Respect candidate Michael Lavalette was at the centre of organising a Make Poverty History event in Preston last Friday evening. Hundreds of campaigners linked hands around the town hall as part of the Trade Justice Movement’s global week of action, before a busload left for the all-night trade justice vigil in London.
Michael, who is a councillor in Preston, arranged for players and the manager from Championship football team Preston North End to join the event.
School student Estelle Cooch was astounded to see Preston’s Labour candidate turn up. She said, “Mark Hendrick the MP is never here for anything. He wasn’t here for the tsunami, but now there’s an election...
“He voted for the war in Afghanistan and now only 13 percent of people in Afghanistan have adequate sanitation — it’s gone down considerably — and he’s got the cheek to be here.”
Rosalind Holmes, also on the event, agreed. She said, “There’s thousands of people round the country doing demos like this, but they don’t listen and they don’t do anything.”
She was weighing up Respect against the Liberal Democrats. She said, “Some things about the Lib Dems are good — they’ve got a better chance than Respect. But I think what Respect stands for is very, very good.”
Michael Lavalette said the “more chance argument” was an important one to address. “The Lib Dems have 4,000 votes as a starting base. But at the last local elections, we stood in just five out of 15 council wards and we got 2,700 votes.”
At the Jamea mosque, one of eight leafleted last Friday, Imam Said Ahmed said, “The government hopes the war has taken a back seat, but the truth is the majority of people think it’s still an issue.
“It’s a big issue here especially, because our Labour MP broke his promise and voted for the war.”
Michael has used his Preston council seat to fight alongside local activists and he is well known at the mosque. His days are also filled with other campaigns.
Michael explained that he and fellow Respect councillor Steven Brooks are organising a protest on Wednesday against the closure of Tyco, an important local factory.
He said, “We’ve got a motion to the council denouncing the closure and demanding the council only makes contract deals with fair-trade or local companies.”
Respect is also fielding six candidates in the Lancashire county council elections, also on 5 May.
Sumera Rizwan, one of Respect’s candidates, was looking forward to starting to canvass her ward this week.
“Going door to door you meet old ladies, pensioners who have worked all their lives and have to pay the council tax on a measly pension.”
For more on Make Poverty History see Trade justice vigil — a wake up call for the politicians