by Daphne Liddle
THE LOCAL elections on Thursday produced little change in most councils despite titanic efforts on the part of Labour activists to sustain the growth shown in last year’s general election.
The main change has beenthe collapse of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) vote, mainly to the benefit of the Tories — showing that the racist and xenophobic policies of May’s government, as exposed by the cruel Windrush scandal, have attracted former UKIP voters back to the fold they originally emerged from.
In spite of this, in pure numbers Labour has gained many more seats throughout the country, if not councils. It has done better mostly in the areas where it was already strong, in the inner cities.
Labour aims of taking Tory safe seats in London — in Westminster, Wandsworth and Kensington-and-Chelsea — failed but did make some impression. In Westminster Labour took three seats from the Tories; in Wandsworth they took seven seats and in Kensington-and- Chelsea they took just one.
It should have been more in the borough that suffered the Grenfell fire disaster after that council’s abject failure to prevent the disaster in spite of many warnings from tenants and total failure to address the urgent needs of the survivors after the tragedy. But many of the bereaved and angry survivors have been moved out of the borough and so were unable to vote against the council that wrecked their lives. Labour’s high hopes of taking Barnet council from no-overall-control were dashed as the Tories won control. This is an area where local residents had hoped to put a stop to multi-billion-pound luxury housing developments — which are at the expense of demolishing existing council estates and driving low income households out of the borough.
It is also an area where allegations of anti-Semitism within Labour had made an impact on local Jewish voters. Mass media throughout the country have hardly mentioned Jeremy Corbyn in the last few months except in the context of these allegations, which have yet to have a fair hearing in the process drawn up by Shami Chakrabarti. Meanwhile the Labour leadership, in a vain effort to appease the anti-Corbyn media, have been suspending and expelling life-long anti-fascist and anti-racist activists on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Ironically a majority of those accused of anti-Semitism are themselves Jews.
It is not healthy for the Labour leadership to allow the Tory-supporting British Board of Jewish Deputies to chase Labour-supporting Jews out of the Labour Party, whilst at the same time the Board tolerates far higher levels of real anti-Semitism within the Tory party. It is very demoralising to many Labour activists.
Implementation of the Chakrabarti process would provide fair hearings for all. Labour did win one significant prize in gaining control of Plymouth and it wrested control of Trafford, in Manchester, to a position of no-overall-control.
Meanwhile trials of demanding that voters bring identification documents to be allowed to vote in five areas have provoked anger and outrage amongst voters who turned up to vote without such documents.
The main issues appeared to be in Bromley and Woking where, along with Gosport, people had to show one piece of photo ID or two from a list of other documents. In the other two test areas, Swindon and Watford, only a polling card was required.
In Bromley the area most affected was Crystal Palace — the most working class and the most ethnically diverse area of the borough. Tallies by the opposition Labour group found at least 13 people turned away from just one ward, Crystal Palace. There were also reports of some voters being angry and abusive to polling station workers when asked to show ID.
In Woking there was some confusion reported as to what ID could be shown, with one man saying he was initially told a photo rail pass was not allowed, even though it was listed amongst the accepted documents. The Government intends to roll out the need for voter ID nationally as a means to prevent voter impersonation; but the levels of attempted voter impersonation are negligible. And the policy will have a serious impact on low income voters who do not have either a passport or driving licence.
It is a policy that will definitely have much more impact on low income and ethnically diverse communities. It is racist and anti-democratic. These election results have restored some confidence to the Tory leadership and shown Labour activists that there is still a lot to do. But Labour is still gaining in real terms. The hard work is paying off in the face of ruing class very dirty tricks. There is no cause for Labour to lose confidence.