Greater London Assembly elections
"THE LONDON Socialist Alliance is what thousands of people have been waiting for. It's a great chance to tell Tony Blair what we think of his Tory policies." That was RMT branch secretary Keith Saunders' response to the announcement that the London Socialist Alliance will be standing in the Greater London Assembly elections. The assembly is the new body that will come into operation at the same time as the mayor.
Socialists, trade unionists and community activists formed the Alliance to stand for election because of anger at New Labour's betrayals. So far eight Alliance candidates have been selected at hustings meetings: Paul Foot, Mark Steel, Greg Tucker, Kate Ford, Janine Booth, Jim Stanley, Weyman Bennett and Candy Udwin. There has been an excellent response to the election material sent out to trade union branches last week. Within a few days dozens of union branches, community groups and individuals pledged their support.
One of the first was the RMT rail union in Willesden, west London. Keith Saunders explained why his union branch is backing the Alliance: "The terrible rail crash at Paddington last year highlighted two issues-rail privatisation and safety. On both these issues New Labour has betrayed us. We decided to support the London Socialist Alliance because they are the only party committed to renationalising the railways." RMT union rep Andy Phillips added, "Many staunch Labour Party supporters are saying they want Livingstone to win the election but they also want real socialists standing up for rail workers. Our union branch is going to circulate Alliance leaflets around every depot."
Another RMT branch, at Waterloo in south London, voted to back the Alliance. Greg Tucker, Waterloo RMT branch secretary and Alliance candidate, said, "At last week's union branch meeting there was an embarrassing silence when it came to making a donation to the Labour Party. "But the vote to back the London Socialist Alliance was unanimous."
Add your name
"I SHALL be supporting the London Socialist Alliance because London is one of the world's great cities. Together let's make it fairer and more just for everyone."
- CHRIS SEARLE (writer and teacher)
"WE MUST not let New Labour snuff out socialist ideas. This is a great opportunity to keep the flame alight."
- MIKE ROSEN (writer and broadcaster)
"TONY BLAIR'S been in power for 1,000 days. Has anything really changed? If you want to see the London Underground kept in public hands vote London Socialist Alliance."
- JEREMY HARDY (writer and broadcaster)
"I THINK it's brilliant that the Alliance are putting up candidates. As a gesture of my support I will not be revealing that Mark Steel asked me to lie for him in court. Good luck."
- LINDA SMITH (comedian)
Spread the word
SOCIALISTS BID For Power 'To Help The Poor'." That headline in the London Evening Standard newspaper on Thursday of last week shows even the media have latched on to the support the Alliance is getting. The BBC local TV news also plans to run a feature on the LSA. Press coverage is welcome but what really counts is what ordinary working people do.
- Civil servants in Hackney and Tower Hamlets voted to back the Alliance.
- Five council housing tenants' groups agreed to hand out election material.
- Workers at Ford's car plant in Dagenham stuck election leaflets onto cars going down the production line.
- Three local pensioners' groups have asked the Alliance for a speaker.
- The Alliance office was inundated with unions and community groups requesting a speaker for their next union meeting.
Guildhall UNISON shop stewards discussed the Alliance last week. Shop steward Sam Birnie told Socialist Worker, "There was no way people were going to back New Labour. "When we raised the Alliance the response was really good. People are definitely looking for an alternative. We agreed to publicise the Alliance launch meeting in east London this week, and to hold a hustings meeting when all the local candidates have been selected."
- The north London region of the CWU union has agreed to discuss supporting the Alliance at its next meeting later this month.
Workers at the Islington office in north London have already discussed supporting the Alliance. One postal worker said, "What surprised me was that a number of longstanding Labour Party members voted to back the LSA. It just goes to show how far New Labour has alienated working class people." Over the next few weeks the LSA will be holding public meetings all over London. Make sure you get involved. nIf you would like a copy of the London Socialist Alliance trade union motion or would like to get involved in the Alliance please phone 020 7928 4213 or fax 020 7928 2846.
Warm response on fire demo
OVER 800 firefighters cheered Ken Livingstone as he denounced privatisation and called for public sector workers to be treated with respect at a rally on Friday of last week. Livingstone is campaigning to be Labour's candidate for London mayor. He spoke at the end of a march in support of the 11 firefighters from Homerton, east London, who were suspended on New Year's Day for standing by trade union principles.
There was also enthusiasm for the Alliance candidates in the assembly elections. Some 68 firefighters signed up to back the Alliance's campaign and many others expressed their support. Les Crowhurst, one of the Homerton 11, told Socialist Worker, "We need to get some basic trade union representation in these elections. "We have bully boy tactics from management, but New Labour is doing its best to weaken trade union power. Getting Ken Livingstone in as mayor would be a great step forward. But there is no point having him there surrounded by people who listen to big business all the time."
Taking out the message
SUPPORTERS OF the London Socialist Alliance were out campaigning in east London's Brick Lane Sunday market last week. Rohman Aston spoke about why he was backing the Alliance. He said, "All Tony Blair talks about is the rich people in the City. I have put my name down to help the Alliance because I want to support people who will stand up for the unemployed and defend the NHS." In just an hour, half a dozen people signed up to the Alliance, many more took away window posters and over 1,000 leaflets were given out.
THE LONDON Socialist Alliance pledges to:
1. Stop the privatisation of London Underground and campaign to renationalise the railways.
2. Fight for a fully funded NHS.
3. Make the Metropolitan Police accountable and combat racism.
4. Campaign for a decent minimum wage.
5. Oppose the sell off of council housing and build 25,000 new council homes every year.
6. Set up tough new controls on water and air pollution.