UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Election Analysis - Trapdoors and golden gateways

Many council election results in England are yet to declare but the emerging picture is that Labour can’t afford to be complacent. So far there have been some Liberal Democrat scalps claimed in places like Hull and Sheffield, with losses to knock the Liberal Democrats off overall control in places like Stockport and Bristol.

In Manchester every Liberal standing for election was annihilated and in many places not least because of the anger of the student population who had been duped by Clegg at the general election.

However the picture is certainly not universal. The Tory vote in many places has been sustained. Clegg has become the best human shield that Cameron could have hoped for.

In the South and South West the Tories and the inroads that Labour made in the south pre 1997 are still a pipe dream for Ed Miliband. The electorate don’t yet recognise Cameron as Thatcherite and so they are sustaining the vote in the south whereas the Northern towns, most bitterly affected by the Thatcher years, appear to have started to come back to Labour rejecting the lies and broken promises of the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems have been exposed as an ineffective brake on the worse excesses of the Tory right which many had hoped was a role they could at least partially fulfil.

Whatever the message from the Liberals, that Clegg is safe, he is now vulnerable and answerable to both his party and the 300 or so councillors who have lost their seats. Conversely the results will have buoyed the Tory ministers and potentially given them fresh impetus to move rapidly on public sector privatisation (let’s stop calling it reform). The Tories will want to get this under the belt before the fracture lines in the coalition turn into huge chasms.

The Liberal Democratic councillors are due to meet in June in Bristol – not now a celebration of their host authority that is no longer liberal, but an opportunity to lick their wounds and call for Clegg to go. As far as Leaders go they are an impatient party.

For the newly elected Labour councils now is the time for them to be true to Labour values. They need to halt privatisation and ‘soft outsourcing’ and arms length arrangements. They need to stop toying with fanciful ideals of mutuals and coops that are not vehicles for truly public services.

They need to demonstrate to neighbouring constituencies that Labour has learned lessons from its years as the smallest of the main parties in local government.

They need to get back to true values of municipality and take a leadership role in local communities, in education, in crime, in social care.

In the things that matter to the people with the quietest voices, not the self serving lobbyist and unrepresentative factions of the so called third sector.

Councils do good things. Labour councils should do excellent things. Labour nationally should start to listen to true Labour local councils.

Anna Rose