Socialist candidates explain
Why we are taking on Labour ministers
THE MINISTER: GORDON BROWN
THE CHALLENGER: ANDY JACKSON, STUDENT
"WORKING PEOPLE have faced huge attacks from Gordon Brown and his government's policies. I am a student and have to rely on a loan. It's wrong. People should be entitled to a grant. Look at the 75p rise that Brown gave to pensioners last year. That was disgraceful. He's only given more this year because of the election. Or take the minimum wage. It's at a scandalous level. Brown has brought in things like the Working Families Tax Credit and the Minimum Income Guarantee for pensioners. But firstly they don't give much and, just as important, they are means tested which is degrading and wrong. Brown as chancellor has done nothing to change the massive inequality in society. In fact the inequality has got worse under Labour. What is needed is what I'll be standing for, to tax the rich and shift wealth from the rich to working people, and fund the services we need. We also have an important local issue. They want to run down the Victoria and the Queen Margaret hospitals in Dunfermline and turn them into day care hospitals as part of a plan to build a new Private Finance Initiative hospital in Lochgelly. People from my area will have to travel to the new PFI hospital. The health service should be publicly funded. The Scottish Executive is responsible for health. But it is Gordon Brown and Westminster who hold the purse strings, and it's the lack of central funding that means we get these cuts."
THE MINISTER: ALAN MILBURN
THE CHALLENGER: ALAN DOCHERTY, COUNCIL WORKER
"WE LAUNCHED the Socialist Alliance here because of the cuts being imposed by the New Labour councils. They are cutting old people's homes, nurseries, everything, just presiding over the decay of public services. Obviously with Milburn here the NHS is a key issue. Despite all the Labour spin it's not getting better. The staff are overworked and underpaid. At Bishop Auckland Hospital, for example, they had to cancel operations because they did not have sterilised instruments. There's a private hospital being built on the outskirts of Darlington. Milburn says that's great because the NHS can give contracts to it. That just means handing public money to the private consortium's profits, money which should be going in to build proper NHS facilities. A lot of people round here think Milburn is arrogant and aloof. He's moved out of the town into a posh area. We had the Magnet dispute here, when workers were sacked and it lasted 20 months. Milburn never once visited the picket line during all that time. If you want to know what Milburn is about I'll tell you a story. I had a meeting with him as part of a trade union delegation. He said, 'There are more votes in bashing unions than in supporting them.' That typifies what he and New Labour are about."
SHIRLEY WINTER was the secretary of the Women's Support Group during the long-running Magnet workers' fight against mass sacking in Darlington. She has signed Alan Docherty's nomination forms as an election candidate. She told Socialist Worker why. "My main concern is with workers' rights and fighting for the repeal of the anti trade union laws. Alan Docherty takes the same stance as me on this. He stands for ordinary people and considers them first, not the interests of big business. We need to stand up for workers' rights because bit by bit under Blair they are being eroded. We've got to fight back and I praise Alan Docherty for standing against Alan Milburn."
THE MINISTER: DAVID BLUNKETT
THE CHALLENGER: BRIAN WILSON, HOUSING CAMPAIGNER
"I'M 53 years old. I've lived in Sheffield all my life. I've voted Labour all my life. Blunkett is my MP. I wasn't going to vote this time until the Socialist Alliance came along. I wasn't going to vote because New Labour has betrayed the workers. Look at all the pledges they have not kept-especially over health and education. New Labour just pays lip service to ordinary people. As soon as the ballot boxes close they forget it all. They don't listen to you until you take direct action-like we did to stop our estate being sold off. I'm pleased to stand. I want to say to David Blunkett, 'You've done nothing for people like me.' He is from a working class Sheffield background like me. But he has prostituted his principles. He has lost his roots and taken the party line. "When he was leader of Sheffield City Council his slogan was, 'Socialism in one city'. It was good. We had cheap public transport and decent services. I supported that. But Blunkett has left all that behind. We had good wages then, not just sweatshops. Look at the Cooks dispute (see page 15)-the workers are being told to take a massive pay cut. My message is that there is an alternative now. I say socialism in every city! What encourages me about the Socialist Alliance is age. It is wonderful to see such youth involved. New Labour offered every child a bribe of 500. It is disgusting. How much have they taken away from them? Tony Blair has torn down the red flag and torn it to shreds. I'm hoping the Socialist Alliance is going to put it back together again."
THE MINISTER: STEPHEN BYERS
THE CHALLENGER: PETE BURNETT, CALL CENTRE WORKER
"BYERS IS New Labour supremo for industrial policy in this country, but look at what's happened since the last election. Just in the north east of England we've suffered a series of big closures and job losses. There was Siemens, then Fujitsu. We've seen Spartan Redheugh steel go, textile factories go, and one shipyard after another shut. Now Cammell Laird and Vickers are under threat. Tony Blair and Stephen Byers have stood by and let all this happen. They did nothing when Eddie George of the Bank of England said unemployment in the north was a price worth paying to control inflation. What makes it worse is that there are some areas in this constituency that still haven't recovered from the butchery of the mining industry. Now almost one in five jobs around here are working in call centres like me. It's mostly low paid and non-union. What I'm doing is typical of what jobs mean under Blair and Byers-insecure, low pay. Our campaign is taking up issues like that. We are also taking up other key local issues such as the Private Finance Initiative schemes at Wallsend Middle School, the Longbenton civil service complex and the North Durham Hospital. This kind of privatisation is typical of New Labour. It's right to stand against Byers. He is a symbol of New Labour's pro-market, pro-business agenda."
We're backing alliance
"WE SUPPORT the Socialist Alliance because we agree with what they're saying. We're sick of Labour telling us lies. We've voted Labour all our lives but they're new Conservative now. There are a lot of things that have happened that have affected all our lives and we thought, 'Why don't we do something about it?' We're impressed with everything the Socialist Alliance has to say, and it's great that different people and groups are coming together. We're against privatisation and poverty-things that New Labour have made worse. For most of us the recession didn't end. People were paid 4 an hour 18 years ago-we're still being paid 4 an hour today. We've been out at weekends petitioning and leafleting. It's really good fun. People are really supportive. It gives us the sense of fighting for something we believe in."
- STELLA GOULDING (admin worker), MICHELLE WILDING and JANET SWINDELLS (carers), Manchester