Martin Ralph, a member of the International Socialist League, received 315 votes, that is 10.09% of 3,123 votes in the ward constituency of Old Swan, in the 2021 Liverpool City Council election. The ballot paper listed five major parties and the independent Old Swan Against the Cuts (OSAC), for which Martin ran. OSAC achieved third place, behind the Labour and the Liberal Party but ahead of the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party.
By International Socialist League (ISL) – Britain
On the eve of the election day, The Guardian wrote, “Local-interest groups, independents and other candidates not aligned with the major parties could be a key story this time.” That happened in Old Swan and, most likely, in many other constituencies in Britain because many workers cannot put up with both the Tories and the Labour party.
In the mayoral election, Labour won 59% of the total votes with Joanne Anderson, the UK’s first directly elected black female mayor and the first woman to lead the city. But in second place was Stephen Yip, an independent, with a small difference between the two, requiring for the first time in its history second preference votes to be counted: final result Anderson 46493, Yip 32079. It seems Liverpool working people are beginning to lose trust in Labour.
The Tories received the least number of Old Swan votes and Labour, although they held their seat, and lost 528 votes from the previous election. This is because both parties share the same austerity policy that has been in place since 2010 to today, following the world economic crisis that hit Europe heavily. They share a division of tasks with the Tories establishing national austerity policies, cutting and capping benefits, scrapping and privatising public services, attacking immigrants and repressing people who fight back. Whilst Labour City Councils implement these measures locally, closing libraries and One Stop (support) Shops, cutting funds for traffic, firing public service employees and removing guards from local trains (transport committee lead by Labour councillors).
A member of OSAC (who left the Labour party) asked the Old Swan Labour candidate, “if elected will you vote against the cuts”. She replied, “sticky question”, she would follow the Labour whip. So, no pretence, not even in words.
An additional reason to reject the policies of the big parties in Liverpool is that Parliament has passed a motion to send Tory commissioners to Liverpool to supervise the running of the city following charges of alleged corruption in the Council during the Labour administration of Mayor Joe Anderson. Anderson and four others were arrested in December over claims of bribery and witness intimidation. Labour councillors have said they welcome the commissioners, which has led to anger in a city where there has been no elected Tory MP or councillor for 20 years.
“Get rid of them all” was said to OSAC activists more than once, and some Labour members have told OSAC they may not vote for the Labour Party led by Sir Keith Starmer. There is a tendency in the working class not to vote or to lodge a protest vote against Labour.
Old Swan Against Cuts had a positive campaign and had the most extensive campaign on the streets of any party, with 25 posters displayed in homes and small businesses showing their support and with ten working-class people out canvassing. There was no public campaign or leaflets by the Green, Lib Dem or Tory candidates.
OSAC supporters went to every door in the ward and went into the flats, always observing Covid safety and wearing masks. For instance, one resident let us and shouted down the stairs, “who are you? Are you Labour?” When it was explained, we are against Tory austerity and Labour’s attacks, he welcomed them.
OSAC visited the local Fire Station, one of the firefighters, who lived in Old Swan, recognised the candidate. At the station, they were taking part in a memorial for all firefighters who had died and were holding, nationally, a minute’s silence at noon.
People knew of the campaign even outside Old Swan
OSAC did not restrain the election campaign to local issues. The campaign extended to include Black Lives Matter, support for Kill the Bill campaign led by the youth and women organisations (independent from the Labour Party), solidarity with international disputes such as the Welsh and Belgian health workers’ fight. So, their campaign spread beyond the borders of the Old Swan area.
OSAC is aware that many Labour Party plans to rip up their party membership and invite them to discuss what next? Many activists have already left, including a nurse who supports OSAC and the international European action of health workers – 29 May.
Organise against Tory’s austerity and Labour implementation
This was the main message from the OSAC campaign to Old Swan residents, and after the election as well. Austerity will attack Liverpool like a tsunami now that Tory commissioners and Labour councillors are working together against the people. The campaign is only a step forward towards the regular organisation of activists and residents to fight back. Join OSAC and join the fight-back; we have too much to lose to do nothing.