I was a Labour Party member for many years and I always used to tell people to vote Labour. I quite liked John Smith and would describe myself as Old Labour.
Then Tony Blair came along and started to transform the party. The war was a major turning point for me. I decided not to vote. Then I came across an article about Respect in the Eastern Eye newspaper.
A little after that I met Respect people locally and I encouraged all my friends to vote for the party in the 2004 Greater London Authority elections. From there I started to get involved.
I was born in this area 40 years ago and I’ve grown up here. I feel I’ve got a strong understanding of the issues we face locally.
First, there’s housing. There’s this drive to sell off council housing – which also means driving working people out of the area.
It’s the same with the regeneration of the King’s Cross area. The new flats they’re building will only be available for rich people. At the same time there are so many ordinary people in need of housing. I myself live with my wife and two children in a one bedroom flat.
I met a woman recently who is in a two bed flat with five children. This is one of the most important issues Respect should campaign on.
Second, there’s the issue of racism. When I grew up in the 1970s there was a lot of racism in this area. But over the years we have undermined that. There is now a real mix of people in Somerstown. But the big danger - and we’ve witnessed it with the row over the anti-Muslim cartoons – is that racism will be whipped up again.
The government is going along with that. I want Respect to be a force for bringing people together and building the anti-racist feeling.
Third, I’m concerned about the lack of resources for young people. The council is putting gates up round the estates to keep young people from gathering. But they have nowhere to go. The level of youth facilities and community clubs is appalling.
I just don’t agree with this push for more and more Asbos. If you label kids as trouble when they are young, then they are likely to live up to that reputation as they grow up. I want to see council funds going on proper facilities for young people rather than Asbos.
I’m not what you’d call a politician, but I am very political. I think a lot of people are like that. That’s why I’m confident we can have a very good campaign in this area.
About 90 people came to a meeting last Saturday on the Crossrail project, hosted by Respect and George Galloway MP. Crossrail threatens to devastate the Brick Lane area of east London.