The mayoral election in Hackney has seen a breakthrough for the Socialist Alliance. With 4,187 votes (12.7%), Paul Foot beat both the Greens and Liberal Democrats, coming third just 300 votes behind the Tories. The Green Party candidate, Crispin Truman, got 3,200 votes (9.1%) and comrade Foot beat the Liberal Democrat, Ian Sharer, by just two votes. The Labour Party worked hard to get its vote out and had significant success, with 41.9% of the poll. This is despite the fact that Jules Pipe, former leader of the council, is unpopular in the borough. Clearly loyalty to Labour as an institution still runs deep. Mayoral elections can be more about personalities than politics. Paul Foot no doubt did well because of his reputation as a journalist in The Guardian and Private Eye. Indeed some local SA members are disappointed that he did not do better, given this reputation. And with a mere 29% turnout there is clearly a long way to go before we rouse the working class in Hackney out of passivity and alienation. Nevertheless the vote was a good one in the circumstances - particularly in view of the fact that we beat the Green Party so resoundingly. Hopefully that will put an end to arguments that we must make any concessions to the Greens - and Liz Davies's proposal for a red and green makeover for the Socialist Alliance. Nationally, the Socialist Alliance has had some poor results in recent months. A particularly notable example was an east London council by-election where the SA candidate got just nine votes. Hackney is of course one of the most politicised areas in the capital, if not the country, represented in the north by leftwing MP Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington). It also has the biggest SA and Socialist Workers Party branches with a scattering of other left forces throughout the borough, not least amongst the large Turkish and Kurdish population. Therefore it ought to be good territory for the Socialist Alliance. This result will certainly give renewed confidence to those who want the SA project to succeed. It will also give a boost to the pro-SA forces within the SWP. There were a number of positive aspects to the manifesto that Paul Foot stood on. Central was the call for opposition to the planned war on Iraq. He also emphasised the issue of asylum-seekers and opposed the budgetary controls being put on the office of mayor and the council. He refused to accept such financial constraints and pledged to fight for the funds needed from the government. However, although it was good that the campaign stood firm on these important political questions, it avoided others. The issue of how to tackle crime was side-stepped and the call for the decriminalisation of all drugs set out in People before profit, our national manifesto, not mentioned. This was unprincipled, particularly given the conditions on working class estates in Hackney. Many people will not open their doors or leave their flats after dark because of the drug and related crime problems. The police have moved to crack down and naturally made life hell for young black people in particular. So we need to put forward clear answers for these problems, rather than leave it to Jules Pipe and the Labour Party. It is no good tackling some difficult questions like asylum and then not touching others. The SA needs to have a consistent approach. An even bigger problem was the lack of a democratic and revolutionary programme. Nothing about Scottish self-determination, the European Union or a popular militia. Comrade Foot did make it clear that he stood for "a society owned and controlled by the people who work". Yet the only example given of what such a society might be like was how the Labour Party used to run councils. It is no doubt true that councils in the past built more houses and provided more services, etc. But we hardly want to hold up old Labour as our vision of the socialist future. The Socialist Alliance should stand for socialism, not Labourism. The campaign itself was an energetic one, but far too focused on leafleting. Although it is a problem knocking on doors in the evening after dark, it would have been possible to do a lot more day-time and weekend canvassing. But two leaflet drops right across the borough exhausted the hard core of campaigners and left little time for canvassing. However, the election newspaper - also delivered door to door - was good and the most useful piece of literature of the entire campaign. Many comrades commented positively on the feedback they received on the tabloid. People were reading it and found it impressive. It shows once again the importance of a regular SA political paper - indeed some SWP comrades have become convinced through experience that this is now essential. Any serious organisation - and there is no doubting that in Hackney at least that is what the SA is - must have a paper. Finally the issue of building a real organisation must be addressed in the aftermath of the election. The vote was good, but cannot be taken for granted. It gives us an inkling of our potential. Although in the absence of mass canvassing we are not in a position to identify the mass of those who voted for us, new contacts have been made and we must follow them up and hopefully recruit them. We must integrate them, which means giving some real life to the SA between elections. The problem of the active core and passive supporters must be overcome. For a start there must be a series of ongoing political meetings, discussions and debates on the big issues of the day. The SA must become the focal point of ideas and answers. The Socialist Alliance is now a real challenger to the ruling Labour Party in Hackney. In less than two and a half years the Socialist Alliance has moved from being a new formation to being a key player in Hackney politics. Now we must engage and organise the popular base that has been won. Anne Mc Shane Hackney result Vote % Jules Pipe Labour 13,813 41.9 Andrew Boff Tory 4,502 13.6 Paul Foot Socialist Alliance 4,187 12.7 Ian Sharer Liberal Democrat 4,185 12.7 Crispin Truman Green 3,002 9.1 Bruce Spenser Hackney First 1,543 4.7 Terry Edwards Independent 1,253 3.8 Errol Carr Independent 441 1.3