Respect candidate Janet Alder, who is standing against Labour minister David Lammy in Tottenham, north London, took her campaign to the Broadwater Farm estate last week.
Janet’s campaign for justice for her brother Christopher, who died in police custody, has helped win her a high profile in Tottenham, particularly among black people.
David Lammy is also black, but he is widely seen as a middle class Blairite who has left his roots behind. “Janet is shaking up the politicians’ cosy party,” says campaign coordinator Simon Hester.
“It is increasingly clear that Respect is the main challenger to Lammy. We’re looking to beat all the other parties.”
Now recognition is turning into more solid support. Outside the Broadwater Farm primary school, where Janet is meeting parents, Olu Irele says, “I certainly will be voting for Janet and I know about her brother.
“Labour has let us down badly. David Lammy used to live right out the back there, and his mum’s still there in Kitchener Road. I know him—but there’s been nothing for people here.”
Amanda Partridge says, “I was at school with David Lammy and he’s done nothing for me. I wrote to him and he said, ‘I can’t help at this time.’
“At this time? I mean my mum’s blind and I’ve got kids and I just need some help.”
Singer-songwriter Decarlo, who is picking his son up from school, says, “I live in a one bedroom place and I want to be rehoused. My son is living in the front room. I’ve got a daughter as well.”
He tells Janet, “I want Labour out. I’ve never voted before but this year I’m going to vote. I will vote for Respect — it sounds like what we need round here.”
Dwain Richards says he doesn’t know much about the election. “Because nothing’s done for us, we don’t know what the MP’s about. I hope if I vote my vote will be meant. I want it to change someone’s life—if it can do that, then I’ll vote.”
Janet’s campaign is reaching into different sections of the community.
A Somali woman speaks to Respect activist Khaali Hashi. “She says she’s interested because Labour is fighting war everywhere. No more fighting,” Khaali translates.
Canvassers on Broadwater Farm have found people in every block who have already decided to vote Respect.
Janet’s stand for justice has a special resonance on Broadwater Farm — 20 years ago, the death of a black woman, Cynthia Jarrett, during a police raid sparked a riot. The “Tottenham Three” were framed and jailed for murder after a policeman was killed in the riot. Their convictions were later overturned.
But Janet says the problems haven’t gone away. She describes what happened after a man was shot on the estate recently. “The police arrived first and prevented the ambulance from coming in. They said they had to ‘assess the situation’ first.
“It was 24 minutes before the ambulance was allowed in. That man could have been dead by then. What was going on in their heads?”