The most contentious election on 22nd May took place in Tower Hamlets. TUSC stood for the Elected Executive Mayor and in 13 of the wards. Some on the left argued before the election that we shouldn’t stand because the independent Mayor, Lutfur Rahman (standing during these elections as Tower Hamlets First), was left of Labour and we should be part of his campaign or that we were unknown and just substituting ourselves for the working class.
The political background was explosive. Rahman was targeted by Labour, because he stood against the Labour imposed candidate the last time, with allegations of corruption in his administration even making a Panorama special and leading to police raids on his offices orchestrated by Tory Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles. The Labour candidate, John Biggs, was the borough’s GLA representative. Undoubtedly the other mainstream parties would have preferred the safe Labour candidate to Rahman.
In this highly polarised election TUSC received enthusiastic support for the programme of rent controls, building council houses, a £10 an hour minimum wage and a fight to return £123 million stolen from the council by the government over the previous 4 years. On Election Day working class people openly declared their support for us at the polling stations whilst the main parties herded people in to vote against their least favourite option.
The Tower Hamlets TUSC Mayoral candidate managed 871 first preference votes, which given the circumstances was a credible result and was only the tip of support for our campaign. In the council seats we got a total of 1,892 votes across the 13 wards. 3.2% of those that voted in these wards supported a TUSC candidate. In two wards we beat the Tory candidates (who now have 4 councillors) and in two other wards we were single figures away from beating the Lib Dems and other wards not too far away from catching other mainstream parties. The decision to stand as Mayor was vindicated by the ward results as that gave us a platform to increase our percentage vote.
Nationally the media scrum was around UKIP, but in Tower Hamlets we were completely cut out of the local media as big business were backing Labour. None of the mainstream parties did well as their votes were all down from previous elections in the borough. The count still hasn’t finished at the time of writing but Tower Hamlets First and Labour hold 18 seats each with the Tories holding 4 (down from their previous number). The collapse of the Lib Dems, who ran the council for 8 years until 1994 was more spectacular as they fell behind UKIP and the Greens.
Lutfur Rahman’s re-election opens up a new stormy chapter in the borough, not least how will he deal with a gaping £80 million plus hole in the budget and a continuing and deepening social crisis on the streets. The general election next year opens up further problems for Labour, neither of their MPs are safe from the challenge of Tower Hamlets First and have they burnt all bridges to strike a deal with them?
Our stand was a modest but successful start to place working class action, solidarity and socialism as a real option in the future for workers in this borough.
Tower Hamlets TUSC votes
Mayor 871 (1.03%)
Bethnal Green 327 (4.9%)
Bow East 221 (4.3%)
Bromley North 78 (2.3%)
Canary Wharf 58 (1.9%)
Island Gardens 100 (2.6%)
Lansbury 190 (3.6%)
Mile End 165 (2.8%)
Poplar 40 (1.9%)
Shadwell 141 (3.1%)
Spitalfields 98 (2.4%)
St Peters 222 (3.6%)
Weavers 113 (2.8%)
Whitechapel 139 (2.9%)
Total 1,892 (3.2%)
The percentage is of number of voters (not of the vote cast, which is misleading because in most wards we only stood 1 candidate).