Socialist Worker

The socialist challenge at the general election

Issue No. 1730

William Hague's Tory rabble playing the race card or Tony Blair's New Labour government privatising everything in sight. That is the choice presented to us in this year's general election. But there will be an alternative. Across Britain over 120 socialist candidates are preparing to stand in the election.

In England and Wales Socialist Alliance candidates are to stand in up to 50 seats and in Scotland the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is set to contest all 72 seats. The socialist candidates are not millionaire tycoons or careerists prepared to sell out their principles. They are working class people standing up for the socialist principles New Labour has betrayed.

All Socialist Alliance candidates will be fighting:

  • To stop privatisation
  • For renationalisation of the rail
  • For a much improved minimum wage
  • For decent pensions and to restore the link with earnings
  • Against racism and police corruption
  • To tax the rich and fund services
  • For full rights for workers and trade unions

Manchester – John Clegg

John Clegg is standing in Manchester's Withington constituency. He is a GMB union rep in Manchester City Council.

'I joined the Labour Party in 1979 and for eight years was a councillor on Manchester City Council. Like many other Labour members, I campaigned against the Tories' poll tax and supported the non-payment campaign. But I was suspended and forced out of the Labour Party in the early 1990s. Today millions of people feel let down and betrayed. I'm involved in the campaign against the Labour council's proposals to close down four housing offices, and against the selling off of council estates. The Socialist Alliance has to be at the forefront of these kinds of campaigns.'

South London – John Mulrenan

John Mulrenan is to stand in Peckham and Camberwell, south London, against New Labour's Harriet Harman. He is a council worker and the assistant branch secretary of Southwark UNISON.

'When my family was rehoused during the Elephant and Castle clearance of the late 1960s, we regarded ourselves as Labour 'through and through'. Even the Labour Party I joined in 1979 held out some hope for working people. When I acted as an election agent for Harriet Harman in 1982, she was standing for nuclear disarmament, full employment and more council homes. Fifteen years later her first act as a cabinet member was to cut benefits to lone parents. New Labour's record since being swept to power is shameful. My 20 years as a union activist in Southwark have been spent fighting the worst excesses of Thatcherism. Blair is offering more of the same. The Socialist Alliance will be the only party offering a genuine alternative based upon redistribution of wealth, renationalisation of public utilities, massive public investment, and anti-racist policies. I shall be proud to stand on that platform.'

Dagenham – Berlyne Hamilton

Berlyne Hamilton is a car worker at the Ford Dagenham plant in east London.

'I arrived in Britain in 1960 when I was 20 years old and joined the Labour Party soon after. I was the first black member of the works committee at Ford. In recent years I started to feel I belonged to a party that spoke a different language to me. Now Ford is to close most of the plant, and thousands of people in the area will be affected. But the MPs aren't anywhere to be seen. I asked a local Labour MP, Steven Timms, a direct question about Ford and he replied, 'Ford are promoting 500 jobs.' We need to fight to make sure decent jobs are available for everyone and a decent National Health Service is funded to provide care for all the people that need it. I feel I have to stand up and be counted. I want the Socialist Alliance to create a base for future generations, so that young people will be more aggressive in taking things forward.'

Edinburgh – Derek Durkin

Derek Durkin is the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) candidate for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh. He is a postal worker and was previously a member of the Scottish National Party.

'People in Scotland are furious that New Labour is trying to privatise the water supply. The CWU branch I belong to presented a motion, passed at our union conference, to stop giving money to the Labour Party if they privatise any part of the postal service. The SSP has successfully campaigned against New Labour to have warrant sales abolished. This will put a stop to poor people and their families losing their possessions because they are in debt. We have also supported the recent strikes by Scottish council workers and postal workers. There is huge disillusion with New Labour. We get people joining us every single day through our street activities and public meetings.'

East London – Cecilia Prosper

Cecilia Prosper, a council worker, is standing for the Socialist Alliance in Hackney South, east London. She won 7 percent of the vote in the elections for the Greater London Assembly last year.

'I had a fantastic experience as a Socialist Alliance candidate last year. We met so many people who were genuinely excited that they had an alternative to Labour. Our supporters campaigned enthusiastically and put the left on the map, by addressing tenants, community groups and trade union meetings. Where we had the opportunity to speak at meetings with candidates from the other political parties we won overwhelming support-even when Labour candidates denied being New Labour. We went into workplaces to meet people. At Homerton Hospital we met the staff, porters, nurses and cleaners. Our opposition to privatisation got huge support. That was important when it came to fighting the savage cuts the Tory/New Labour coalition which runs Hackney council is now pushing through. Many of the people who got involved with the LSA were at the forefront of building support for the strikes and protests.'

Luton – Joe Hearne

Joe Hearne is a firefighter and the Socialist Alliance candidate for Luton South.

'I first became involved in politics in 1977 when I joined the fire service during strikes over pay and long hours. I joined the Labour Party as Tony Benn was trying to democratise it. I believed that an ordinary person like myself could get involved and could be part of changing things. But during the 1984-5 miners' strike I was ashamed of Labour's position. The Fire Brigades Union went on the demonstrations in support of the miners and did collections. But the TUC and Labour leaders did not give the miners the backing they deserved. The Socialist Alliance is at the forefront of supporting those fighting back. We support the campaign to stop the closure of the Vauxhall car plant. We have also been involved in setting up Bedford People Defending Asylum Seekers. Our existing New Labour MP voted for cuts in single parent benefits, the introduction of student fees and the privatisation of air traffic control. We want to reach everyone who feels disgusted at these attacks.'

Glasgow – Rosie Kane

Rosie Kane stood for the Scottish Socialist Party in last year's by-election in Glasgow's Anniesland constituency. She will be standing again in the general election.

'I feel that it is important to bring people and their vote back together by providing a socialist alternative to the big business parties. I come from a long line of socialists and was brought up to be proud of my background. Over the years my working class beliefs have been reinforced by what I've seen in the world. Facilities and amenities have been cropped, council housing has been all but left to blight and the elderly have been sadly neglected. Housing stock transfer is, without doubt, backdoor privatisation and must be opposed every step of the way. Public housing is just that-it belongs to the public. A vote for us is a pat on the back for socialism and a kick up the arse to capitalism. I would say to socialists, 'You are not abandoning Labour. They abandoned you a long time ago'.'

'We have no time to lose'

The socialist message needs to spread as far and wide as possible. 'There is no time to lose. The election could be just a few short months away,' says Rob Hoveman, a national officer for the National Network of Socialist Alliances.

'Unlike the main parties we do not have access to prime time television. We are not bankrolled by millionaires. That is why we need as many people as possible to get involved in active campaigning. We'll be producing campaigning material for the National Network of Socialist Alliances in the next few weeks. But there are all sorts of ways everyone can get involved now. Why not ask friends and workmates if they are interested in backing the Socialist Alliances? Ask people to become members, and to help run stalls or go leafleting. We can raise money by approaching trade unions. Local newspapers are often crying out for an interesting angle on the elections. Get them to cover local initiatives or to interview your socialist candidate. The more we can get coverage in the local papers the better. It gets our name known and can help highlight our message. Or how about leafleting and petitioning at a railway station calling for renationalisation of the railways? The more we do now, the more we can inspire people and show there is left wing opposition to Blair's pro-market policies.'

To find out details about the Socialist Alliances in your area phone Pete McLaren on 01788 569 766.

'I'm not prepared as a leader of a trade union to say to people to vote Labour when it is attacking working people. As a member of the Socialist Alliance I want to ensure that candidates to the left of Labour get the maximum support.'
MARK SERWOTKA, general secretary elect of the PCS civil servants' union

Making history

'To what credible alternative could disenchanted Labour voters conceivably turn? Now it seems there is an answer. In Falkirk West the Scottish Socialist Party saved its deposit...what is notable is that this is the fifth by-election in a row in which a candidate standing under a socialist label has passed the 5 percent threshold. It is easily the best record for the far left in post-war Britain.'
JOHN CURTICE, leading election expert

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Article information

Sat 13 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1730
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