Ex-miner and Respect activist Ray Holmes was elected as a councillor in the Shirebrook North West ward of Bolsover district council in Derbyshire, winning 53 percent of the vote.
He told Socialist Worker, “Shirebrook is an ex-mining area. Like lots of similar areas, it is very run down. And local politicians have kept it this way. It has a largely white population and my election shows that Respect can win votes in white working class areas.
“There is a growth in luxury housing, but no industry and no jobs.
“Wealthy commuters buy up the expensive housing and are pricing out the local kids who have no decent affordable housing and no future.
“The candidate I beat is a real Blairite and a property developer. He was so arrogant he didn’t even turn up to the count. It was great to feel that we stopped his gravy train.
“Nearly every door I went to, people were saying that it is time that we had a change. Not just a change from Labour, but a change that can offer some hope for people’s children and grandchildren.
“Big issues in the election included the need for facilities for young people and the elderly. Job creation was another issue that came up a lot.
“Winning is just the start. On the doorsteps I explained to people that I can’t single-handedly cure all their problems – we have to fight collectively.
“We held a well-attended public meeting during the campaign. About ten to 15 key issues came out of the meeting, which I am going to raise in the council.
“I said at the meeting that I don’t want to be a councillor like the Blairites – I want to be a shop steward councillor.
“I will discuss things that people raise and take them to the town hall knowing that I have support on the ground.
“We have to be prepared to back up our demands with further action and campaigns.
“I am planning to set up a community forum where people can discuss issues.
“It is also a way that we can get more young people involved in politics.
“About 40 young people have already said that they want to get involved.
“Every day I was out campaigning, I ended up in long discussions with people.
“It’s great to see so many people discussing politics. We’ve been waiting since the defeats of the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5 to get this sort of political response.
“I was very impressed during the campaign with the number of people that made the connection between local issues and the £76 billion on Trident nuclear replacement and the question of Iraq.
“Lots of people in Shirebrook hadn’t heard of Respect when we set out. They could see that we came out of the anti-war movement, but that we also talked about the NHS and council housing.
“At the beginning of the campaign, I was the only Respect member in Shirebrook. Now I have a group of people around me.
“I had the help of some brilliant activists from nearby Chesterfield and as we went on we found more people locally who got stuck in.
“I got the impression that there were a lot of people fed up and angry and just waiting for someone to show that you can beat Labour.
“I went round the ward on the morning after the election and lots of people were shaking my hand and congratulating me and saying that I have really started something now.
“I am nearly 70 years old now. I was a miner for 15 years.
“I grew up here but moved away for a while. It was good to come back to the area. I care about the future of Bolsover and Shirebrook.
“I was part of a campaign three years ago which stopped Bolsover council from privatising the council housing.
“Recently I have been campaigning against the exploitation of Polish migrant workers. I am very proud to be have been elected for Respect. We have a lot to build on in this area.”
Class struggle toppled apartheid