Sunday, 11 April 2010

Stepping into the Town Hall

Many of our candidates were able to take an hour out of campaigning this Sunday to do a photo opp. Our party colours on display are drawn from both the Levellers and suffragettes -green and purple! Almost half our candidates are women -are far higher figure than most other parties in the borough. We have candidates who are new to political activity and young and also candidates who have a long history of community struggle and organisation. Last week I was able to visit Jean Kysow in St Thomas hospital to obtain her candidate consent forms. With just 35 minutes to go I was able to get her nomination papers in -allowing her to stand in Rushey Green ward.

On the march!

Many of our candidates and supporters were able to join the Pensioners and Unison trade union march on Saturday in support of public services and council housing. Interestingly it would seem the Labour party is going to include a proposal to allow LA's to build 10,000 council homes a year! A little late and to few, but better than their previous opposition to a return to council house building. It is a pity that the Labour party in Lewisham has had a visceral opposition to any talk of a return to council house building -it could be the Achilles heel that finally costs Labour control of the borough. Our call for a return to a programme of council house building is gaining real support-especially in our target wards. None of the established parties were present and lots of trade union banners and members amongst the 10,000+. In the past you would have seen dozens of LP banners on these marches -all this is now a thing of the past as the Labour party looses touch with the progressive forces in society and the labour movement.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Candidates and cabbages are in!

Around the country where councils have local elections, nominations closed at 12 noon today. The publication of those names is due at mid-day on Monday 12th April. We will know shortly where socialist and community campaigners are standing. Hopefully many of these local campaigners will have planted the seeds of future local organisations that will grow and development in the coming months. The established parties are all committed to slashing public services, so which ever party gets in and what ever government is formed, the real fight will begin in the coming months and years.
After work today, I took a brief break from supporting our candidates frantic effort over the last few days to get our People Before Profit nomination paper work in, with an hour or so working on my allotment getting in some early cabbage plants.
In Lewisham we have achieved our objective of having a candidate in every ward in the borough - apart from Telegraph Hill where we are supporting Socialist Party members, Ian Page, Jessica Leech and Chris Flood.
Standing candidates in every part of the borough was a feat I never thought possible at the beginning of our campaign. The reaction on the door step has been so positive that this evening it was resolved to consider not only standing a parliamentary candidate in East Lewisham but also West Lewisham & Penge -extending our support even outside of Lewisham into Bromley! We have also managed to stand additional candidates in Brockley and with 30 minutes before the close of nominations managed to get in papers from housing campaigner Jean Kysow who will be joining Warren Carter in Rushey Green ward. We will be seeking to make a number of central Lewisham wards additional focus of activity, along side our target wards in Deptford. We are planning on joining in any hustings meetings and seeking to hold a number of meetings ourselves.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Where next for the left after the election ?

These elections will be like no other. Not only will people be voting against a widespread loathing of many politicians but they will in London be combined with the local elections. We may see some surprising votes in certain seats like Luton, Salford and Preston. The likely increase in turn-out for the local elections could however have some negative effects for the few hard working Green & socialist councillors across the country with good track records. I am hearing reports that both the Greens and socialists are facing some real battles to get people to support them, especially when the election will be on the general election day and people seems less willing to "split their ticket" and cast a progressive vote to the Greens or left. We could however see the emergence of broad based community based parties, such as Lewisham's People Before profit and gains for Respect and Wigan's Community Action Party. Such community based parties should become the focus of work for the socialist left.

Partial democracy

I have been out and about with our supporters and candidates across Lewisham working to gather in our nominations. One kind elderly lady in Mount Pleasant Rd gave our canvassers a Mars bar each! The process of gaining consent from local electors to stand is not straight forward -the nomination form has to be exactly right as we know to our cost! The electors registration polling district and number recorded correctly. Signatures have to clear and the party title and description has to be exactly as registered with the Election Commission. We live in only a partial democracy, having the right to vote -only if you are able to register to vote and many people are unable to vote. In London, elections to council's are only every once every four years unlike the rest of councils which have annual elections apart from one fallow year. You could be paying both income tax, national insurance, council tax and VAT but if you are not an EU citizen you are unable to vote. Large numbers of Latin Americans who have long & well established communities in a number of boroughs have been removed from the election register as it is now a requirement to give your nationality -again New Labour playing the race card and pandering to the far right. Many have therefore lost the ability to vote and been removed from the register. In a number of wards in Southwark this is likely to have had a significant impact. Thousands of people are so disillusioned with the established political parties and politicians that they refuse to register to vote -even though this is technically illegal but no council has ever prosecuted anyone for willfully refusing to register.
The outcome of the election is likely to not only have a low turn-out of even of those who are registered but in many inner city areas fewer that 25% of the local population will be voting. Hopefully our intervention will help improve matters.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Trade Unionist Socialist Coalition

For a few seconds, in a blurred out of focus shot I was seen on Newsnight! My friend Toby Abse was in the front row so was seen more clearly. Last week the left that has come together in this coalition launched its campaign for the coming election. The meeting was held in a packed meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Euston Road. The windows to the room appeared not to open so the numbers of people present and combined with the 'hot air' being generated rapidly raised the room temperature! My visits to Malaysia with my partner over the years stood me in good stead to cope well with the conditions. I half expected a 'chit-chat' to scamper across the walls in the room! It would seem almost 50 candidates will be standing in many cities across the country and hopefully some of the candidates may well get respectable votes. The coalition and its programme is an improvement on the anti EU slate that was put together for the European elections, which had a flavour of 'little Englander" about it. But again the coalition has been put together at the last minute and is more limited than the Socialist Alliance. My concern is that apart from a few cities, like Coventry, Preston and Salford the candidates have not been able to establish a presence and may well get a very limited vote.