Left challenge

Around 200 Socialist Alliance candidates are contesting the May 2 local elections for councils in England. This is a disappointing figure, representing only a tiny fraction of the number of wards being contested. But it reflects on the fact that so many local SAs were put on the back burner or allowed to blink out of existence after last year's general election. However, the SA is by far and away the left grouping with the most candidates. Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party provides the next highest number, although it is only possible to estimate the SLP total (see Simon Harvey's article, left). Peter Taaffe's Socialist Party is standing 33 candidates in 30 wards. Because of the undemocratic provisions of the Election Registration Act they are barred from using their organisation's name and appear on the ballot paper as Socialist Alternative. The SP's most impressive challenge is in Coventry, where Dave Nellist looks set to hold on to his council seat in St Michaels. The two other SP councillors for the ward are not up for re-election this year, although their comrades are contesting a further seven wards in the city. Another two Socialist Party members hoping to be re-elected are Ian Page and Sam Dias in Lewisham, south London. They face a much more difficult task, since ward boundaries have been completely redrawn in the borough and the SP's success in the now abolished Pepys ward was almost entirely down to the personal reputation of comrade Page, a former Labour councillor. The SP had previously concentrated almost all its work in Pepys, and the two will have their work cut out to run Labour close in the enlarged Telegraph Hill ward. There is a sixth SP councillor, who is also trying to hold onto his seat. Paul Malliband defected from Labour a year ago and is again contesting Preston Brookfield. Despite his own personal support, he also faces an uphill battle. Apart from Pete Glover, who is standing once again in Merseyside Bootle, and to a lesser extent Julia Leonard (Hillingdon Pinkwell) and Mick Griffiths (Wakefield East), none of the others are expected to poll high votes. To its credit, the SP, which walked out of the Socialist Alliance after failing to win its constitutional proposals at the December 1 2001 conference, has helped ensure that there is no SP-SA clash in the same ward - although, with so many seats to choose from, there really would have been no excuse not to have reached some arrangement. That, however, has not prevented the Morning Star's Communist Party of Britain from opposing the alliance in another south London ward - Peckham, The Lane. This is a remarkable achievement, since the CPB is standing just four candidates in the whole of England. In Peckham Nick Wright - former Straight Leftist - has always made a point of anti-'Trot' sectarianism. He simply ignored the fact that the SA intended to contest all three The Lane seats and put in his own nomination. The other candidates are Monty Goldman (Hackney), Martin Levy (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and Anna Kruthoffer (Walthamstow). It is difficult to understand what the CPB is hoping to achieve by these continued token contests - it should join the Socialist Alliance where it would, of course, be free to publicy promote its own distinct programme and maintain its own profile. Another grouping to throw its hat into the ring is the Independent Working Class Association, with a handful of candidates in east London and elsewhere. The IWCA was set up in 1996 as Red Action's answer to the SLP, and has not been much heard of for several years. However, in January Red Action announced that it was 'leaving' the SA (an organisation it had never joined on a national level), denouncing it as a Socialist Workers Party front. It stated then that it would not hesitate to oppose the alliance, which it virtually placed in the camp of the class enemy. Fortunately though, RA's new electoral turn under the IWCA umbrella has not produced any clash. In Leeds there are 11 left candidates - five comrades from Leeds Left Alliance, four representing the SA and one each from the SLP and SP. They have all managed to stand in separate wards. Peter Manson * Socialist Alliance: www.socialistalliance.net * Socialist Party in England and Wales: www.socialistparty.org.uk * Socialist Labour Party: www.socialist-labour-party.org.uk * Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star): www.communist-party.org.uk * Red Action: www.redaction.org