Respect is throwing itself into the campaign to get Preston Respect councillor Michael Lavalette re-elected in local elections on 3 May.
Michael was elected as a councillor in Preston Town Centre ward in May 2003.
He has spent the last four years fighting for his constituents, taking up local and national issues, and raising the profile of Respect.
Michael told Socialist Worker, “When I was first elected I organised formal surgeries, similar to the ones MPs hold, at a community centre.
“A few people came but there was very little casework.
“So we decided to move the surgeries. Every Friday we have stalls and surgeries outside the mosque and the gates of two primary schools in my ward.
“I also visit two churches once a month on a Sunday after services. I still hold the formal surgery but it’s less busy.
“If issues keep coming up we try to organise a public meeting to involve people.
“One issue that arose recently was parking problems around the college. During the day students come and park in the streets around the college, and when residents return in the evening they can’t park near their homes.
“Some of these people are elderly. So three weeks ago we organised a meeting and elected delegates to meet the college principal.
“The problem seems to have been sorted out now.
“In the ward where the university is situated, the councillors haven’t dealt with this kind of problem, and it has turned into arguments between residents and students.
“Another issue that has come up is new speedbumps in a residential area. The houses are so close to the speedbumps that their windows are rattling when cars go by. I helped organise a meeting with the engineers about this.
“It has recently been announced that the lottery will no longer fund two workers at the Foxton youth and community centre. They have done fantastic work bringing disadvantaged people into activities—it was a brilliant project.
“The workers, along with young people and parents, got a petition together against the cutting of their funding and went door to door with it.
“They handed it to me outside a council meeting. I took it to the Labour council cabinet minister responsible for this area of work.
“The young people made a banner supporting their centre. They also came on the NHS demonstration.
“Tony Cliff, the founder of the Socialist Workers Party, spoke of how socialists should be community shop stewards. That is what I’ve tried to be since being elected.
“I have to deal with issues such as rats in people’s back gardens and their bins not being collected.
“But I have also got a huge platform to take up international and national issues, such as the war and the NHS.”
“Respect was central to getting an NHS protest called on 3 March and about 500 people joined the demonstration. I chaired the rally at the end.
“Me and Steven Brooks, the other Respect councillor in Preston, proposed a motion at a council meeting calling on all councillors to attend.
“No Labour council cabinet ministers attended the protest.
“The week before the demonstration we built a Preston People’s Consultation over the primary care trust’s (PCT) proposed plans to set up a privatised clinical assessment and treatment centre.
“We invited speakers from the PCT, the unions and the different parties. Some 150 people came. This is the kind of activity I have promoted since I became a councillor.
“I am in the Lancashire Evening Post, which sells 40,000 copies every night, about two or three times a week. This is because Respect is seen to be the party doing things.
“The amount of coverage and the impact that Respect has in the local area is incredible given the small team that we have.
“What we have been able to do over the last four years has been astonishing. It shows what a difference it can make to win elected positions.”
Former council leader among those backing Michael
‘I voted for Michael Lavalette as my councillor four years ago because he was standing as an anti-war candidate even though I was still in the Labour Party.
I voted for him because I was so appalled by what the Labour government was doing over Iraq.
He has proved to be an excellent councillor who is always prepared to take up local issues. He doesn’t neglect the people he represents. He is an incredibly hard-working councillor who is accessible to his constituents.
He also speaks up on the major issues such as against the privatisation of the NHS and voices his views on the war on Iraq and against the potential attack on Iran.
That’s what local councillors should do. Michael is a real socialist.
I will vote for Michael again in May and am supporting him.
I will do everything possible to help get him re-elected.’
Valerie Wise, former leader of Preston City Council
‘Michael has been very supportive in our campaign to get funding for two youth and community workers at the Foxton centre.
The kids have been missing a big thing in their lives since the funding was cut in January.
He has been more helpful than any other councillor. As soon as we rang him he came straight down to talk to us.
Michael is just like one of us. He’s had meetings with the mothers and the kids. He is very good for this area. I’ll be backing him in the election.’
Ann Revie, mother at the Foxton community centre
‘The first time I saw Michael was on a Stop the War demonstration in Preston against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. I voted for him in 2003.
Michael has always offered support to Muslims. He has always been available and him being a councillor has been of benefit to the area.
He’s taken on board any issues that have been forthcoming and tried to get the best out of them. Michael has always been a person we could turn to if there were problems.
He has proven that he’s not just about the war by taking up issues such as childcare and education. He’s been a very good councillor.’
Ishmail Timol, local resident and anti-war campaigner
Join the days of action
Respect members from Preston and across the north west of England have been campaigning for Michael Lavalette and three other Respect candidates who are standing in wards in Preston in the May council elections.
Respect is calling for supporters and members to come to Preston to help out with the campaign.
Michael said, “Over 25 people leafleted every house in Preston Town Centre and St Matthew’s wards two weekends ago, despite driving rain.
“We have another mass leafleting day for Respect supporters in the north west of England organised for Sunday 1 April in Preston.
“Other campaigning highlights include film director Ken Loach coming to Preston on Wednesday 18 April and Respect MP George Galloway coming on Tuesday 24 April.
“We are asking people from across the country to come to Preston to campaign on Saturday 21 April.
“We are going to canvass and have a cavalcade through the ward to make a big impact.
“We can arrange accommodation for those who want to stay in Preston overnight so they can also help campaign in the area the following day.
“Everyone who comes can make a big difference in the campaign.”
For more information or to get involved go to www.prestonrespect.org or phone 07739 721 214.