By standing a candidate for Mayor, the SWP betray London’s working classes

Time and again I have heard people on the non LP ‘left’ say that giving support to Ken Livingstone in his campaign for Mayor is only creating an illusion in what he stands for. I find such attitudes nonsensical as it is not a question of having illusions in Livingstone, it is about recognizing the reality on the ground and the damage a victory for Boris Johnson would do to the working classes and the political left as a whole.

I try to avoid writing about the SWP, for I regard them as a hinderance in the struggle for socialism and at times I wonder who is pulling the SWP central committees chain. Not least because in the last ten years they have been one of the main components in building two broad left coalitions, the Socialist Alliance and Respect. Yet when the SWP leadership concluded they might loose control of these coalitions, they deliberately crashed them in the most undemocratic way, leaving the political debris for others to pick up, whilst they went on their way without a glance in their rear view mirror.

As is their right the SWP central committee have decided to stand one of their number, Lindsey German as a candidate for Mayor of London in the May 1st Mayoral election. It is beyond me what they hope to achieve by this, beyond acting as a left spoiler and depriving Livingstone of a few thousand votes. Ms German’s claim that this will not occur as she has asked those who vote for her to give their second preference to Livingstone is remarkable for its duplicity. Think about this, for four weeks she goes around London telling workers Ken is a sell out, but come polling day no matter vote for him anyway with your second preference vote; now that is spreading illusions.

It is not only against Labour leftists like Livingstone that the SWP (left list) is standing candidates, in the Greenwich and Lewisham Constituency it is standing a candidate for the London Assembly against long standing socialist campaigner, health worker and local Socialist Party councillor Chris Flood. In the City and East (S@E) constituency the SWP is standing against George Galloway, who has a good chance of being elected despite the SWP acting as a spoiler. The hypocrisy of this act is appalling as until the SWP split from Respect they were the strongest advocate on the left for Galloway’s brand of politics.

Despite the behavior of the SWP over the last ten years which I describe above, there are still leftist who are willing to give the SWP the benefit of the doubt and vote for Lindsay German and other SWP candidates. I cannot understand their thought process, they claim it is because she is a revolutionary and Livingstone is not and thus it is their revolutionary duty to support German. If they believe this they have clearly not read Lindsay’s election manifesto, which is reformist to the core and in truth its contents are not dissimilar to Ken Livingstone’s.

In any case ones loyalty is to the working class and not this or that particular leftist candidate. Surly it must be clear to even the most dogmatic leftists that a victory for Johnson will not only embolden the Tories, but will give the Brownites the excuse they need to move further to the right, pray tell how will this benefit working class people or the left in general.*

1/ German, Galloway and SWP CC committee member when they were comrades.
2/ Ken Livingstone



Filed under elections, London-Assembly, mayor, Organized Rage, SWP, UK

10 responses to “By standing a candidate for Mayor, the SWP betray London’s working classes

  1. Southpawpunch

    Your comments are simply nonsensical. Your criticisms about the SWP have some merit, especially standing against the SP (I’m not a member of either party) but then you pass by these socialists to support…Labour! in the mayoral race

    You appear to be completely ignoring the fact that the mayoral vote is by proportional representation so it’s just wrong to suggest voting for German could lead to “the damage (of) a victory for Boris Johnson”.

    So that’s why this revolutionary socialist is voting for Lindsey German.

  2. Mick Hall

    “So that’s why this revolutionary socialist is voting for Lindsey German.”

    Fine, but what is your reasoning for doing this, as Ms German’s platform is not revolutionary but reformist and as I said in the blog is very little different from Livingstone’s. Because someone claims to be as revolutionary does not necessary make them one, now does it?

    You say it will not matter as she is telling people to give there second preference to Ken. Come on have some respect for the working class electorate, German is going around London until May 1 telling workers that Livingstone is a sell out, crossed picket lines etc and is in the pocket of big business. Does she mean this and if not why say it.

    You say that all those who voted for her will also vote for Ken, well that is alright then, but hang on, what evidence do you have to support this statement or is it wishful thinking and a clear example of German covering her arse were Ken to lose.

    If Ken is unfit for office then we should say so, I have no problem with German saying that if she believes it. but she should not in the next breath turn round and tell workers to vote for him.

    Ken is a left reformist and says so, German is a left reformist but claims, despite her manifesto saying otherwise, to be a revolutionary. Better to vote for someone how tells the truth rather than a candidate who poses as one thing but does the reverse.

    Comradely regards

  3. London Strategic Voter

    IMHO the argument against voting for Lindsey German is the SWP’s role in the split in Respect, not the crime of fielding a “left of Ken” candidate – given the two votes for Mayor we get, voting left of Ken first choice is a relatively risk-free business.

    Readers of this site may be interested in the London Strategic Voter website, which has a lot of data about the strength of the “left of New Labour” vote in 2004 in every ward in London.

    It’s at

  4. Paul

    Mick, you say “it is not a question of having illusions in Livingstone, it is about recognizing the reality on the ground and the damage a victory for Boris Johnson would do to the working classes and the political left as a whole”. You also say “for four weeks she goes around London telling workers Ken is a sell out, but come polling day no matter vote for him anyway with your second preference vote”.

    I think you need to make your mind up whether Livingstone is still a ‘Labour leftist’. If so, I think everyone including Ken would think you have illusions. Alternatively you think he’s just the left face of New Labour but despite that because of the party’s underlying relationship to the working class or the greater threat of Johnson we should promote a vote for him, in which case I’m not sure what the tactical difference is.

    I don’t think that you can really argue that German’s manifesto is no better (“not dissimilar”) to Livingstone’s and that that in itself is sufficient reason not to vote for her. Firstly we know what a Livingstone mayoralty is like, so some of his rather bland ‘policies’ can be put into context. Secondly a revolutionary standing on a revolutionary or full-blown Transitional Programme in the current conditions is just going to look like a full-blown idiot, aren’t they. German’s programme of reforms is a bit wet, but clearly qualitatively better than his.

    You say “I try to avoid writing about the SWP, for I regard them as a hinderance in the struggle for socialism”. I think that is really the key. The SWP are sectarian and opportunistic, and despite their relative success on the far left in holding an organisation together and building successful fronts have no real mass purchase. So why not concentrate on that?

    The issues about the SP and Galloway are really secondary. Even if every one of German’s 2nd preferences were delivered to Livingstone, you’d still be against her candidacy, wouldn’t you?

    I think that your own argument is marred by opportunism, partly posed in terms of ‘the lesser evil’. What is the reason to vote Livingstone? It’s not clear what you think but if it is really posed in terms of not doing so giving “the Brownites the excuse they need to move further to the right” we’re not building anything ourselves but going to hell on Livingstone’s and Brown’s coat-tails.

  5. Mick Hall


    You raise a few points so I will do my best to answer them. Your right, no matter if Lindsay could guarantee all of her second preferences going to Ken I would still oppose her, as I believe her Party has become part of the problem in building a new Left party here.[sadly she cannot guarantee that]

    However this is not why I wrote this piece, I did so because there is a fair chance the Tories will win and defeat Livingstone and at this time I believe it is the responsibility of all leftists to stop this occurring and standing candidates against Ken who have not a hope in hell of winning cannot but be detrimental to Livingstone’s campaign. I would love to hear from a SWP member to tell me what they hope to gain by standing Lindsay.

    By standing for mayor and arguing against Ken in the way she is she is simply spreading confusion. Ken is a left reformists and as far as mayor of London is concerned, these days that is as good as we get. Of course he has made mistakes and done many things whilst mayor that I disagree with, I also have issues with him about returning to Labour and refusing to use his position to help build a new left party. However we are where we are.

    But on the main issues of the day Ken has acted as a progressive should. He is shaky on the economy of London but you would admit, I hope that for a left-wing mayor this is a very tricky thing to deal with due to the proximity of the City.

    I am also very conscious of the fact that if Johnson wins it will be London’s working class who will be made to pick up the tab.

    For me the issues about the SWP standing candidates against the SP and Galloway are far from secondary, they are at the center of my argument, as for me they highlight that the CC SWP is acting as a spoiler in these elections, pure and simple.

  6. Cliff's Notes

    You do not mention the SWP’s role in the “Scottish play”, perhaps because you share their pro-Sheridan stance, but basically their behaviour has been just as destructive north of the border as south of it.

    To paraphrase something Tony Cliff once said, the SWP are basically the WRP in slow motion.

  7. Mick Hall

    cliff’s notes,

    Whilst the last thing I want is for Tommy to go to jail, I understand and agree with the point you make about the SWP’s role north of the border.

  8. bob

    Here are my views on the London elections, the appalling SWP, and the Socialist Alternative.

  9. Anonymous

    Power is London is mediated through the financial markets, global investors and an un-elected coalition of quangos. It makes no difference who wins dumb-ass. Socialist parties are joke when in office. They are forced to repeat the same policies as their alleged competitors.

    The only solution is a an independent, syndicalist labour movement. Outside of the marxist, sectarian dynamic, anything is possible. With it you’ll be marching in sterile circles and listening to Jeremy Corbyn and Trade Union speakers for another decade. Wake up.. the lennist left is dead.

  10. Mick Hall


    There may be some truth in what you write, but calling comrades dumb arses reminds me of the Stalinists you claim to oppose.

    You sweet talker you.


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