Workers' Liberty #56


A different kind of politician

Alison Brown, a healthworker, contested last month's local elections under the banner of the Socialist Alliance.

Diary of a candidate

Monday 15 March

Just got back from holiday. We've had an ongoing discussion in the Sheffield Workers' Liberty branch about whether to stand a candidate in the forthcoming council elections. The local stuggle against privatisation, the failure of Labour councillors, including the so-called left, to respond to either this struggle or the anti-working class policies of the New Labour Government means it makes sense - but practically it seems like a huge task and nobody wants to be the candidate.

Wednesday 17 March

Initial meeting to discuss standing on a joint platform with other sections of the left. The Socialist Party have stood at a local level many times and are keen to stand in an alliance. An independent socialist who has been active in campaigning against cuts in the welfare state also attends and is committed to standing. The SWP don't attend and have told various people they've no intention of standing or of working with the likes of us. There's a disagreement about how to approach this.

We propose leafletting SWP meetings to put the case for standing and discussing with the membership. The Socialist Party are against doing this, on the basis that talking to members of another organisation without their readership's permission isn't the way forward for left unity.

Monday 22 March

I attend a picket of the council against privatisation, organised by striking housing benefit workers. It's an opportunity to discuss the idea of standing with prominent activists. The idea goes down well, even with long term Labour Party members. People are interested in having an alternative to meek support for the Labour councillors who've been selling us out for years.

Wednesday 3l March

We're definitely standing. Even though we've got a million other things do we're going for it. Logic says that I should be the candidate - yuk. Meeting with the Socialist Party and Shirley (the independent socialist) to confirm the details. End of all the theoretical discussion, now we've got to work out what actually needs doing.

Monday 12 April

Campaign launch meeting. Goes very well. A reasonable attendance and a useful discussion. Also the press turn up. Workers' Power denounce us for being reformists - shocker!

Saturday 17 April

Our first go at canvassing. We speak to a couple of good people and have a few rows. Two people get shut in a flat with a man talking about devils coming out of the telly. Make a mental note to impose a "don't go inside" rule.

Sunday l8 April

Go canvassing in a mainly Asian area of the ward. Talk to loads of people about the war. Our propoganda based on solidarity with the Kosovars goes down very well.

Monday l9 April

Attend the first meeting of the Justice for Anthony Green Campaign, launched after a local black 18 year old is run over by the police. It's good to be able to combine our canvassing with building support for this local campaign. The standing Labour councillor decides to steer clear on the basis that his involvement might look like vote grabbing - he appears to favour doing nothing about racist policing in the area.

Sunday 25 April

We've been canvassing virtually every day, for an hour each evening and a few hours at the weekend. The momentum of the campaign has got going and a fair number of people are helping out. The best response was in the area we had expected - a mixed working class area - especially from youngish people who haven't been involved in any political activity but are looking for an alternative to Blairism.

We've found a few Labour voters and Labour Party members who are sympathetic to our ideas but don't want the Liberals to run the council. If the Liberals do win the council, the blame will lie squarely on the shoulders of the Labour councillors who've decimated local services, forced through Tory cuts and are now backing wholesale privaisation.

Wednesday 29 April

The local papers are full of the eletions now, but it's been very differcult for us to get any coverage. They are concentrating on the battle for control of the council between Labour and the Liberals. Our canvassing has shown the only reason the Liberals are anywhere near is because most working class people don't vote. A lot of people are saying that all politicians are the same. Explaining our involvement in local campaigns helps to get over this.

Saturday 1 May

Our approach in canvassing has been to concentrate on talking to people about politics rather than urging them to vote for us. We realise it would be good to get some votes, so begin to revisit people who have responded well to the initial canvass and leaflet with "remember to vote" flyers.

Thursday 6 May

Election Day. I'm at work, where the election is the main topic of converstaion - Councillor and Wolfie are my new nicknames: very witty. Most people are taking the piss but quite a few have shown a genuine interest. At the count in the evening the standing Labour councillor is looking very nervous but soon calms down as it becomes clear he has won easily in the ward. He makes a pukey speech about continuing to do his utmost for the people of the area - the people of the area look forward to that.

We got 80 votes. That's aboutt what we expected and up on the last time a "socialist" candidate stood in the ward. The best thing is we know who these people are and can now start to get them involved in campaigning in the area.

So all that dreaming about having a rest once the election was over...

Back to the contents page for this issue of Workers' Liberty

Back to the Workers' Liberty magazine index

[ Home | Publications | Links ]