The North Yorkshire council by-election held last Thursday on May 25th was a significant rebuff to Sir Keir Starmer’s re-constitution of Labour as a revived Tony Blair-style New Labour party.
The by-election had been caused by the resignation of the sitting Labour councillor for the Eastfield division, Tony Randerson, who had quit as a Labour Party member and councillor in April in protest at the direction of Starmer’s leadership and the intervention of the national party to block local left-wingers as possible general election candidates for the Scarborough and Whitby parliamentary seat.
After feedback from local residents to his resignation Tony agreed to stand again in the by-election as a member of the newly-formed Social Justice Party, currently in the process of registering with the Electoral Commission.
The result was a stunning victory, with Tony polling 499 votes (46.4%), ahead of the Liberal Democrat candidate with 281 votes, and with the Tories coming in fourth with just 69 votes (6.4%). Labour’s vote fell from 703 in the last election in May 2022 to 169 (15.7%) this time. There was one Independent, with 39 votes, and the Green Party, who polled 19 votes (1.8%).
Tony responded to the result on Facebook: “I am one extremely proud socialist councillor, the first elected socialist councillor to North Yorkshire Council”.
The Eastfield result, following the victory in May’s local elections of three Liverpool Community Independent candidates and the Portsmouth councillor removed as a Labour candidate for his support for the left-wing Momentum group, should give confidence to that ever-diminishing minority of Labour councillors who still defend socialist principles.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership the big majority of Labour councillors were opponents of his, identified by Peter Mandelson just months after Jeremy’s election as a key “force for sense” who could be “relied upon to rescue the party”. (The Guardian, 1st January 2016) If it was hard for the left-wing minority to fight within right-wing dominated local council Labour Groups then, it is doubly, trebly or even more so now. But the Eastfield victory shows that there is a way forward. TUSC looks forward to working with Tony and the SJP in the battles ahead.