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3 August 2017
Labour MP attacks local student over anti-austerity art project
The Socialist Party, formerly the Militant, today condemned Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft for reporting a local student to the police - over an art project which proposes socialist policies.
Foxcroft - who nominated Blairite Owen Smith to challenge Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity leadership in 2016 - is seeking action against the artist behind imaginary MP "Ana Key." Socialist Party member Ellen Kenyon Peers, the art student in question, has now been expelled from the Labour Party over the project.
Ana Key 'represents' the currently non-existent south London constituency of Deptford and Greenwich for the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Her website includes proposals for building new council homes, capping private rents and making roads safer for cyclists.
The Socialist Party opposes the heavy-handed actions of Vicky Foxcroft and the Labour Party bureaucracy. Rather than policing artistic expression, they should take up the urgent class issues their fictitious colleague champions.
On housing, for example. Foxcroft's local council, Lewisham, has 9,500 households on the waiting list. Meanwhile it has a total of £57.1 million in housing budget reserves and £55.6 million in capital receipts reserves.
The art project Foxcroft is attacking proposes building 10,000 new council homes over five years. TUSC - which includes transport union RMT and the Socialist Party - has repeatedly made the point that councils have enough in reserves to start solving the housing crisis now.
In fact, councils could end austerity tomorrow by spending reserves, using borrowing powers and building a campaign to win the funding back from Westminster.
Even establishment commentators are counting the Tory government's shelf life in months, not years. Councils could end Conservative rule quickly by defying austerity diktats on the basis that their reserves could be replenished under an anti-austerity government led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
This combative, creative approach would follow that put forward by the Socialist Party's councillors in Lewisham - Ian Page from 1994 to 2010, and Chris Flood from 2003 to 2010. Theirs was the only consistent opposition to cuts and privatisation.
Conversely, Vicky Foxcroft was happy to raise her hand for austerity budgets as a Lewisham Labour councillor between 2010 and 2014.
And on education, too, Foxcroft should follow the Socialist Party's anti-austerity example.
Forest Hill School, in a neighbouring constituency under the same local authority, faces a £1.3 million budget shortfall. The council has a total of £162.6 million in general fund reserves.
Staff, students and parents are campaigning against brutal redundancies and funding cuts. Local National Union of Teachers activist James Kerr, a Socialist Party member, said: "Socialist Party members and trade unionists have backed the Forest Hill strike.
"We've called for a legal deficit budget to save jobs, and intervention by the council - including meeting their obligations on redundancy payments.
"The new local MP has helped raise the campaign's profile. Vicky Foxcroft should put her weight behind it too.
"The last local MP, Jim Dowd, did nothing for the campaign. If anything, he was more of a conceptual art project than Ana Key. Imagine if we'd had an MP who'd backed it from the beginning.
"Vicky Foxcroft is in the next constituency over, but the attacks on Forest Hill will have a knock-on effect on her own constituents. Constituency boundaries are no barrier to campaigning MPs. She should stop sitting on her hands."
Militant, the Socialist Party and TUSC
The Socialist Party's forerunner, the Militant Tendency, had three MPs who were known for their active backing for local and national campaigning.
Dave Nellist, Terry Fields and Pat Wall only took the average wage of a skilled worker in their constituency, and donated the rest of their salaries to workers' struggles. They also used their parliamentary positions as platforms to build these campaigns.
Although Ana Key is a personal art project, not solicited by the Socialist Party or TUSC, the attention it has drawn to socialist politics is welcome.
TUSC national election agent Clive Heemskerk said: "We've had more calls in a short time from the press about this art project than we had when TUSC was the sixth-largest party in terms of candidates in the 2015 general election. This is an indictment of the establishment media's attitude to anti-austerity ideas and socialist politics."
Ellen Kenyon Peers, who is a member of Lewisham Socialist Party and studies art locally, said: "Instead of attacking an artist, Vicky Foxcroft should be attacking the Tories.
"All the 'constituents' who wrote in to Ana Key with issues were aware beforehand this was an art project. They wanted to see the issue of homelessness in Lewisham seriously raised.
"This art project wouldn't even have been necessary if Vicky Foxcroft was concerned with defending working-class people with campaigning policies. But she's done nothing - except attack the left."
'Ana Key' will be speaking at Socialism 2017, the political event of the year for socialists and all those drawn to socialism and fighting austerity in the aftermath of Corbyn's general election challenge.
Other speakers include:
- Corbynista MP Ian Mearns
- US socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, who led the first successful campaign for a $15/hr minimum wage in the US
- A real-life Socialist Party MP (TD) from Ireland, Paul Murphy
- Former editor of the Militant and Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe
It is taking place on 11 and 12 of November at the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford way, London, WC1H 0AL.
See www.socialism2017.net for more info.