Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/245/24878
Lewisham: Battling Socialist Councillors Build Up Local Support
THE CAMPAIGN to re-elect Socialist Party councillors Ian Page and Sam Dias to Lewisham council this May, has begun.
Sam and Ian's ward has been extended and renamed Telegraph Hill so we have to make sure our councillors' record is known in new areas. Although there's little interest in the elections, we've had a good response because our campaign focuses on working-class people's struggles.
We've organised several public meetings, local trade unionists have shown their support and workers involved in industrial disputes have welcomed Sam and Ian's backing.
"Innocent I'm innocent, for the crimes I've been convicted. By a wicked and evil system who don't care about the poor." These are words from a song written by Michael Davis from the M25 campaign and performed at an anti-racist meeting our party organised on Honor Oak Estate, the heart of Ian and Sam's support.
Michael described his experiences of nearly 12 years in jail. His conviction for murder was overturned after a heroic campaign with co-defendant Raphael Rowe.
Sam Dias also spoke of how she had been beaten and dragged down to a police station in her nightwear, and forced to walk home at night in the rain, all because of a parking offence committed by her boyfriend.
Young people on the estate often face being stopped and searched. Our demand for community control and accountability of the police went down well.
AT ANOTHER public meeting local campaigners were encouraged to stand independently in local elections. Members of the New School For New Cross Campaign have now decided to do just that.
Ian and Sam, the only councillors to consistently support the campaign for a new local comprehensive school, have put motions to the council, helped organise and spoke at lobbies, and went with campaigners to Westminster.
Leading campaigner Louise Irvine spoke of the damage done by selection in schools, and the lack of school places for local students. The campaign's pressure forced a climbdown by the Labour Party who previously opposed a new school.
The campaign now plans to stand several 'new school' candidates in the local elections, including in Telegraph Hill where there will be a supportive and co-operative attitude between ourselves and the school campaigners.
Local tenants' activist Bob Gardiner explained how, in a previous election campaign, he sent material on Sam and Ian to people he knew at a Bradford Mosque. They translated it into Arabic, and asked the Mosque in Deptford to support our campaign.
OUR COUNCILLORS have sent letters of support to workplaces involved in or threatening industrial action, including rail workers, Benefit workers, postal workers, and library staff.
Ian had a friendly welcome when he visited picket lines during a local library strike over pay and re-organisation.
Ian and Sam were the only councillors who attended a local meeting of Transport and General Workers Union stewards, whose experiences of privatisation included harassment of union reps, disregard of health and safety, cuts to wages, and bullying and aggressive management.
This led them to unanimously support a motion from the floor withdrawing support for the Labour Party and agreeing to actively work for Sam and Ian's re-election.
Working-class people have little enthusiasm for a Labour Party embracing Tory policies. Ian and Sam are seen as different, both in words and actions, actively supporting working-class people fighting Labour's programme of privatisation and cuts.
Their re-election is important, not only to our party but also to working-class people in south London and beyond, inspiring campaigners and trade unionists to stand against the main three pro-big-business parties.
In The Socialist 15 March 2002: