Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/390/4415
Fighting the jobs massacre in Birmingham
Louise Houldey is standing in Birmingham Northfield constituency as the 'Nationalise Rover - Socialist Alternative' candidate in the general election. Clive Walder spoke to her about the campaign.
Why did you decide to stand in this general election?
I was horrified at Longbridge closing and the fact that all the mainstream parties washed their hands of the matter and of the people of this area. I wanted the voters of Northfield to know that there are people who won't accept this jobs massacre without a fight, and to acquaint working-class people with an alternative to the established parties' acceptance of 'slash and burn' economics.
What are your views of the three mainstream parties?
None of them have anything to offer Longbridge workers or working-class people in general. I wouldn't expect the Tories to care about redundancies and I know that the Lib Dems are pretend Tories who have cut and privatised local services where they control councils.
My greatest contempt is reserved for New Labour. A lot of people really thought that Blair would improve their lives after 18 years of the Tories but it hasn't been like that. If anything, many people probably feel more alienated from society and more demoralised and disenchanted than ever.
No one believes that public services have got better and they've seen themselves priced out of the housing market and their kids offered a choice of massive student debts or working for not much more than the minimum wage. All this while the fat cats get even fatter.
The BNP are standing in this constituency, do you think they offer a real alternative to working people?
Their candidate has said nothing about the crisis at Longbridge and their councillors in Stoke have voted for the same council tax rise as all the other parties. Some of their members approached Socialist Party members doing a campaign stall and rubbished the idea of nationalising Rover. All they had to say was that the unions had ruined the factory in the '70s and '80s and that's why the place closed.
All the BNP can offer is an appeal to protect 'British Culture', presumably the culture of passive acceptance of redundancies as well.
They have contested the last two local elections in my ward and they have polled noticeably fewer votes in the areas where the Socialist Party has actively campaigned. Socialist ideas definitely do undermine support for racism and the BNP.
What future do you think the area has if Longbridge does actually close?
Bleak. Longbridge is by far the biggest manufacturing employer in the city. There is nowhere else for skilled workers to go; most of the other big factories have either massively downsized or closed. Kids on my estate will have nothing to look forward to. I think there will definitely be a rise in crime in the area as more and more people, particularly youth, become demoralised and feel life has nothing to offer them.
What are your views on the £150 million retraining package announced by the government?
I think that's a cynical PR exercise. What's the point in retraining people for jobs that aren't there. It would be far better to invest that money in continuing production at the factory.
By that I don't mean that the existing owners get yet another subsidy from the taxpayer. The government should take the factory over with no compensation for the 'Phoenix Four' - get the workers to draw up a business plan based on knowing either what cars would sell or working out other ways to use their skills.
I see no reason why railway rolling stock, buses and other commercial vehicles can't be built at Longbridge.
As well as campaigning for the nationalisation of Rover, I want to use this campaign to explain the need for a socialist alternative to the capitalist free market system and to build the Socialist Party.
In The Socialist 28 April 2005: