FIREFIGHTER Steve Cracknell is standing for the Socialist Alliance in a council by-election taking place in Haringey, north London, on Thursday 23 January. Steve is the branch secretary of Hornsey fire station which is in the borough.
People nominating Steve include the chair of a local Unison health branch, the secretary of an Aslef tube branch, and the president of Haringey Trades Council. Steve spoke to Socialist Worker about why he wants an alternative to New Labour.
'I'VE BEEN a firefighter for 24 years and I've voted Labour at every election. My union has always encouraged people to vote Labour. But after over five years of this government and the disgraceful way the government has insulted the firefighters, I feel 'never again'.
I don't know anyone in the fire brigade who'll vote Labour again. There is huge disillusionment with Labour, and it's not just because of what they have done to us. New Labour have forgotten their roots. Labour is supposed to represent the working class.
They are out of touch with working people. There's growing feeling against the right wing direction Labour is going in. I cannot find one single firefighter who can find even a small justification for waging war on Iraq.
It is especially galling when the government claims there is no money to fund public services and the fire service, but they find millions of pounds to pay for one warhead. The political fund has become a huge issue. There are moves afoot to try to suspend FBU payments to the Labour Party.
As a branch secretary I've never known so many FBU members requesting the forms to not pay money into the union's political fund-which goes straight to New Labour. It is ludicrous that we are supporting New Labour candidates who are cutting our services.
Yet under the rules the FBU can't fund my campaign as a Socialist Alliance candidate. We need a political fund. Unions should be political. We have to change the union's rules so that we can support candidates who back our union's policies.
I decided to stand because the Socialist Alliance stands against the war, the cuts, privatisation and PFI. It's against all the things New Labour is attacking its own supporters with.
We're also campaigning locally as the Labour council is privatising the school dinner service and the borough's leisure services. We need to stand up for the people who New Labour has abandoned.'
To get involved in Steve's campaign phone 07736 064 045.
THE QUESTION of the political fund is raging throughout the trade union movement. Thousands are questioning whether union members' money should go to New Labour or whether they should be allowed to fund socialists.
A sign of that mood is the success activists have already had passing motions based on a model motion drawn up by the Socialist Alliance. The GMB Barnsley B12 branch passed the motion, which argues 'to allow the union to give financial support to other political parties as well as the Labour Party so long as they have the same or similar aims as the GMB.' A similar motion from Bristol health services branch of the MSF union has been accepted for the preliminary agenda of the MSF's national conference.
Throughout January many unions will be holding meetings that will pass motions to be debated at national conferences this year. All trade unionists should try to raise the issue of the political fund.
For copies of the Socialist Alliance model motion on the political fund phone the Socialist Alliance on 020 7791 3138 or go to www.socialistalliance.net