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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 September 2008

Salford councillors play blame game

SALFORD CITY council recently held "The Big Ask", supposedly an opportunity for residents to ask leaders of the council's three main parties about local issues.

Steven North

As part of a local campaign to keep our post offices open - three currently face closure - I asked whether councillors felt the council should subsidise or take over the running of those post offices to ensure the public are not deprived of these essential public services.

All three pledged support for the post offices, but carefully avoided the question of subsidies. The Tory representative then - correctly, but obviously for his own aims - accused Labour MPs of voting for closures in parliament and opposing them locally.

Councillor Merry, Labour leader and council leader, said the problem started with the Tories and then attacked the Lib Dems for wanting to sell shares in Post Office Ltd - thus privatising it, despite his own party's obsession with marketisation.

All three councillors then attacked each other for thinking exactly the same way. Then Communities Secretary and Salford MP Hazel Blears - who had entered the room after the question was asked - joined in.

I commented that people were sick of being told to 'support Labour because the Tories are so much worse'. Blears then told me: "Well that's your choice - deal with it!"

Well, I'm sorry Hazel - I won't "deal with it!" I'll do what I can, along with increasing numbers of others to help build a party that working-class people are proud to vote for. We are fighting for a party that doesn't blackmail the public into voting for it by insisting the others are worse.

When we have such a party, the Labour Party will unfortunately not be remembered for the NHS, for public education and the welfare state, but for cuts, closures, privatisation - and arrogance!

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