricky Tomlinson made a passionate call for people to vote for all Socialist Labour Party candidates, in the process winning at least 15 people into membership of our party ....
The party had originally intended to concentrate its election propaganda - including election addresses - in a handful of constituencies. However, such was the enthusiasm of our CSLPs and regions that the majority of our candidates produced leaflets, including election addresses, posters, stickers and other campaign material ....
Some of the dirty tricks deployed against our party by the establishment itself may never come to light, but a few were fairly obvious. We do know that in a number of constituencies, including Leicester, Sedgefield, Hartlepool, Normanton, Wakefield, Brent East and Holborn and St Pancras, our election addresses were not all delivered throughout those constituencies by the Royal Mail, despite our comrades meeting all specifications and deadlines set by the Royal Mail ....
As for the media, we?re well accustomed by now to being ignored, ridiculed or having our views utterly distorted. We had plenty of all three in this campaign - although it must be pointed out that several national newspaper interviews with the general secretary (including an article by him commissioned by the Mail on Sunday ... did give us some coverage - as did Ricky Tomlinson?s principled and courageous involvement in our election campaign, including his presenting our election broadcast both on television and radio.
But overall, the situation was disgraceful, highlighted, for example, by a Channel 4 News feature on Hartlepool screened the weekend before the general election in which every candidate other than Arthur Scargill was profiled campaigning in the constituency. When we complained, Channel 4 claimed, falsely, that Arthur Scargill had not been in Hartlepool on the day of filming; its spokesperson had no answer to the point that not only had the SLP with its candidate been out and about throughout the whole of that day, but had been followed by a troupe of journalists and television crews.
Then there was the example of the media misrepresenting our policies: on Saturday May 19, BBC?s Ceefax carried a summary of our manifesto, running over several pages - all well and good, except that it falsely reported our party as supporting the concept of a European army, something to which we are totally opposed, as our manifesto makes clear. A telephoned complaint through to Ceefax did bring a fairly swift correction - but just over a fortnight later, and only a couple of days before the general election, our vice-president discovered that Ceefax was, again, running this lie about our party?s policy. This time, in addition to phoning through, we sent a letter of complaint, but the mistake was not corrected while the coverage of our manifesto was being carried, thus rendering somewhat hollow the written apology we later received from Ceefax.
Previous experience prepared us for the conduct of those who control the transmission of party election broadcasts, but their discriminatory actions in the 2001 general election surpassed what we have known before.
In addition to assigning our party a transmission date (May 21) prior to the closing of nominations and allowing us only an extremely limited amount of time in which to arrange for shooting and editing separate film and radio broadcasts (for England, Scotland and Wales plus a Welsh language one), the broadcasters? liaison group made a decision regarding the Socialist Alliance which completely contravenes legislation and its own guidelines.
The Socialist Alliance, which is only registered as a political party in England, was allowed a UK-wide broadcast, at the end of which its name appeared together with that of the Scottish Socialist Party, a separately registered party only in Scotland.
This bizarre ?dispensation? angered not only ourselves, but the Green Party and even the UK Independence Party. We have written to the broadcasters? liaison group in the person of the BBC?s chief political adviser, Anne Sloman, and to the home office, requesting an explanation as to why current legislation appears to have been breached by granting one UK-wide broadcast to two separately registered parties, each a conglomerate of a number of separate organisations which has been registered as a political party for the purposes of an election broadcast only.
We have demanded that the question of a political party?s registration should be clarified and that there should be no arrangement which allows groups or alliances of political parties and organisations (some of which are not registered) to be regarded as one party for the purpose of a party election broadcast.
... New Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats were not only allocated between three and four broadcasts each, but had broadcasts screened in the week before the election itself; even the Green Party was allocated its broadcast in the week before the election. There was no reason why all seven political parties which stood on a UK-wide basis, including ourselves, should not have been given a broadcast each in the seven days prior to the election ....
Conclusions and recommendations
.... When the Labour Representation Committee contested its first election in 1900, it secured 1.8% of the vote, and it made no significant breakthrough until 1918; indeed, it did not win a majority of votes until 45 years after its foundation. It is against this background that our party?s results must be viewed.
... Our result in the 2001 general election is an improvement on our performance in 1997, whilst the SLP?s vote in the 1999 European election - 86,749, or 0.86% - was the highest ever vote for any ?left? party standing on a UK-wide basis in the history of the United Kingdom.
In six of the 10 regions where the Socialist Alliance was standing against our party, our Party polled more votes and a higher percentage than the alliance.
More important, however, is the fact that in all 11 regions - including Scotland and Wales - our party either increased its percentage of the vote compared with 1997, or maintained its share of the vote: a performance which is a tribute to the dedication and hard work of all concerned.
It is essential that our party begins preparing now for the local authority elections in 2002, proceeding immediately to build on what we have achieved in our general election campaigning. Our aim must be to contest in every seat we can.
We now have four councillors, and it is essential that we are seen to be the same credible force in local politics that we have become in national politics in 1997, 1999 and 2001 ....
Individual membership of our party is now at its highest ever level, whilst our affiliated membership has been maintained and there is the prospect of other unions affiliating in the future. We have 11 regions, including Scotland and Wales, and more CSLPs than at any time since the party?s formation in May 1996.
As general secretary, I would like to pay the warmest tribute to all party members including our candidates and agents who did so much work during our election campaign. Warm thanks as well to Ricky Tomlinson, who not only presented our election broadcast, but spoke at rallies and donated very generously to our election fund ....