Red Pepper, May 1999

A coalition of radical left groups and parties has been formed to fight next month’s European elections in England.

The Socialist Alliance was set up at the end of March at a meeting in Birmingham attended by members of a variety of national and local socialist groups, the largest of them the Socialist Party, formerly the Militant Tendency. The Alliance will run candidates in most English regions. Similar socialist groupings announced last year that they would be running candidates in Scotland and Wales.

The elections are taking place for the first time using a regional list system of proportional representation: to win a seat it will be necessary to win between 8 per cent and 20 per cent of the vote depending on region.

Alliance candidates are confident of their chances. Mike Davies, who heads the Alliance list in Yorkshire and Humberside, said: ‘It’s not just a matter of fighting valiantly and building a socialist campaign. I don’t see why we shouldn’t win a seat.’ Davies said that the Euro-election campaign would be given momentum by the local election campaign, especially in Hull, where 20 Left Alliance candidates are running for the council. Just over 11 per cent of the vote in the region will guarantee a seat.

The Alliance’s best chances are probably in the West Midlands and East Midlands. In the West Midlands, where just over 11 per cent of vote will guarantee a seat, there are strong independent left networks in Walsall and Coventry. In the East Midlands, where just over 14 per cent will guarantee a seat, the high-profile former Labour MEP Ken Coates heads the Alliance list.

The Alliance is short of cash, and it has little time to organise an effective campaign. But its main problem is that it has not managed to persuade either the Green Party or Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party to join it or to refrain from running competing candidates — which means that the left-of-Labour vote will be split. The Greens made it clear last year when Coates and fellow rebel MEP Hugh Kerr were expelled from Labour that they had no interest in an electoral arrangement with anyone, and Scargill has ensured that the SLP has rebuffed all advances from other socialists.

The problem is particularly apparent in London, where a coalition of left groups has been meeting for more than a year and, other things being equal, the Alliance might have expected to do well. Scargill himself heads the SLP list in the capital and the media-friendly Jean Lambert is top of the Greens’ list.

The Alliance is not standing in the two regions where the Greens have their greatest hopes of winning seats, the South East and the South West.

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