In our first time standing widely across the borough, Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) gained 5,482 votes. This is a great success for our 33 candidates and all supporters and campaigners.
TUSC candidates received 3% of the overall vote, which is about 5% when adjusted for the number of seats we stood in. In High Street ward, where we stood a full slate, we got 5.2% of the vote; the same in Leytonstone with 4.9%. Our highest vote, 362 for Dan Gillman in Markhouse, means more than 11% of voters in the ward voted for Dan. That our vote held up regardless of how many candidates stood in each ward shows the real advantage of standing widely and will hopefully encourage other trade unionists and campaigners to join us next time to ensure we can contest all 60 seats.
Even before election day, the campaign was a big achievement. Working class people are told that politics is not for us – to leave it to the men in suits. So to gather 33 ordinary people who live and work in Waltham Forest to stand against all the pro-cuts parties, was a feat in itself. Our list included 5 workers from Whipps Cross hospital, 4 members of the RMT transport union (which supports TUSC nationally and also helped fund the campaign) a firefighter, teachers, young people and community activists.
We all pledged something that none of the other parties will dare to – we would vote against all cuts to jobs and services and stand side by side with the people of Waltham Forest to lead a mighty campaign against Eric Pickles and the Con-Dem government. Instead of a fight like this, Labour councillors meekly put up their hands in favour of cuts and claim there’s nothing they can do.
If election results depended purely on who had run the best campaign, TUSC would have been the hands-down winner. For months our pink ‘rent control’ banner and signs have made a splash on street corners and at stations around the borough.
Our demand for rent control to bring down rocketing rents and investment in building affordable council housing got a huge echo. We heard horrifying stories of families living in cramped, damp conditions, facing eviction for raising maintenance problems and paying astronomical sums.
We spoke to thousands of people on our rent control flashmobs, knocking on doors in our target wards and leafleting at supermarkets and schools. With relatively small numbers of campaigners and finances compared to the mainstream parties, we managed to leaflet 6 wards fully and another 3 partially. On all of these activities it was clear that the majority in Waltham Forest are sick of the mainstream parties and were pleased to learn of an anti-cuts, working class alternative.
On our final canvass, the night before the election, someone said he would definitely vote for us because we are saying what Labour leader Ed Miliband should be saying but is too scared to.
On election day we campaigned in Walthamstow Market all day and at stations across the borough at commuter times. It was clear that the campaign had made a mark – people enthusiastically wished us good luck and told us that they had or would vote for us. One woman told us she was so pleased she had met us as she wasn’t sure what she was going to do at the ballot box or if she would even bother voting. This shows with bigger numbers, which we’re sure to build up before the next elections, we could have offered an alternative to even more people.
The very good results in Waltham Forest are part of a national picture where over 65,000 votes were won by 560 candidates and one TUSC councillor, Keith Morrell in Southampton, was reelected. Given the limitations we faced – in particular a complete media blackout of the project – this is a roaring endorsement for TUSC’s clear anti-cuts stand.
We’re already looking ahead to the general elections and beyond. In Waltham Forest we will have monthly TUSC committee meetings, open to anyone who wants to help build TUSC in the area. We will continue our campaign for rent control in the borough – initially by collecting the 4,000 signatures needed to force a debate on the issue in the council chamber.
These elections were just the start.