Supporters of the Socialist Alliance have been out campaigning on the streets of Ipswich in the run-up to the parliamentary by-election which was to take place on Thursday of this week. It is the first by-election of Labour's second term. Local campaigner and former builder Peter Leech is standing for the Socialist Alliance. Peter's campaign has centred round opposing the war in Afghanistan.
'We have had an excellent response for our message, 'Welfare not warfare',' Peter reports. 'We had a public meeting with socialist journalist Paul Foot and 60 people last week. Four Suffolk firefighters who are fighting privatisation came along to give their support. They are furious that the Labour candidate-Chris Moles, who is also a Labour councillor-has been central to pushing through the privatisation. All four spoke against the war at the meeting and they gave us £250 towards the Socialist Alliance campaign. We also took a bus of people down to the demonstration against the war in London last Sunday.'
Socialist Alliance supporters have also been campaigning in Burnley, where the Socialist Alliance was standing two candidates in council by-elections which also take place on Thursday.
These election campaigns have found a continuing disillusionment with New Labour's right wing policies and a wide audience for a socialist alternative. It is against this background that the Socialist Alliance in England is holding an important national conference next Saturday, 1 December. The conference will determine how the Socialist Alliance responds to the growing disillusionment with Blair's New Labour.
The outcome of this debate is especially important in the run-up to council elections, which will take place across England on 2 May next year. Various proposals will be discussed at the conference. Some are arguing to turn the Socialist Alliance into a fully fledged political party. Others want to make the Alliance a federal structure dominated by the political groupings which are members.
The Socialist Workers Party, along with the International Socialist Group and various individuals such as Mike Marqusee, John Nicholson and Nick Wrack, is putting forward proposals to make the Socialist Alliance more democratic. These proposals include one member, one vote for deciding policy, selecting candidates and electing officers.
The Socialist Alliance needs to be outward looking and attractive to those who are disillusioned with Blair's undemocratic New Labour, as well as becoming a more effective national organisation. Every Socialist Alliance member can come along to the conference as long as they book in advance.
Socialist Alliance Structures Conference, Saturday 1 December, Institute of Education, Bedford Way, London, WC1.