Saturday, 6 June 2009

What Vote Can No2EU Expect?

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.


Jim Jay said...

I think this is a very measured assessment. I suspect No2EU won't do as 'well' as Respect did but it will all be in the same ball park and I think if you get your deposit back in any region you can give yourselves a pat on the back.

Best of luck.

Jim Denham said...

"No2EU" will get a derisory vote: good!

Wny "good"? becuae the left should notm 3ndorse a reactionary prgramme, even if we think it's potentially popular.

The evidence is that the little-England nationalist-populist vote will go straight to the Powellites of UKIP and ignore the middle-man of No2UE.

This is no basis for left re-alighnment, comrades, unless you consider the rank nationalists and Stalinists of the CPB to be the "left".

After the disaster of No2 EU's showing in the European elections, Socialist Party comrades should regain their senses (and their internationalism), and admit it was an awful mistake, and rejoin the principled, internationalist left, who are not obsessed by the EU nand do not attempt to mislead workers by blaming the ills of capitalism on the EU.

Anonymous said...

the political basis of respect and no2eu were different (both a step back from any socialist programme) and also, needless to say, they took place against a different backdrop of events.

respect had galloway and a section of the muslim community, the anti-war party mantle, and the swp of course to do the ground work.

no2eu i think, despite having the backing of a trade union which makes it of maybe more signifficance, has less to help it in terms of votes. it has a dire name and an ultra-limited and very narrow programme to say the least. it has also had a v small campaign, limited in reality to a few cities and towns where the sp have very active branches. the media did not ignore respect in quite the same way either.

i'm not sure that we can really judge either project on votes alone.

the real question is, where will no2eu lead? will it lead nowhere and have been a waste of time, or will it lead to a new formation? if yes, what will the nature of the formation be, what politics and what forces will be in it, with what impact?

so we can judge no2eu only from the future when these answers are clear.


Anonymous said...

Phil - Respect is not the benchmark really since its vote was mainly based on an opportunistic appeal to the Muslim vote through the 'community leaders' turning out the vote. A strategy incidentally that the SWP stumbled upon quite accidentally in the first campaign in Preston. It is less vote-friendly, but more politically worthwhile to appeal to all working class people on the basis of socialism.

Darren said...

The SLP will outpoll No2EU and it won't matter a fuck to either side. (Just swearing for effect. Don't mind me.)

Phil BC said...

Re: the Respect comparison, despite having different orientations and strategies I think a comparison is justified because of a) similar programme, b) profile, and c) the amount of time Respect and No2EU had to campaign.

KS, I'd certainly agree with what you say. The criterion of No2EU's success ultimately depends on how it helps out the tortuous process of left regroupment. At last Monday's No2EU London rally Bob Crow publicly committed himself to being part of it after the elections, so in that sense No2EU has already bequeathed the left a positive legacy. Sadly, this is lost on people like Jim and others for whom socialist politics is about sniping from the sidelines.

And Darren, what argument do you base your remarks about the SLP on?

Phil BC said...

Btw Jim, would you be so kind to tell me how this material we've been putting out in Stoke is "reactionary"?

Dave Riley said...

Phil says: Thanks to No2EU, a significant realignment of the far left is on the cards.

I say: If that is the case then that's great but on what basis do you make the claim? Hype aside, what is the essential dynamic  to which you are ascribing such potency?

One  electoral coalition does not a re-alignment make.  It is also the case that this coalition has a shallow political  platform and was not as 'open' as it  was cracked up to be as it proscribed some formations on the far left.

However, you have to start some where I guess and this seems to be, with the commitment to also run at the next general election, a beginning. Let's leave aside the fact that this kickoff could have  occurred with the Socialist Alliance project  -- which the SP abandoned --or even with Respect, which the SP passed on  -- and recognise the significance of this aggregation.

But what sort of a ' realignment ' is it supposed to be? An occasional electoral coming together behind a left social democratic platform...or the beginning of a new class struggle , anti capitalist workers party of the ilk that the CWI bangs on about?

So what sort of far left re-alignment is it supposed to be?

This isn't an insignificant  question  nor is it a question whose answer can be  deferred. At some early point perspectives have to kick in and the pressure will build to form a new left party by making the first tentative steps to build it out of this raw re-alignment.

Will the SP oppose that? Would the SP be part of any new aggregation? And, when the pressure builds, what sort of political party would be  envisaged?

From my experience, even in far off Australia, the English far left orgs are so caught up in their own programatic correctness that they are incapable of  making the qualitative leap to signing on with  a new party project.

This was the issue in Scotland, was it not, with the Scottish Socialist Alliance?

I guess my point is this: that you either commit to a process of party building that encompasses  re-alignment and regroupment -- despite all the perceived risks to your own political integrity -- or you don't.

The SWP, for instance, passes on that point.

From its crude schemata of "united front of a special kind" to  the its  command approach to running Respect , there was no way that the SA or Respect projects were allowed to compete with the SWP for socialist political real estate.

Will the SP manage their involvement better?

Fran├žois Sabado
debated Alex Callincos on this point and the exchange is worth studying:France's New Anti-Capitalist Party: An exchange between Alex Callinicos (British SWP) and Fran├žois Sabado (LCR).

I don't mean to suggest that there is one easy answer to be had when one seeks or looks forward to a  "significant realignment of the far left". But I do know that you have to committo building a new party before such a new party can be built.  'Significant  realignment'  is shallow rhetoric unless it  means that  a new party formation  will, at some stage, be "on the cards".

P said...

hi all

interesting posts
I would be very surprised if no2eu gets more than 1 per cent anywhere. But as previous posters have commented, its what happens next that is important.

I don't think you can compare Respect to no2eu, respect had a slightly longer run up to the election with more of a structure in place. They received a very respectable vote to be fair, in a less crowded field.

But the imporant thing, in terms of working class political representation, is that a national union has taken its first steps. Socialists should do all they can to encourage this, and make the steps more concrete.


Darren said...


Despite the fact that the SLP has no organisation and it only exists nowadays to contest elections every few years, it will outpoll No2Eu for 3 reasons:

1) They have Labour in their name. (Sounds frivilous but some people will vote for that reason alone.)
2) Scargill is still a public figure to a section of the general population. Bob Crowe isn't.
3) No2EU has only being going for a few months, has a name that is open to misinterpretation and outside the confines of the left, haven't resonated with the wider population.

Just what I think from 4000 miles away. If I'm proven wrong I'll eat crow, but as he's a beefy bastard I won't be able to eat it all at one sitting. ;-)

Phil BC said...

Hi Dave

There are two reasons why I think a far left realignment is on the cards. First, the RMT has committed itself to electoral politics. That means far left electoral challenges in the future will have the added weight of a trade union behind it. Second, the PCS (civil servants' union) leadership has committed itself to exploring its members attitudes to backing/fielding trade union candidates in elections. These are already happening. If No2EU does ok other trade unionists might follow the RMT/PCS lead - particularly those not currently affiliated to Labour.

And if No2EU does badly? At this stage I don't think it would derail movements toward workers' political representation to any great extent. The very act of the RMT participating in No2EU has done us all a favour.

One a slightly related note, Joe Higgins could just squeeze into the third European seat going spare in Dublin ...

Phil BC said...

Those are fair reasons, Darren, but I don't think they'll mean much when it comes down to it. I don't think the 'Labour' in the SLP's title has done that much for it, except for when it contested Michael Martin's seat in the 2005 general election.

I'm going to stick my neck out. I reckon No2EU will do something in the region of 1-3%. AND it will outpoll the SLP. If it doesn't, I'll bake me some humble pie on the morrow.

Nick said...

Hi mate,

Did you notice the SP stood in at least two areas?

Lincoln: 124 votes (9.6%).

Bolsover: 289 votes (9.7%).


Nick said...

Furthermore, we supported an independent candidate (happens to be my PCS branch secretary) who got 391 votes (18.6%) in a by-election for North Kesteven District Council.

Phil BC said...

I didn't, cheers for the results Nick. Know if we were standing anywhere else?

Nick said...

Not that I know of.

Dave Riley said...

Phil BC:One a slightly related note, Joe Higgins could just squeeze into the third European seat going spare in Dublin ...

I say: There you go. This is more than simply slightly related! For more than a decade Joe Higgins has been a SP package first and foremost in Ireland and the SP has not deployed that significant achievement to kick start a "re-alignment on the far left" there.

So why should anyone think that the SP -- contrary to Scotland and to Ireland -- will commit or even embrace a regroupment process in England?

You could say, I guess, that ," well it's very different here because we have unions on board in the No2EU exercise -- and really the main game is a re-alignment of worker allegiances." But that is a schema which lays down a law that only when that happens from the very beginning of a process will the SP consider it as true "significant re-alignment" worthy of the name.

Whereas my point is a strident one: you are either committed to a realignment/regroupment that includes a new party process -- or you aren't. You then make the best out of what opportunities present themselves. In referencing Higgins aren't you simply suggesting that we'll do it alone in Ireland because we can -- but elsewhere we'll hook up with others so we ginger the results? But really that's the only reason we'll hook up.