Michael Lavalette is standing as an independent socialist in Preston in an effort to take back his council seat for the left.
He first became a councillor on an anti-war platform in 2003, and held the ward again in 2007, before narrowly losing to Labour in 2011.
Michael told Socialist Worker that although he announced he was standing quite late, the campaign is going well—and he believes he can win the election.
“We’ve already leafleted the entire ward with two leaflets,” he said. “This latest one has an endorsement from George Galloway.
“We’ve got a wide range of people supporting us here, and people know that we’re different. We care about local issues and hold surgeries. All the things that make people’s lives worse matter.”
Bill Yates, 81, is a retired sheet metal worker. He says he has voted for Michael the last few times, and he has put Michael’s leaflet up in his window.
“I’m sick of Labour,” he said. “You can’t get a sheet between them and the Tories now.
“With the Tories you know where you stand—they’re for the millionaires and the shareholders. But what are Labour doing now that’s different? They’re not for the working class any more.
“We need to get back to socialist values.”
Michael says that it’s important to have councillors who, unlike Labour, will stand against the cuts instead of giving in to the Tories.
He says, “It’s about having a voice on the council that says austerity is not inevitable, it’s a political choice for those in power.
“We can fight in all ways, on the council, campaigning and actively resisting closures.”
As part of this, Michael has kept close links with the local branch of firefighters’ FBU union.
“Michael has always offered unconditional support to our campaigns to protect the quality of the fire service for the people of Preston,” said FBU Lancashire brigade secretary Steve Harman, speaking in a personal capacity.
“We need councillors like Michael, who are prepared to fight to keep public services under public control—not councillors who allow the private sector to take over and reduce standards in order to maximize profits.”
Now Michael’s campaign is stepping up a gear. A quarter of people in the ward vote by post, meaning it is important to catch postal voters soon.
“It’s like we have two election days,” says Michael. “There’s one on 3 May, and one on 21 April when the postal votes go out.
“That Saturday we want people to come and help us speak to the postal voters and win their votes.
“This campaign has already involved large numbers of people. Now’s the time to get involved.”
Sufia Mukkan told Socialist Worker, “Michael is the best man for the job. He has a proven track record of being there for everyone in the community.
“He is always on hand to deal with any issues that are affecting people.
“He supported the protest and was there for us when the racist English Defence League came to Preston.
“He always does his best and I hope he wins.”
‘Michael kicks butt, the other councillors just sit on theirs’
Kath Bamber says, “When Michael was the councillor he used to send out regular newsletters and be around the estate.
When we had a problem with damp housing he forced the landlord to listen and come to a meeting with us.
He even used to come to my church once a month so people could talk to him about their problems.
In the last year—since Michael lost his seat—we haven’t seen a single councillor. They only come around at election time.
For me, Michael represented people, he was prepared to kick butt for us.
“The other councillors just want to sit on theirs and expect us to re‑elect them.”
‘We need politicians who will speak out and be active’
Mukhtar Master says, “The cuts are affecting us all. Health and welfare projects are closing down. The NHS is under threat. Schools are being ‘sold off’ to become private academies. Roads are not being repaired.
Preston City Centre is full of empty shops. Unemployment is stalking the city. We are in the midst of a crisis that is not of our making.
For years the main three parties allowed the bankers to run the economy in their own interests. Now it’s gone bust they want us to bail them out. But why should we pay for their crisis?
We need politicians who will speak out and be active in their defence of the local community.
In his eight years as a councillor Michael did exactly this. We need him back.”