18 March 2013
Camden by-election: laying down roots
WHEN THE VOTES were counted in Camden Town Hall late on Thursday night the winner was the least interesting result. As expected, the Labour candidate romped home, taking just under 60% of the vote in the by-election in Gospel Oak ward.
The more remarkable story of the night was the collapse in the Lib Dem vote and the very creditable result of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), standing in their first election in the ward and indeed the borough of Camden.
The Lib Dems were the largest party on Camden council as recently as 2010. In the borough wide elections that year their three candidates in Gospel Oak ward garnered a combined vote of 20%. Fast forward two years and their vote had melted to 6.2%, putting them behind the Tories and Greens in fourth place.
Hard on their heels was the first time campaign of John Reid from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition. †In a brief three week campaign TUSC captured 109 votes, a 5.1% share of the vote. The TUSC result was a mere 26 votes behind the third placed Greens.
Despite a short campaigning period and limited resources the TUSC campaign certainly had an impact in the area. A protest at Camden Town Hall highlighting the impact the bedroom tax is having in pushing 761 families out of the borough made it into one of the two local newspapers. A public meeting with Bob Crow speaking attracted 35 people from the area. Several people, some of whom who had never heard of TUSC until the election, came out and did activity, including a former Camden Labour councillor. Camden TUSC now has a respectable number of contacts from the area who are committed to building TUSC after the election. These include active trade unionists and community campaigners.
Most importantly TUSC provided a desperately needed alternative to the establishment parties. This was the message we received time and again campaigning in the street and on the doorsteps. Even on polling day itself, John was approached by two retired trade unionists who thanked him for standing as they had not been intending to vote until the TUSC leaflet pledging to vote against all cuts came through their doors.
The question of an alternative to cuts was particularly important as the BNP were also standing on a supposed Ďanti-cutsí platform. Their leaflet attempted to use the cuts to whip up divisions in Camden by putting the blame for high unemployment on migrant workers. Thankfully their campaign received short shrift from the voters of Gospel Oak. They received 52 votes, putting them last, despite the fact that they have stood in the borough previously and have a national profile.
During the election John repeatedly emphasised that the campaign was only the beginning in building a real working class voice in the borough. The Labour council has already announced it plans another £32 million in cuts this year. Attacks from the Con-Dem central government will continue. With an impressive first time result to build on and a team of people in the area now ready to begin developing TUSC the raw material is there to build something very exciting in Camden.
Camden council, Gospel Oak ward (14th March):
Labour 1,272; Conservative 419; Green 134; Lib Dems 132; TUSC 109 (5.1%); BNP 57