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Council Elections: We need a fighting alternative
COUNCIL ELECTIONS are taking place all over the country. In most cases, working-class voters and young people are turned off by the policies of cuts and privatisation of services offered by all the main capitalist parties - New Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats.
Socialist Party members are standing in a few wards across the country on policies that say 'no' to cuts and privatisation and 'yes' to decently funded public services.
We say to councillors from the mainstream parties that if they are not prepared to fight for the people they were elected to represent, they should stand aside for socialists who are prepared to battle.
Where Socialist Alternative candidates are standing, you have a chance to elect councillors who will stand up for the millions not just the millionaires!
THE ELECTION campaign of 'Save Huddersfield NHS' is going from strength to strength.
Dr Jackie Grunsell
Every street we visit keeps showing massive support for campaign candidate and local GP Jackie Grunsell. Many people are inspired by the stand she has taken against the local NHS Trust board and are joining in with the campaign's call for their sacking.
Iain Dalton, Huddersfield Socialist Party
Local people are also sick of the other political parties' lies and inaction over these cuts in local health services. The Lib Dems, whist claiming to be defending the health services, fail to mention that their two councillors on the board voted for the cuts. The people are also fed up with a Labour government pushing through cuts and privatisation in the health service that Thatcher could only dream of.
Local people are waking up to the wider picture, shown by the fact that Socialist Party members are not only discussing local health services, but also the need for a democratically controlled public NHS that is accountable to local people, not run by the hands of parasitic Trust boards.
Coventry: Anger grows at Labour and Tory cuts
ANGER OVER cuts and attacks on the NHS in Coventry has fed into our election campaign to get Rob Windsor re-elected in the St Michaels ward.
Our stall on Easter Saturday raised over £200 fighting fund as people signed the petition protesting job cuts at Walsgrave hospital (see page eight).
Lindsay Currie, Coventry Socialist Party
The city-wide NHS SOS campaign, initiated by Socialist Party members and involving trade unions, health workers and community groups, is organising a protest on 27 April against the cuts and ward closures.
Canvassing door-to-door in St Michaels suggests that we have a realistic chance of regaining the seat. Certainly, dissatisfaction with New Labour runs deep. And the recent actions of the sitting - though largely absent (one resident asked whether he had died!) - Labour councillor, Solly Bhayat, shows how out of contact he is with the people he is supposed to represent.
Bhayat recently abstained on the Tory proposal for a new city academy - while other Labour councillors opportunistically voted against (despite it being New Labour's national policy). Most people in St Michael's oppose this proposal which is undermining Labour support.
A recurrent theme on the doorstep is that it is only the Socialist Party which is going out to meet, talk and listen to people. This also applies to the four other seats we're contesting in the city - Whoberley, Lower Stoke, Henley, Sherbourne.
Coventry West Socialist Party branch is carrying out door-to-door petitioning on the NHS in Whoberley ward before the local weekly meeting as part of the campaign to strengthen our support in other areas of the city, and to get backing for the Campaign for a New Workers' Party.
Socialist Party members from Wales and West and East Midlands have been helping the election campaign on weekends, and we will step up the campaign in the final two weeks before the election.
No to cuts and redundancies
THE STOKE election campaign to get Socialist Party councillor Paul Sutton re-elected is in full swing and already Labour are in a panic.
Their first leaflet is devoted to accusing the Socialist Party of 'falsehoods' over our warning that the Labour-controlled council is planning to close or privatise care homes and community centres.
Andy Bentley, Stoke-on-Trent Socialist Party
This is despite the actual evidence - a list of care homes under threat published in the local paper on 4 April! But Labour councillors' 'warnings of mass deception' will cut no ice with ordinary working-class voters who know only too well the Blairite Labour Party's record on truth.
On the doorstep there is much anger towards Labour - a quarter of the people we have canvassed say that they will vote for the Socialist Party.
We are campaigning in the election to stop 1,200 redundancies at the University Hospital of North Staffs (UHNS). We organised a protest at the meeting of the city council Scrutiny Commission which heard UHNS boss, Anthony Samara, trying to justify this butchery of our NHS.
Labour councillors only agreed to the meeting in the first place because Socialist Party councillors Dave and Paul Sutton put pressure on them. The meeting, which had six Labour members, two Independents and one Tory, then barred Paul from his place on the scrutiny commission because he was part of the active campaign to stop these attacks!
The Labour chair, Derek Bamford, also stopped any members of the public speaking. Without Paul Sutton on the commission and ordinary NHS workers gagged, Samara must have felt he was being savaged by a powder puff, such was these so-called councillors' spineless performance.
The protest outside was covered by the local papers and radio. Sky TV also filmed our NHS-SOS committee meeting which was planning the details of the March to Defend the NHS in Stoke on 29 April.
So far, Stoke Central branch has sold over 300 copies of the socialist, Stoke South over 100 and more than 100 by others - a total of more than 500 from stalls, canvassing, regular sales and NHS workers.
Getting our message across
THE CAMPAIGN to get Ian Page and Chris Flood re-elected and to get Jess Leech elected is going very well.
We canvass up to three times every day so there are plenty of opportunities to convince voters to back the Socialist Party candidates.
Chris Newby, Socialist Party London Regional organiser
On Somerville estate, our two Socialist Party councillors Ian and Chris have been at tenants meetings discussing Labour's proposed housing transfer, the need for tenants to have a vote to stay with the council and for the government to put in the public funding needed for repairs and renovation.
Tenants everywhere are angry at the lack of consultation - many have not only signed the Socialist Party petition initiated by Ian and Chris but are also now coming out to vote Socialist Alternative.
We are also campaigning against the threatened cuts to Lewisham Hospital as a result of the £7 million debt (see page three). We have now also got the public support of a leading 'new school for New Cross' campaigner who is standing in the mayoral elections
A team of Socialist Party supporters distributed our main election leaflet to about 1,000 flats and houses on the Honor Oak estate over the Easter weekend. The same supporters helped to organise our launch party.
40 people have expressed an interest in either joining the Socialist Party or finding out more information. New people are regularly coming along to our local meetings. Using petitions on housing and Lewisham hospital, we regularly get donations of fivers and tenners for our fighting fund.
Now, we are going into overdrive with regular stalls at schools and stations to make sure that as many people in Telegraph Hill ward get our message. If you want councillors who put people before profit, you need to vote Socialist Alternative.
Fight for jobs at Manchester Airport
OVER 150 jobs are to go at Manchester Airport. Part-owned by the very same councils who are hiking the council tax which built up the airport, they're now announcing these job losses. Many workers will wonder is this preparation for further privatisation?
Lynn Worthington, Socialist Alternative candidate, Baguley ward, Manchester (pictured left)
Airport bosses sent in some managers to try to break the strength of the unions at the airport. They did that with lies and false promises. Now, they've decided to remerge the different companies these managers created!
They are not only getting rid of these managers, they are threatening the jobs of many other workers. Is this a backdoor means to privatise the airport?
Bosses made big job cuts after an unsuccessful strike by security and other staff. This shows the need for a generalised cross-union campaign to defeat the job cuts and fight off the threat of full privatisation.
Airport workers tell us that security has been left to young job-seekers press-ganged into the very low pay and bad conditions which the unions fought against. On poverty pay and horrific hours, how can management expect casualised security staff to effectively prevent a terrorist attack?
An agency cleaner told us that management now demand that cleaners check the planes for bombs! Trade unions at the airport are holding a series of meetings to discuss the attacks. A reliable source tells us that management are intimidating staff, calling in workers to harangue them. These are the same managers holding seminars on bullying at work!
One of the biggest employers in Greater Manchester is preparing the ground for all-out war against its workforce. In the past, Manchester Airport provided jobs for workers across Manchester. Through their local authority positions, New Labour hold a massive stake in the airport, so what have they got say about this latest crisis?
Socialist Party members will be arguing for a mass movement of airport workers, the trade unions, and the wider community to fight all job losses. The fight against unemployment is the fight for the right to work on living wages.
Airport workers tell us that in the past the first in line for better-then-average redundancy payments included current Labour councillors. What an argument for a socialist alternative, and a Socialist Alternative on the council!
Campaigning against cuts and closures
Neither gales, rain nor hailstorms can stop the local election campaign for Socialist Alternative candidate Lynn Worthington in Wythenshawe, Manchester, which is well on its way.
Christian Bunke, Manchester Socialist Party, reports
Last year, we campaigned against the removal of vital facilities for disabled children at Greenbrow nursery, warning this would be a step towards the eventual closure of the entire school.
This is exactly what the Wythenshawe Labour councillors are planning now! They want to demolish the school and give the land to fat cat developers, exactly what has happened to three other schools in the area already. Is it any wonder that local people feel nothing but contempt for these councillors.
Closing the nursery will cost £1.25 million - we are campaigning for this money to be used to build more educational facilities, rather then demolishing them.
Councillors earn thousands in expenses, while turning up to a couple of meetings per month whose sole point is to decide which schools to close next, or which bit of public land to sell off to private developers.
These very same councillors seem to be afraid to face the anger of the community. None of them live in Wythenshawe and they hold only one surgery a month, where they all appear together for two hours!
Socialist Alternative candidate Lynn Worthington has lived here for decades. Through talking to people on the doorstep, we have already talked to more people than these councillors have ever done. We sold more then 50 papers in three days and hope to sell a total of 100 by the end of the week. 50 people have already put up window posters, showing public support for our campaign. A number of local people have pledged to help canvassing and leafleting.
Newcastle branch is standing Paul Owens as a candidate in the local elections in Byker. Socialist Party members from all over the North East have been out in force on the streets of Newcastle, with members and supporters from Cumbria, Durham and Teeside joining those from Tyneside.
Kieran Taylor, Newcastle
Our group had a big presence in Newcastle city centre on 8 April at peak shopping time. The anger at the recent announcement that up to 100 jobs may be lost at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, helped us to gain hundreds of signatures for our petition and sell 55 copies of the socialist.
Afterwards, we converged on Byker ward for canvassing door-to-door. Socialist Party members were not put off by savage dogs and heavy sleet and snow!
We have continued to campaign in the ward every day and are getting a good response. After Saturday's soaking, members still made time for a meeting and a political discussion at a supporter's house, which she kindly let us occupy for the night. Over 20 people, from a 92 year old down to two teenagers still attending school, heard a very thorough introduction and enjoyed a lively discussion.
This was immediately followed by a social event - after a long day we could relax and dry out!
Over £100 was raised over the weekend and we made a big step towards building the profile of our candidate Paul Owens and a socialist alternative to the big capitalist parties.
A look of surprise is usually the first response you get when the door opens. Most people haven't seen a canvasser from any of the main political parties for several years, but the Socialist Party's local election pitch in Bevois ward, Southampton, soon gets a warm reception.
Toby Harris, Southampton
We are campaigning on the doorstep for a secure future for St. Mary's leisure centre and against the ongoing attacks on services by the Liberal Democrat-run council. The popular and well-used centre has been threatened with closure twice in the last two years - both times local people and the Socialist Party demonstrated and defended St Mary's - and the council are already hinting at closing it next year.
Everyone in the branch has committed themselves to campaigning on almost every day of the week, canvassing each evening and doing stalls in the local area including three stalls every Saturday.
The people we meet on the doorstep are united in their anger and dismay at the main parties. One older couple condemned New Labour for being "intent on selling off every scrap of green public places to private developers". They totally supported our genuinely socialist alternative and took a window bill and flyers to distribute to their neighbours, buying a paper and donating £4 to the campaign.
It was inspiring for some of the young International Socialist Resistance members out canvassing for the first time to encounter such support, from young and old alike. Despite a day that included a three-hour stall outside a local supermarket, with a short break before another hour of canvassing and speaking at a branch meeting, I still felt the positive buzz of knowing our ideas reflect the experiences and opinions of ordinary people. The buzz that keeps us campaigning for socialism!
Only hours after starting to leaflet High Street ward with our election address, people began to contact us to support our campaign. One was a community activist who would like our candidate to speak at election hustings for senior citizens and wants to attend our meetings.
Waltham Forest council have recently cut 67 home care workers' jobs and are now using private agencies. While canvassing, we heard of one elderly person whose agency home-care worker had not arrived on a number of days to prepare a meal for her. This meant that, because she hadn't eaten, the district nurse couldn't give her medication when she called.
Our candidate Claire Buddle, who is standing for the first time, explains that "I am a socialist because I see injustice being done to people of all ages and races across the world. Ordinary people struggle to care for their families; young people are let down by the lack of facilities, finance and support for their needs and education and are expected to work for poverty wages."
We have had a warm response to our campaign, both on the doorstep and on our stalls, to our message that we can fight back and don't have to accept the deterioration in our conditions.
A PCS member contacted us to say they agreed with our programme and took an election poster and a 17-year-old has contacted us through our website asking to help out with ISR campaigns.
Branch members, including newer members who have not been part of our election work before, have all been out leafleting, canvassing and helping on stalls.
In the last week we have sold 139 papers; £43.50 fighting fund was raised just from two stalls in the ward on Saturday 15 April.
BNP is no alternative to Blairism
THE MEDIA have been queuing up to give publicity to the far-right, racist British National Party (BNP). According to the Joseph Rowntree Trust one in four Londoners are considering voting BNP, while employment minister Margaret Hodge claims that up to eight out of ten white families in her Barking constituency say they are thinking about it.
Naomi Byron, Tower Hamlets Socialist Party
The establishment are talking up the BNP's chances in order to try to scare traditional Labour voters into turning out. But this is a dangerous game. It could be counter-productive, encouraging voters to think that by voting BNP they can give the main parties a bloody nose.
The BNP have been promoting themselves as standing for "old Labour" values in traditionally Labour working-class areas. This couldn't be further from the truth. The BNP, whether in their previous neo-Nazi incarnation or their current "respectable" populist image, have never stood up for working-class people's rights.
They are shifting their propaganda because they have realised this attracts votes and support, not because they have any intention of following through in their promises. In the recent pensions strike the BNP didn't back the strikers. Instead they tried to shift the blame for government attacks on council workers' pensions onto the pensions deal won by health workers, teachers and civil servants fighting against the same attacks!
The BNP even say that: 'The fundamental cause of Britain's looming pensions crisis is the fact that the average Briton is not saving enough money for his or her retirement...' and 'A gradual increase in the retirement age... is reasonable.' (BNP economics bulletin 5/12/2005.) What about the £billions stolen out of our pension funds by the bosses and the government?
So much for supporting workers' rights - at the first sign of any confrontation the BNP immediately start to line up with big business and the government.
Even where the BNP have councillors, they utterly fail to stand up to cuts in local services, or to carry out their pledges such as opposing above-inflation rises in council tax (see issue 430).
In The Socialist 20 April 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party election campaign
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis