Janine Booth and Charlie MacDonald, Workers' Liberty members standing as Socialist Unity candidates in Hackney Central ward on 4 May, received 260 and 161 votes - roughly 11% and 7%, depending on how you calculate it in a three-seat ward. Despite a doubling of the Tory vote on the back of the national Tory revival, Janine beat all three Tory candidates. She received almost the same vote as in 2002, when she won 271 votes as a Socialist Alliance candidate.
In 2002, the SA campaign involved the whole of the organised left and stood candidates across Hackney; it was part of a nationally-recognised“brand” strengthened by the momentum and goodwill generated by the experiment in left unity. The election came after a vigorous campaign against council cuts led by the SA. This time around, the SA no longer existed and large sections of the left channelled their energies into the non-socialist, non-working-class project of Respect. Maintaining a strong vote on an explicitly working-class socialist message was a good achievement.
The AWL and Hackney Socialist Unity have met a large number of sympathetic and interested people during the campaign. Some of those people voted for us, and some didn't — because they weren't confident in their ability to make a difference, or in a few cases because they didn't hear about us till after they'd voted!
Our main challenge now is to follow up those contacts, and convince some of them to become active as campaigners and socialists.
The Socialist Unity campaign is part of a process of organising working-class people in Hackney to fight for their rights — against the council, their landlords, their bosses and the government. We were particularly proud that the election day issue of the Hackney Gazette contained two prominent stories about strikes in East London - with our comrades prominently involved in both, with quotations from Charlie and Janine and a big picture of Charlie on the picket line. We will continue our campaign in that spirit, as class fighters not aspiring politicians.
With the Tory surge and gains for the BNP, the local election results as a whole were bad news for the left. But within that generally negative framework, there were quite a few strong results, results which suggest large possibilities if the left gets its act together.