An electoral challenge to David Lammy MP had to be mounted. The campaign is gathering momentum. A growing team of people from the college and the community have been postcarding door to door and on the street. The response has been really positive.
I’ve lived and worked in Tottenham for 21 years and have seen the effects of rising social inequality. We now have the highest unemployment in London and life expectancy is 17 years lower than in the wealthiest areas.
The sense of betrayal felt by local people towards their sitting MP is palpable – when you mention David Lammy, the commonest response is at best a sad shake of the head, more commonly a contemptuous snort. As far as the local Caribbean community are concerned, he overcame racism and disadvantage to get where he is today, but is swiftly pulling up the ladder behind him.
He’s an education minister who got a student grant, but under his government tuition fees and loans make university a distant dream for most Tottenham youth. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve said to me that Lammy has forgotten where he came from.
On the streets there is also real anger about the money that went to bail out the banks and disgust at the venal corruption of MPs. There’s also fear at what is around the corner, as people contemplate their jobs, pensions, benefits and services being torn to shreds by the incoming government, whether Labour or Tory.
Our local college – College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (Conel) is at the heart of our community. Many staff live locally. A Conel teacher and UCU member coaches the basketball team at Broadwater Farm. Our vocational departments have links with local care and health services and local businesses. Conel used to run English as a second or other language (Esol) and adult literacy classes in virtually every community centre and school in Tottenham.
When we postcarded the Broadwater Farm Estate everyone we spoke to had either attended Conel or had a family member at the college. People feel the cuts to Conel in a very real and concrete way. Some are initially cynical about the election, but when they hear that I’m standing as a teacher at the local college to save our provision, are suddenly interested – and supportive!
Our campaign reflects the breadth of support we have in the area. There have been articles in the local free newspapers and the London Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot press, from mainstream to left wing. Two of the large community centres are actively supporting the campaign and are hosting public meetings.
I’ve done an interview with a left wing Turkish/Kurdish television station and have another in the pipeline with a mainstream Turkish Cypriot radio station. On 13 April I’ll be the guest on a live phone-in show with a local Caribbean radio station (SLR radio, 97.7 fm), who have been supporting a local independent black candidate but who also want to give me support and coverage. I’ve had a warm welcome at meetings of the RMT rail workers’ union – RMT Finsbury Park branch have pledged £100 and RMT London Region £500.
There’s a massive amount to do. We’ve covered about 90 percent of Tottenham with postcards door to door and will now start canvassing.
I confess I was reluctant to stand and tried to persuade other potential candidates. However, I’m finding myself energised by the people we’re meeting and the cause that we’re fighting for.
I’ve been teaching Esol in Tottenham for 17 years, and the basic literacy classes for women that I used to teach are gone. Adults with disabilities are being pushed out of the college. Courses for young people are being narrowly defined in terms of “employability” and if you’re over 18 and want to return to further education, doors are closing fast. I’m getting phone calls from people who want help with immigration issues, police harassment, pensions, disability or noisy neighbours…there’s a mountain of unmet social need out there.
What is also out there is potential. Teachers are stepping forward to defend their jobs and community provision. Socialists and trade unionists are coming forward to fight for jobs and services. Local people are expressing anger at politicians but also hope that another way is possible. We owe it to our communities to provide that alternative. If you want to get involved please call – everyone’s contribution is appreciated.
For more information call 07707 011 374 or send an email
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