As results were announced some relieved faces underlined the fear Labour councillors had of losing control in Southampton after four years of carrying out Tory cuts and their vote falling by over 6%. The results give a glimpse of different trends that the establishment and Blairites in the Labour Party would like to gloss over in their haste to bury Corbyn.
Notably it was the fall in Tory votes by 6% that saved Labour, underlining the unpopularity of endless austerity, even then they still managed to lose a ward to the Tories in Sholing.
Debate rages over whether the Corbyn factor was positive or negative. Indications are that it was positive in some areas with Labour winning in Portswood for the first time in 35 years despite no campaigning and not putting out a leaflet.
Questions will also be asked of the campaign waged by UNITE and UNISON local council branches. Having carried a one-page ad in the local paper asking questions of candidates as to how council jobs and services could be protected in fear of a Tory victory, activists were sent out to Coxford, where local anti-cuts candidates Keith Morrell and Don Thomas have been re-elected with big majorities in the last two years.
If fear of losing to the Tories was the priority why weren’t activists sent to more marginal wards like Sholing which was lost, or seats like Bitterne Park where the Tories narrowly won?
It seems to be the case that right wing Labour fear a challenge from the left and went out to prevent a further anti-cuts councillor getting elected. They are right to be fearful. Underlining the support Keith and Don have built in Coxford in opposing cuts and defending council services, anti-cuts candidate, Tammy Thomas was elected with 45% of the vote and Labour nearly 500 votes behind.
The demand will now be raised of what can be done to fight the next round of cuts Labour plan to implement? It on this anger that a fightback against further cuts that should be mobilised amongst Corbyn supporters and the council unions. Southampton TUSC candidates continued to raise that call in the elections and will do so in the months ahead. Thanks to all of you who gave your support. Come and join us!