As the dust settles on the local council and mayoral elections of last week, I have started to gain some perspective. At the mayoral count in Liverpool, in the small hours of the morning, when the result was announced I was obviously not surprised to see Anderson triumphantly raised aloft by his sycophantic supporters. If you have seen or met Joe, you will realise that I am referring to a metaphorical raising aloft, a literal one would have witnessed a lorry full of back injuries en route to the Royal. However, quietly and with an encouraging smile for all, I was disappointed with Tony Mulhearn’s vote. I knew that we would be pasted but, somewhere in the dark recesses of a frazzled mind, I had hoped for an enormous breakthrough. However, night is always darkest just before dawn and I slept on it.
In the days following, I have become increasingly elated by that result and thrilled by its significance. The ruling Labour cabal have been campaigning for this for two years, they have had a monopoly of the local media and they have been funded by a giant political machine. In contrast, the Socialist Party/TUSC candidature started in the basement of a small public house in Hope Street, in front of a few gathered faithful and barely a month from the vote itself. To have got within touching distance of 5,000 votes, to have beaten the Liberals and Conservatives and to have outpolled the three fascist groups combined was a triumph. It was a triumph for the hard work of committed comrades, for the support of the people of Liverpool and, most of all, the reputation, integrity and sheer bloody minded determination of Tony Mulhearn. Labour carried their votes in on horseback and they didn’t have to break sweat to get them. People lied to, misrepresented and genetically programmed to vote Labour in Liverpool gave them 59% of the vote. We had to go out on the streets and earn every single vote that we got. We had to explain, educate, convince and beseech. We held rallys, attended community events and tried, in vain, to break the local media’s unspoken blockade. It was this magnificent effort, our honesty and the reputation of a candidate who has the medals when it comes to fighting for Liverpool, which caused so many people, on a low turn-out, to make the effort and tick the right box.
I was at the count and I spent many curious hours looking at the sheets being counted. The quantity of second preference votes for Tony was eye opening. In addition to the impressive number of first votes cast, many more were prepared to register their tacit approval with a second preference. From that we can take tangible hope. There are many thousands of people in this City who have not been cowed by the lies and propaganda that has encircled Militant since the 80s. There are older people who remember the truth and a new generation yearning for a socialist alternative. We met them on the streets and in the shopping centres. They came to our meetings, they looked at us and they decided that we are credible. We have gained new members, stirred up interest and re-configured a reputation that hinted at defenders of an antiquated sect who once had their day. Now we are firmly placed in contemporary local politics.
My favourite memories from the campaign are many but some make a point. Apart from the number of people, clearly on low incomes, who wanted to stump up a few coppers or a fiver to help, I remember a man in Park Street outside Tesco on a quiet Saturday morning. He was filthy and dishevelled. He had an open can of strong lager in his hand and another sticking out of his back pocket. He staggered up to the stall and eyed the posters for a while. After a few moments he pulled all the money he had out of his pocket, less than a pound caked in stale bits of tobacco, picked up 20 pence and carefully placed it in the tin. I had already told him it wasn’t necessary, he needed it himself and we were grateful for his support. He shook his head and muttered ‘only Tony cares, he always cared’ and shuffled away. I would not swap that 20 pence for all of Unisons millions or Murdoch’s patronage. I even got something in my eye. The most negative recollection is of the Kirkdale man pushing a buggy and taking his children to school who wiped his backside with one of our leaflets. I put him down as a maybe.
On the night itself, we seemed to be surrounded by the far right. Strutting, inarticulate, spotty and with unaligned features they turned up half cut and behaved like pigs. Bizarrely, a particularly eccentric individual broke away from the pack and approached Tony Mulhearn. He informed him that, though diametrically opposed to his politics, he had enormous respect for him as a man of principle. Tony, dapper and well groomed as ever, peered at him, smiled slightly and gave him the sort of look you would normally reserve for a cheerful toddler proudly showing you the contents of his potty! In a testing environment, it was a major highlight.
It was a hell of an experience and it made me proud to be associated with many wonderful comrades. Good people, who have sacrificed decades in the support of others. Importantly, it was a step and, though it did not seem like a leap, we will look back on it as a defining moment. It was not a Charge of the Light Brigade but, like that folly to imperialist arrogance, I was reminded of the aftermath. People beaten, exhausted and standing amongst the carnage did not slink away. Their attitude was ‘do we go again now, we are ready’.