After a short sharp campaign we will finally know how No2EU did tomorrow night when the European election results are announced. Arriving at a precise figure is difficult seeing as the minor parties aside from the Greens, UKIP and the BNP have received little media attention and are therefore lumped in with 'others' in opinion polls. But we can use previous European contests to project a No2EU and far left vote.
In 1999, the extra-Labour left polled 200,718 votes, or 1.88 per cent. This vote is composed of the shares received by the Socialist Labour Party, Scottish Socialist Party, Christine Oddy, the soft left former Labour MEP who was effectively deselected in the West Midlands, Ken Coates's Alternative Labour List, West Midlands Socialist Alliance, the Weekly Worker, and the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Things were slightly better in 2004, polling 343,424 votes, or 2.1 per cent of total ballots cast. This vote is an amalgamation of Respect, the SSP, Forward Wales and the Peace Party.
Going from these results leaves us a far left bench mark hovering around the two per cent mark. This time around in addition to No2EU, the SSP, SLP and SPGB are fielding challenges. I wouldn't expect these latter three organisations to do any better than last time around, though thanks to the 2006 split with Solidarity, it is possible the SSP's vote will drop significantly. However, the real curve ball is No2EU.
It is very difficult to predict the No2EU result with any certainty. The very late start of the campaign, a seldom updated website, the pledge of Communist Party and RMT candidates not to take up seats if elected would not have done No2EU any favours. But on the other hand targeted campaigning of BNP areas, the unambiguous Euroscepticism of the name, and the hilarious ballot-folding complaint from UKIP (supremo Nigel Farage wrote to the Justice Minister complaining "in many cases they [UKIP voters] have voted for other parties such as No2EU and even the BNP.") could see No2EU polling rather better than expected.
But what is the criteria of success, especially as no one, including No2EU supporters are expecting to win seats? I think the bench mark is Respect's 2004 challenge. Like No2EU it was a late comer, being founded at the beginning of the year at the point where other parties' electoral plans were well advanced. It had a controversial national figure in the shape of George Galloway, an activist backbone provided in the main by the Socialist Workers' Party and a "way in" to one of Britain's most oppressed communities. And like No2EU Respect was spurned by a large proportion of the rest of the far left. Still, it managed to go from nowhere to over 250,000 votes (1.5 per cent) in just six months. This in conjunction with a series of parliamentary by-elections gave it a base to build on, achieving some of the best results in the 2005 general election since the Communist Party's height at the close of the war. If No2EU manages to equal this in the space of just three months, then we've done well. If we don't, then we haven't.
It's very easy to become caught up in the momentum of election campaigns and take our eyes off the wider prize. Speaking from a narrow Socialist Party point of view, we have demonstrated to the most militant trade union in the land that we are a serious and capable organisation. To the wider left the relationships built between ourselves, the RMT, the CPB and the other groups and individuals drawn into No2EU will in all likelihood contribute to drawing together our scattered forces AND encourage trade unions, such as the PCS and FBU to join with us and enter the electoral fray. Thanks to No2EU, a significant realignment of the far left is on the cards.