Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/181/7981
By-election in Lewisham
Socialist Party councillors: not like the rest
SAM DIAS, Socialist party candidate in the Pepys ward by-election in Lewisham, south London, spoke to The Socialist.
"I got involved in politics after the Scarman report into the Brixton disturbances in 1981 when I went to work for the Commission for Racial Equality where we worked with police trainees at Hendon college.
That got me interested in politics and I joined the Labour Party which at that time still saw itself as representative of ordinary people.
But towards the end of the 1980s me and my partner were beaten up by the police, we were all arrested and even my kids were locked in a cell. We got our case dismissed but as you can imagine I became very disillusioned in schemes working with the police.
I moved away from Labour and got involved in Women's Aid and the National Council for Single Parents. It was all community based.
I came to Honor Oak Estate about nine years ago after being run out of Bermondsey by the British National Party. Wandle Housing Association didn't do a lot to help us.
I got involved with the Joseph Rowntree Trust, who set up a steering group to look at tenants' problems in the area. That worked but the group was limited, largely because it had no finance.
I then joined the main tenants association and got involved in the local committees. That's how I first met Ian Page, now a Socialist Party councillor in Lewisham. I'd seen Labour councillors and thought is he going to be like all the rest?
The day I learned who really represented our views was when we asked all our councillors to present our petitions about the loss of our single regeneration bid and the closure of the neighbourhood office to the town hall. The Labour councillors refused. Ian was the only one who took the petition into the council chambers.
That made me open my eyes. What I liked about it was that we led the fight together - councillor and tenants.
We managed to keep the neighbourhood office as a sub office and most importantly got £12 million for refurbishment and £6 million for the rebuild from demonstrating and petitioning.
Labour are all talk. They said they wanted more ordinary people and more ethnic minorities to join them but they don't make any efforts to support people. Labour are worried that my standing could encourage a lot of other people to stand.
The Socialist Party welcomes people from all races, all nationalities. It deals with more than single issues. It deals with everything that affects ordinary working-class people, the low paid, the unemployed.
Labour's now like the Tories. I think there'll be a strong growth in the Socialist Party because people are so disillusioned in Labour.
I like the equality in the structures of the Socialist Party. There's no patronising in the party, which you can find in many parties, particularly for people from the ethnic minorities.
In The Socialist 10 November 2000: