Across Camden, north London, there is a fight on for the future of the borough – and a mood for change.
Campaigners are taking on New Labour over three key campaigns – against the privatisation of GP services, post office closures and the sell-off of land that residents argue should be used for housing.
Left List London Assembly candidates Dave Hoefling and Nuruzzaman Hira – known as Mukul – both agree that being at the heart of these campaigns is giving an energy and an edge to their election campaign.
Dave is the constituency candidate for Barnet and Camden and Mukul is standing on the London-wide list for the assembly.
Both candidates are well known in the area. They were born and grew up in Camden, and both have been members of the Labour Party.
Mukul was the founder of the Camden United Asian Youth and youth secretary of the Bengali Workers Association.
He told Socialist Worker, “My father came here in 1945 and our family has lived in the area ever since. I was a member of the Labour Party and campaigned for it until Tony Blair brought in the shift to New Labour.
“After the party moved so far to the right I left Labour and then joined Respect.
“I stood in the council elections in 2006 for Respect and shocked Labour by coming second. I have done a lot of work in this area and I am well known, especially by Bengali people.”
Dave is also rooted in the struggles of the area – in particular in Somerstown where he is the chair of the local People’s Forum.
He told Socialist Worker, “I am 65 now and retired. I have been involved in housing campaigns for the last 20 years.
“I have been a trade unionist much of my life – I was a father of the chapel (union rep) in the print trade when I was young.
“I was also a union convenor in leisure centres and swimming pools. I’ve lived in this area all my life – and my father was also born here – so I feel very strongly about what happens in this area.
“The Left List has given me a vehicle to raise many concerns.
“I was in the Labour Party for a long time. I even canvassed for Tony Blair. I stayed in the party until his second term in office, hoping things would get better.
“I thought maybe Gordon Brown would bring the party back on track, but if anything he’s been worse. Look at how he used Margaret Thatcher’s anti-union laws against the prison officers.
“Labour was born out of the trade unions. It’s a complete betrayal what has happened to the party.”
Dave and Mukul have been taking their election campaign onto the streets, engaging with people through cavalcades, leafleting and their involvement in local campaigns.
They both report a great reception. Mukul said, “Lots of people are offering to put up our election posters. We have spoken to many people who say they are voting for us.”
Left List supporters helped to launch the broad campaign to stop the sell-off of GP surgeries in Camden. Over 150 people came to a public meeting on the issue last week.
Another crucial issue is housing and the urgent need to tackle overcrowding.
Dave said, “We have been part of a big campaign against the sell-off of land behind the British Library.
“We argued the land should be used for affordable housing but Gordon Brown has agreed to sell it off to a private medical laboratory. We have had an impact – our campaign has forced a parliamentary investigation into the land sale.”
Mukul adds, “Overcrowding is a big issue across London. I know how difficult it is because for ten years I lived in a one bedroom flat with three other people.
“It means no one has any space. And now prices are going up it is becoming even harder.”
Dave says that the campaigning won’t end with the polls, but the elections give the left a chance to put across a positive vision for change.
He said, “We want to encourage more people to get involved – people bring ideas and energy to the campaigns.
“There are too many politicians who put themselves or their party over the needs of the people they represent. That’s not the sort of politics we stand for.
“I have two grandchildren who live round the corner – I worry about their future. If things carry on the way they are going, how will they afford to pay for housing?
“One of the most positive things in this campaign has been the numbers of young people who are interested in what we are saying.
“It seemed for a long time that young people were suffering from the post-Thatcher years, but that has changed.
“It is refreshing to see a new spirit of resistance. It feels like the country is beginning to move.”
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