Scargill hails poll debut as a success

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The Independent Online
JAMES CUSICK

Arthur Scargill's new political party, the Social Labour Party, held its deposit in the Hemsworth by-election last night as Labour repeated their success of the last general election to hold the seat with a large majority.

Mr Scargill immediately evoked the memory of the fledgeling Labour Party under Keir Hardie by claiming that the 1,193 votes cast for the SLP candidate, Brenda Nixon, had "achieved a great result for a party that had yet to even formally launch itself". The launch of the SLP is on 1 May. Labour's John Trickett becomes the new MP for the Yorkshire constituency of Hemsworth, taking 15,817 votes, which represents 71.92 per cent of the votes cast. This is only narrowly above the percentage vote achieved by Labour in the 1992 general election. The turn-out was only 39.46 per cent, almost half the turn-out of 75.9 at the general election.

Labour's campaign team had predicted the constituency, a former mining stronghold and traditionally one of the largest Labour majorities in the country, would overwhelmingly reject the hard-line socialist party formed three weeks ago by the president of the National Union of Mineworkers.

The SLP campaigned on renationalisation and a programme not unsimilar to old Labour manifestos. Despite the low turn-out, and the late intervention of the SLP, the Conservatives repeated the second place they achieved in 1992, taking 1,942 votes, which also held their deposit. The Liberal Democrats, who emphasised that they were the natural party of opposition to Labour and the Tories, only managed 1,516 votes.

The result will encourage Mr Scargill. Although it was claimed that if he could not achieve success here he will not achieve it anywhere, the saving of the SLP deposit will be come as a great relief. Pundits had predicted his dream of an alternative to Tony Blair would be "stillborn". Deputy Labour leader John Prescott said the result was excellent for the party, adding: "So much for the so-called Tory revival". Despite 10 candidates, including Mr Scargill's party, Labour still got a bigger share of the vote than in the 1991 by-election or the 1992 general election. "Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats did abysmally."

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