Residents in Preston’s Town Centre ward showed their support for socialist councillor Michael Lavalette as he campaigned for re-election last Sunday.
People stopped to shake Michael’s hand, waved at him from their cars and greeted him on the doorstep as a friend.
In the last few months alone Michael has been central to setting up campaigns against cuts and injustice across Preston.
“Michael is not only good at what he is supposed to do, like sorting out local issues,” Mukhtar Master, Michael’s election agent, told Socialist Worker.
“He is also in touch with the bigger political issues—like the cuts, the NHS and schools.”
Michael was canvassing on Brixton Road, heading up a team of some 20 activists.
Many people on the working class Avenham Estate also gave Michael the thumbs up.
He helped residents there set up a campaign against the appalling mould and damp conditions in their homes—something social landlord Contour has refused to address (see Socialist Worker’s previous article http://bit.ly/gm84NN).
Within days of Michael approaching the press, Contour rang and asked for a meeting.
And a housing adviser for Preston council came round to inspect the flats on Monday.
The adviser agreed to call in Independent Housing Standards officers who will now assess the houses on the list.
Their findings are enforceable.
“This is a fantastic first victory in the campaign,” Michael told Socialist Worker.
“The adviser said that the residents have a real case, that the damp and mould cannot just be blamed on residents drying clothes indoors.
“I am going to put a leaflet through every door on the estate inviting people to report if they have damp so that their homes will be inspected too.”
Michael thinks that it is vital for councillors to act like community shop stewards.
“We have to campaign on local, national and international issues—we can’t just do one and not the others,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Even though I am only one socialist councillor, I know from my experience over the last eight years that what I do makes a difference.”
This became clearer as we canvassed. One resident stopped Michael to shake his hand.
“I am astonished,” Michael said. “He has shouted at me for standing in the last two elections. He is a die-hard Labour supporter.
“But this time he thanked me for my work in trying to stop the closure of the local African-Caribbean community centre.”
Michael is the only councillor in Preston to oppose and actively campaign against all the cuts. Other campaigners also reported positive responses.
Nick, a local student supporting Michael, said that he was about to be chased off a doorstep by a woman who said she wanted “nothing to do with the elections”.
She then saw Michael’s photo on the leaflet. “She told me, ‘I know him, he’s the only one worth voting for,’” said Nick.
“I’ve voted Michael every time,” another local resident told Socialist Worker.
“He will come round to my house if I call him and have a problem. No problem is too small for him. None of the other parties do that.”
A number of trade unionists and branches are backing Michael’s campaign.
These include Lancashire Fire Brigades Union which has donated £150, and the branch officials in South Ribble and Lancashire NUT union branch.
Activists plan to canvass and leaflet the Town Centre ward over the bank holiday weekends. There is canvassing every day at 2pm and 6pm. To get involved phone 07739 729 214.