Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/354/5847
Leicester South by-election
Schools Campaign Challenges Labour
THE MAIN parties in the Leicester South by-election are battling to see who are the biggest hypocrites. The election has been called quickly for 15 July after the death of Jim Marshall MP, to try to stop the Liberals destroying New Labour's 13,000 majority.
Steve Score and Tim Lessells Leicester
Despite this Labour majority, the Liberals have made sweeping gains on the city council since the last general election. In May they won control with the support of the Tories. On many council estates they took council seats because of disillusionment with the government and also because of the massive cuts in services and school closures made by the previous Labour council.
Labour also lost in inner-city areas where they previously had huge majorities, in particular because of the war. Leicester South has a big Asian population, including 20,000 Muslims.
The Liberals are making big play of the war and also Labour's past record of cuts. One leaflet even attacks the "fat cat pay rise" taken by Labour's current candidate when he was council leader. It doesn't however mention whether the present Liberal council leader refused to take that salary!
Labour attack the Liberals for the same reasons - the cuts being made by the current city council, causing the closure of community services and threatening many others. No wonder so many people say they're all as bad as each other!
Save our schools
IN AN important development, the local campaign Save our Schools (SOS) has decided to stand a parent, Patrick Kennedy, in the by-election. The Socialist Party in Leicester, along with others on the left, met recently and decided to support this move.
SOS is a campaign to prevent the closure of six special schools, all of which would be merged into three new 'super-schools'. Under the proposals special school places for under-sevens would be abolished.
Children with special educational needs would be placed into units attached to mainstream schools with larger class sizes and already overworked teachers. The new plan would be highly disruptive and place children into much larger schools - away from their present smaller schools which they are used to.
The three new 'super schools' are planned to be built through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) - this will make them more expensive and give private contractors massive profits. SOS involves parents, teachers and the pupils.
The Socialist Party argued for all left groups to back the SOS candidate, as it represents a step forward for a community campaign to stand against the main parties and is the main way of uniting working class people in this election.
Patrick has made it clear that he will oppose all the cuts being made by the city council, and also that he personally opposed the war in Iraq and thinks that the troops should be brought home. Billions have been spent on the war and occupation which could have gone into public services.
Unfortunately, Respect refused to support the SOS candidate. Instead, they announced that they will stand Yvonne Ridley, the former Daily Express reporter who converted to Islam after having been captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
We have concerns that the Respect campaign will appear to be mainly aimed at Muslims as a religious group rather than uniting working-class people in Leicester South. A community campaign against cuts however, that unites all working-class people, and draws people into activity, even on a limited programme would mark a real step forward.
The SOS campaign has very limited resources and very little time to build support. Any messages of support or donations can be sent to Patrick Kennedy, c/o 36, Roslyn Street, Leicester LE2 1BS.
In The Socialist 3 July 2004:
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and events