Londoners waited until midnight last Friday to learn that Ken Livingstone had lost the mayoral election, while others woke up to the news that Boris Johnson will serve another term.
I’m pleased to say that where I live the vote in Southwark and Lambeth showed overwhelming support for Ken.
The reasons are straightforward. Ken’s promises of fair fares, more council homes and a London Education Maintenance Allowance resonates in our most deprived boroughs and so too does his reputation as an avid anti-racist and champion of a living wage.
Ken has said he won’t stand again. Yet Labour’s mayoral defeat in London was a very long way from the humiliation in the Pentland Hills Ward, Edinburgh where the Lib Dem candidate polled fewer votes than Professor Pongoo, the penguin.
The Lib Dems are toast, but this is poor comfort to the millions of UK citizens who are suffering joblessness and general financial insecurity as a result of the Lib Dems colluding with a government obsessed with deficit reduction at any cost, including a double dip recession.
The most rewarding Labour gain was Southampton City Council where Labour won 30 seats overall. The Conservatives lost 10 seats and Lib Dems one.
The significance of this victory cannot be overstated. Unite and Unison council workers have battled for over a year against draconian cuts to pay and conditions.
They were up against the ambitious Tory diehard council leader Royston Smith who was prepared to stop at nothing to defeat the unions.
This included a plan to outsource all council services to the private sector, irrespective of the lessons he should have learnt from the care home company Southern Cross.
The intelligence and patience of the council’s local union leadership was more than a match for Smith, his nemesis was the union’s lay leaders who worked out a strategy that achieved a number of important successes.
First was the unity between the unions at the grassroots. We know workers are stronger when they are united and the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
The strategy of selective strikes enabled the unions to keep up action over a sustained period. Striking council workers saturated housing estates and the shopping centre with leaflets explaining the issues. This won over popular public support demonstrated in a poll conducted by the local press.
Showing Royston Smith the red card with this swing to Labour is a victory of which the unions can be proud, after more than a year of struggle. Labour now needs to work with the unions for fairness at work and thriving communities.
The cherry on the cake is Southampton FC’s recent promotion to the Premiership so the reds win on two counts. Great job.