A socialist challenge in Nottingham East

Submitted by AWL on 1 April, 2005 - 6:10

In 2001 Pete Radcliff stood for the now defunct Socialist Alliance in Nottingham East. He polled over one thousand in the constituency (one of the best SA results in the country).

This time round Pete will be standing in the name of the Socialist Green Unity Coalition.

This is a coalition of five left groups. The key idea of the campaign is to to give a voice to the mass of working class people who have been betrayed by New Labour by highlighting issues such as pensions, education, asylum, health, crime, trade unions, environment and war.

The coalition wants to see working class political representation restored.
Each group has its own programme and policies, but there is also an agreed electoral platform. SGUC will be standing in up to 30 constituencies in the General Election.

In Nottingham the Socialist Green Unity Coalition campaign brings together many of those local activists who worked together in 2001. Pete is standing locally using the already registered name Socialist Unity.

Some people in the area, especially in the trade union bureaucracy, are saying we should all stick with Labour because soon Labour will have true representives of the trade unions like Gordon Brown or John Prescott installed at the top instead of the Thatcherite Blair. John Heppell, the MP for Nottingham East, is an ex-railworker, ex-Parliamentary Secretary to Prescott, and supporter of Brown.

John Heppell is also one one of Blair’s key enforcers of anti-working class legislation. As a government “whip” he is responsible for getting Labour MPs to support, among other measures, the war, attacks on firefighters and benefits cuts.

Heppell left the railworkers union, the RMT, in 2002 after betraying them by his continued opposition to renationalisation. He left just before he had the humiliation of having the RMT’s sponshorship publicly removed. Socialist Unity believes that to let his seat go uncontested is to let Blair go uncontested.

Heppell is an anonymous figure locally and nationally and has only hit the headlines once when he had his tattoos of “love” and “hate” removed from his knuckles on the NHS. That unfortunately is where his committment to the NHS ends, as he enthusiatically gets other MPs to support the continued profit-led policies on the health service.

Heppell has backed the closure of many local schools whilst supporting the opening of religious schools. Further Academy schools are planned for Nottingham East. Such schools cream off state funding while the majority of working class children find themselves in underfunded schools threatened with closure or amalgamation.

The Labour Party is not what it was nationally, and not what it was locally. The democratic channels which once existed in the Labour Party for working-class people and trade unions, have been largely shut down. In 1987 the Kinnockites closed down the lively and big left wing constituency of Nottingham East (which Pete was once the Constituency Secretary) and imposed an unpopular candidate. That led to it becoming the most working-class Tory-held seat in the country.

Nottingham East is now a moribund shell with the few active members having no opportunity to overturn Blair’s policies or remove Heppell.

New Labour is cutting up to 100,000 jobs in the civil service, including local jobshops and pension workers; the Tories say they will cut more. Both parties will cut public sector pensions. As local civil service, local government and teacher activists who are supporting Pete’s campaign know, they will be back to attack pension rights after the election when the government will feel less vulnerable.

So right wing are New Labour that the Tories have been able to pose to the left of them, criticising New Labour plans to cut Incapacity Benefit and to introduce “house arrest” without charge or trial on the say-so of the Home Secretary.”

The Green and Liberal Democrats are no alternative. As Pete comments, “Unless there are independent socialist candidates in the election, many key issues will go uncontested and unquestioned: the anti-union laws, privatisation, the promotion of ‘faith schools’, university education being made unaffordable for poorer families and support for George Bush in Iraq. The Lib Dems and the Greens are no alternative. Their record in local government, and the Greens’ record in government in Germany and France, shows that.”

Another issue we will be tackling in this election is asylum. Pete’s election manifesto says, “The general election will see a contest between New Labour and the Tories about who can be more vicious against asylum seekers. New Labour attempted to bring a detention centre near Nottingham but thanks to a good local campaign it was defeated. The Refugee Centre played a crucial role. As Sam Azad, a worker there, says ‘refugees are demonised by the same press that the government so rely on for their support — a socialist campaign is needed to tell the truth’.”

Contact 07963 464569 to help with the campaign; check out our website
www.nottmsocialistunity.org.uk; or join our egroup by emailing tjcooper59@hotmail.com

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