Socialist Worker

Campaign off with a bang

Issue No. 1747

Birmingham Erdington Socialist Alliance

Campaign off with a bang

The writing is on the wall!

SHOPPERS on Erdington High Street in Birmingham last Saturday got their chance to throw a wet sponge at Tony Blair. A Socialist Alliance supporter wore a Tony Blair mask and was pelted with sponges as part of the campaign for candidate Steve Godward, a local firefighter.

That is just one of the ideas Erdington Socialist Alliance has come up with to raise Steve's profile locally. Its campaign has really taken off. Steve's brother Simon has donated the side of his house. It is now covered by a huge mural showing Steve, in his job as a firefighter, washing away Tony Blair and William Hague.

"I said, why not put something on the house wall, although I didn't realise it would be quite so spectacular!" says Simon. "People are knocking at my door asking me what the Socialist Alliance is all about. I think we need a change, to be given something better. We need better health and schools, and asylum seekers need help. I think the Socialist Alliance is it."

Candidate Steve Godward says, "We've got everybody involved-people who left politics years ago and vowed they'd never come back, existing groups and many others. There is a spirit of solidarity. We've got a banner, stunts, a campaign song. It's really invigorating. Every week new people come along."

Local teacher Jan Hamilton says, "For a year at least I've been thinking, who do you vote for? Certainly not the Labour Party. I've known Steve for around 16 years, and when I heard he was standing as a candidate, a working person, I said, 'I'll support him.' When I go along to the constituency meetings they are getting bigger."

"The Labour Party are the same as the Tories and there is a political vacuum," says Arash Shakib, another member of Erdington Socialist Alliance. "I voted Labour in 1997, though not with great expectations. But I never thought they would carry on with what the Tories have done. I think it's very important the Socialist Alliance has come about."

Carol Naughton, national vice-chair of CND, says she is attracted to the Socialist Alliance by "sheer frustration with Labour. Look at Star Wars. It is not about defence-it's about aggression. The Socialist Alliance is an alternative, bringing together all people on the left who had hopes and dreams of socialism. I first joined the Labour Party 25 years ago when I was young and daft. I left 15 years ago. My 20 year old son lived under Thatcher. He had hopes that life would be different under Labour. What difference? There is the tube sell off. They won't renationalise the railway or anything. They were supposed to be committed to abolishing nuclear weapons but we've seen no more of it."

Clive Kesterton, a former chair of Erdington's Labour Party ward, is also supporting the Socialist Alliance. "I joined Labour around 15 years ago and left over Clause Four. I haven't voted Labour for three years," he says. "Steve is an alternative. I'll vote for him and go along to the constituency meetings to offer what support I can."

John McHugh was one of the shoppers attracted to last Saturday's Socialist AlIiance stall: "I used to be a member of the Labour Party years ago but I let it lapse. I'm very pleased that when I go to the polling booth this firefighter's name will be on the ballot paper. He does an extremely important job and he is taking up the cause of the ordinary person. I will distribute leaflets, and on election day give me a call. I will help carry banners or help get people out to vote."

And 19 year old Natalie Maguire also stopped at the stall, saying, "Tony Blair hasn't got a clue. He's not done anything for people. Wages are really low and the minimum wage is ridiculous. I'll definitely vote Socialist Alliance."


Why I'm a candidate

STEVE GODWARD, vice-chair of West Midlands FBU firefighters' union, and Socialist Alliance candidate for Birmingham Erdington

"I JOINED the Labour Party in 1996 to get rid of the Tories. In 1997 I grafted for the Labour Party-I was up and down ladders putting up posters, handing out leaflets. I believed there would be redistribution of wealth, although I knew it wouldn't be overnight.

But then Blair invited Thatcher into Downing Street and Labour cut corporation tax. Now the Private Finance Initiative is coming into the West Midlands fire service. They want to close Aldridge and Bloxwich fire stations, and replace them with a PFI one.

The Labour lot didn't even have the bottle to stick their hands up to vote for it-they just grunted it through. The defining moment came when I was getting something for my wife from the shop. A group of asylum seekers were at the till buying basics using vouchers. I just couldn't stay any longer in a party propagating such racism. New Labour is constantly in slavish obedience to big business. Someone's got to tear that script up.

I have seen the film about the protests in Seattle and I went to the Globalise Resistance conference in Birmingham. You can feel something good is in the air. This isn't a protest vote. The Socialist Alliance is a new force in town-it's about the future."


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Sat 12 May 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1747
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