The Welsh Socialist Alliance (WSA) is campaigning hard in the Ogmore by-election in South Wales. The contest follows the death of Labour MP Sir Ray Powell. Voting takes place on 14 February. WSA candidate Jeff Hurford is well known locally for his involvement in campaigns such as those against the poll tax, racism and the bombing of Afghanistan.
Jeff told Socialist Worker, 'We suffered the bitter years of Thatcher and then when Labour was elected the same policies continued. New Labour's refusal to allow Mark Seddon to stand for the constituency has also angered many local Labour members. This Labour government has not been 'blown off course' by pressure from bankers and businessmen. Instead it has run to embrace greed, privatisation and the interests of the rich. We are giving people a chance to vote for an alternative and to shake up Tony Blair.'
New Labour's majority in Ogmore fell by 10,000 between the 1997 and 2001 general elections, a powerful judgement on the government's performance. This is a traditional mining area, which was centrally involved in the Great Miners' Strike of 1984-5.
The closure of the pits and other industry has left poverty and a lack of decent jobs. Today areas of the constituency are among the most deprived parts of Wales. Many people survive on minimum wage jobs or New Deal schemes. WSA campaigners and local people came to a public meeting in Bettws, near where Jeff lives, last Sunday. As well as Jeff, Liz Davies spoke.
She is a former member of Labour's national executive committee who left the party to join the Socialist Alliance. 'We are fighting here as part of a long term process of building the Welsh Socialist Alliance,' said Liz. 'We offer a voice to the people who want to see defence of public services, an assault against poverty, and sustainable environmental policies. The two main parties agree on the essentials over issues like the NHS. In the latest row about the Whittington Hospital Blair and Duncan Smith did not differ over funding. They focused on details of treatment, not resources. We say resources are the key.'
Violet John from Maesteg was in the audience. 'The local Labour council is using a PFI scheme for the new school and is allowing opencast mining firms to rip up the area,' she said, 'They are no longer even pretending to stand up for working people.'
Charlie Balch, a postal worker, is standing for the WSA in a Cardiff council by-election on 7 February in Gabalfa.