Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/355/5862
Leicester South by-election
Labour Tells Blair - Keep Away!
TONY BLAIR'S advisers have told him to stay away from Leicester South in the by-election campaign because he'll lose Labour the seat, particularly because of anti-war feeling!
Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party
There is so much opposition that every candidate claims to be in some way anti-war! Labour boast they've selected an anti-war candidate - Sir Peter Soulsby, but this may not be enough to stop the seat swinging to the Liberals.
Cuts in services are also an issue. Labour criticise the Liberal-controlled council for its current cuts in services, yet many people remember Soulsby's own past role as council leader when he too made cuts.
We reminded him of this at our Socialist Party stall when he appeared in the street to campaign. We got on the megaphone and let everyone know of his role in shutting six secondary schools. He rapidly retreated taking his team with him!
We're backing Pat Kennedy, the local candidate representing the "Save our Schools" (SOS) campaign which is opposing plans to shut six special schools. The campaign has had a tremendous reception where we've been able to get on the streets and knock on doors, saying we cannot trust any of the main parties to defend education or public services.
Tracy Coleman, parent and SOS member, said: "Parents and carers never before involved in a political campaign are in situations they would not have dreamt of a few months ago. Meetings initially started at Oaklands Special School with Pat Kennedy as Chairman. When active parents and carers from other schools joined, we became Save our Schools in April.
"Since then parents have set up a website, ( www.saveourschools.co.uk ) lobbied councillors, attended full council meetings to ask questions, written leaflets and helped out on stalls. Quite an achievement for people with very little spare time - looking after a child with Special Needs is not easy."
Unfortunately, there was no time to register a party name and the only word Pat could put on the ballot paper was "independent". There are five independents on the ballot, so we need to publicise Pat Kennedy's name and associate it with "Save Our Schools"!
Socialist Party stood down in this election to support a genuine community campaign, unfortunately both Respect and the Socialist Labour Party refused to do so.
Respect may get a sizable vote, but we've concerns about the lack of a class-based approach towards Muslims. Respect candidate, Yvonne Ridley, the former Daily Express reporter who converted to Islam after being captured by the Taliban, spoke alongside Pat Kennedy at a recent anti-occupation of Iraq rally.
She wore a T-shirt with the slogan "Don't panic - I'm Islamic". Whilst this is funny, and maybe takes up anti-Muslim prejudice, it isn't a slogan to unite the diverse communities of Leicester South!
She annoyed Pat Kennedy, who spoke after her, when she commented that no other candidate was against the war and anyone who said otherwise was a liar! Pat has clearly opposed the war and called for the troops to be returned, making the point that the money spent on war could have been used for public services instead.
After this election, SOS will keep campaigning. We hope the schools will be saved. These elections have at least given more prominence and publicity to the issue and shown that working-class people can make a political stand against the main parties, a pointer to the future.
In The Socialist 10 July 2004:
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis