Workers' Liberty #62


Fighting for Labour representation

By Janine Booth, LSA list candidate

1 May 1997

I vote Labour. So do most of my workmates. The Tories say they will privatise the Tube; Labour says it won't.

February 1998

Labour announces that it will privatise the Tube.

Summer 1999

Labour "selects" its Greater London Assembly (GLA) candidates. I go to a hustings at Hackney Town Hall. All candidates are identical. Not surprising as anyone critical of the Government - and anyone who wants London Underground to remain public - has already been disqualified by the "loyalty commission". The candidates tell us about their backgrounds in accounting and their experience of working with the business "community". We are not allowed to ask questions.

November 1999

My union, RMT, ballots our London membership on Labour's candidate for Mayor. 91% vote for Ken Livingstone. Labour General Secretary Margaret McDonagh explains in a letter to the union that the votes cannot be counted as "they might influence the result".

January 2000

Sorry, that's it. I've voted Labour all my life, but they really are taking the piss now. I still think there is a fight to be waged within the Party, but we can not go into May's election urging people to vote for their sorry collection of millionaires, Lords and privatisers. We have to give working-class people the chance to vote for candidates who represent their interests. The London Socialist Alliance is putting together a slate of candidates - workers' representatives, on a platform of workers' interests, who will take the average wage of a skilled worker if elected. I'm a candidate in the list section.

Thursday 17 February

Hackney LSA launch rally. The seventh such event I've spoken at in the last week and a half - and several more have taken place around London. 130 people attend. Speakers include a representative from the Justice for Harry Stanley campaign - Harry was shot dead by police last year, so his family and supporters are particularly committed to the LSA's pledge to make the police democratically accountable to the community rather than to each other.

Tuesday 22 February

All-London launch rally for the LSA. 800 people pack into the Camden Centre. Great - the biggest and best meeting of its kind that I can remember. After speeches from candidates, myself included, we hear from a Pricecheck striker, a former Labour Party election organiser, a RMT branch secretary, film director Ken Loach and others.

Monday 6 March

Good news: Ken Livingstone announces that he will stand for Mayor against New Labour's (joke) candidate, Frank Dobson. Livingstone had the overwhelming support of Labour Party members and trade unionists in the selection, and should stand as the genuine Labour candidate. Not sure he will though. He may decide to flirt with the famous instead. He was dismissive of the LSA on Newsnight, saying that he is not interested in the support of "sectarian factions", he prefers the support of business. I thought that business was the most sectarian faction of all - prepared to exploit, oppress, even kill people in the pursuit of profit. Ken Livingstone is not a socialist. Still, people support him because he opposes Tube privatisation and to give the Millbank mafia a kicking. I'll go with that.

Saturday 11 March

Lots of talk at work about the May election. Everyone's voting for Livingstone, although they are not the adoring, uncritical fans that some people think. Lots of interest in the LSA. People are attracted by the idea that ordinary workers are standing in the election. They are pleased that they no longer have to pick between parties who will do the bosses' bidding - for once, there are candidates who will speak up for them. It is this - rather than the idea of a "socialist alternative" - that appeals to people.

Nonetheless, we have some good discussions about socialism and some people buy Action for Solidarity.

Tuesday 14 March

Bad news from a group called the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation - they are still determined to go it alone, still refusing the LSA's offers of a united slate. This is desperately sad: the CATP is missing a unique and exciting opportunity to widen its audience and massively increase its support. It seems that some people have yet to learn that solidarity is powerful, that unity is strength. I find this especially tragic as I - and other Workers' Liberty comrades - were instrumental in setting up the CATP, when some of the people who run it now did not care for the idea of a political campaign against privatisation.

Even worse is the news that Tube workers who support the LSA were kicked out of the CATP meeting. The CATP was set up to bring together all those, workers and passengers, who want to fight to keep the Tube public. Now it seems to have degenerated into a little sect which can not even tolerate differences of opinion within its own ranks. I find it genuinely astonishing that this kind of behaviour is acceptable in the labour movement.

Thursday 16 March

Production day for Hackney Fightback, our local LSA bulletin, strapline "A voice for working-class people in Hackney". It's issue 2: we are producing it monthly up until the election, and I hope that we will keep it going afterwards.

The Friends of Hackney Nurseries have sent in an article about the Council's cuts. Kate Ford, Haggerston school teacher and LSA candidate, has written about New Labour's attacks on education. I write an article opposing Section 28. The local paper tells us that the police have run a "stop and search" operation on kids as young as 14, so we write a short piece denouncing that too.

The front page article tells "a tale of two candidates". Cecilia Prosper is the LSA candidate in our constituency; Meg Hillier is the New Labour candidate. The article explains: "Cecilia was one of 12 black and ethnic minority workers who were summarily dismissed on 20 May 1998 from the Housing Department by Islington Council, then controlled by New Labour. Cecilia led the fight to win justice for the women ... they won an inspiring victory. Islington council was found guilty of direct and indirect racial and sexual discrimination, wrongful dismissal and victimisation.

"Meg Hillier was part of the New Labour council that was found guilty of this gross injustice. On the day the decision to sack the 12 workers was taken, she was sworn in as Mayor of Islington."

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

Back to the Workers' Liberty magazine index

[ Home | Publications | Links ]