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Committee for a Workers International :: Socialist Alternative
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Dave Nellist, Coventry Socialist Pary councillor, photo Paul Mattsson
ESTABLISHMENT POLITICIANS are so unpopular that in last week's council elections every party tried to pose as the opposition whether they ran the council or not!
No wonder many voters around the country are confused. Election eve saw Labour defending the mega-profits of oil monopolies and the Tories saying they'll help the poor and the wealth gap is too extreme!
Many voters switch off, as they see politicians saying one thing and doing another. Implementing cuts and calling them 'reforms', sacking people and calling it 'an opportunity'...
While all the main parties support the capitalist profit system, the lack of a party to fight for working people's interests has meant that many are disinterested and disillusioned in politics.
However, here in Coventry there is strong support for the Socialist Party. Our candidate Dave Nellist retained his seat in St Michael's ward with an increased majority, beating Labour and the Tories.
This result has been earned from years of campaigning work. Many support us out of political principle, many because of the work we've done. Many because they knew Dave would make the interests of all workers his priority and give people representation.
Labour and Tories cut services and increase charges, while socialists oppose them and stand up for working people. Workers are tired of Labour, Lib Dems and the Tories saying one thing but doing another. If there was a significant party prepared to stand up for ordinary people nationally, it would be gathering much support, and socialists will rededicate their efforts to help bring such a party about.
MY PHONE rang all day as local people tried to find out if Dave Nellist had held his council seat. (Because of delays in counting the postal votes, the results didn't appear in the next day's newspapers).
The independent socialist voice of two Socialist Party councillors in the city council was alive and would continue to be there for the working people of Coventry.
The council elections saw Tory gains across England and Wales. This has already happened in Coventry which had long been a test-bed for New Labour policies.
Ten years ago Labour held 51 seats to the Tories three. In 1998, socialists won a seat in St Michael's Ward. Tired of being taken for granted, workers there gave Labour the boot and returned Dave Nellist. To the surprise of many, we went on to win all three seats in the ward. We were able to expose New Labour's school closure programme and their 'single status' pay cutting measures.
As Labour's position declined, the Tories gained support. They now run the council with Labour in opposition. Labour say one thing yet do another. They claim to oppose post office closures locally while voting for them in parliament. They want workers' votes but raise taxes for the lower paid.
Lacking political support, Labour sought to rebuild their vote in St Michael's by exerting huge pressure on Bangladeshi and Muslim voters to support the Bangladeshi Labour candidate.
Many Bangladeshi voters were furious about New Labour's tactics saying: "We don't agree with voting on the basis of religion" and "Dave Nellist is principled, he opposed the war in Iraq, not like Labour".
Their tactic did increase their vote, but it didn't work. Instead, a marvellous response from working people from all backgrounds, to defend a socialist who stood up for all, saw the Socialist Party increase its vote by over 500.
The tremendous energy our teams of campaigners showed on election day was a triumph of human effort against the political establishment machine. Above all, the response of local voters shows that a socialist alternative can be built.
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Article dated 7 May 2008
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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