The whole blog seems to have caught election fever, and what with various other priorities pulling my more creative attention away, I thought I might as well stick my oar in and let people know what my personal priorities are going to be around the election. Obviously, I think these should be your priorities too.
Firstly, the challenge to the left of Labour. This is unfortunately going to be far weaker than it needs to be. Nonetheless, a few trade union branches, activists and organisations have got together to form the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). I’m not wild about TUSC’s prospects, but some of the candidates are well placed to have an impact. In Preston, where I’ve done some electoral work before, Valerie Wise, former Labour councillor and daughter of the former Labour MP will be standing. Valerie is a good candidate, and should get a credible vote. In Cambridge, where I also have some experience, Martin Booth, a well-respected local trade unionist is standing, and I assume there will be a challenge for the council seats too. Activists in Cambridge have been doing good electoral work over the past few years, and last year Tom Woodcock received an excellent vote for the council standing on the slogan ‘make the bankers pay’. I’ll be spending a weekend or two in Cambridge giving them a hand. I can’t speak confidently about the other areas that TUSC is standing, though I hear good things from Manchester and Sheffield, and I heard the candidate from Tottenham speak last week. She is a teacher at the sharp end of cuts in Further Education in the area, and is standing against Education Minister David Lammy. That could be interesting. It is important that where we stand we get credible votes. Getting weak votes damages confidence and credibility. Finally, beyond TUSC (and I’m going to say this very clearly so our friends at Socialist Unity can hear me), we should be supporting Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham, George Galloway and Abjol Miah in East London, Dai Davies in Blaenau Gwent and Caroline Lucas in Brighton, and some other Greens as well.
Secondly, beating the fascists. We need a mass campaign against the BNP which exposes them as the fascists they are. This means all the hard work in constituencies, leafleting door to door, talking to people, arguing with them to use their vote against the BNP etc. It means challenging them wherever they appear, and it means taking the media to task whenever they give them a platform. This is an encouraging campaign launched by those in the media against giving the BNP a soft ride. In the past few months there have been two worrying incidents where hardened, experienced fascists have been presented as examples of ‘disaffected young people thinking about the BNP’. Where this happens it needs challenging and exposing. From my new home in Essex I’ll be joining a couple of Unite Against Fascism’s days of action in Barking, trying to ensure that Nick Griffin doesn’t win a seat. Find out what UAF and Love Music Hate Racism are doing in your area.
Finally, and this is the bit many of you won’t like, in Colchester I will be voting Labour. I’m not going to join the Labour Party, I’m committed to building an alternative to it, but who wins in this election makes a difference. It will make a difference whether public sector cuts are made by an agressive, ideologically committed Tory Government or by a Labour government with one hand tied behind its back. It will make a difference to the confidence of working class people to resist these cuts. It will mattter whether or not it is Brown’s face or Cameron’s we wake up to on the 7th May, a Tory victory would demoralise the best activists, and empower every scab and every bigot.
The final task in the next few months, something that cannot be considered apart from the election, is to build networks of resistance that can fight back whoever wins. Whether this is in Education, in the wider public sector, or in the IT or airline industry, these networks will be vital in the months and years to come. This cannot be postponed until after the election. Stop the Tories, but build the resistance whoever wins.