Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party and TUSC candidate
The Socialist Party, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), received 9% of the votes in the Higham Hill by-election which took place on 26 October in Waltham Forest. Although the turnout of 17% was extremely low, this is a result we are all very pleased with.
There was a freedom and an honesty about our campaign that translated into the way people saw us. It felt like there was a lot of support in the streets of Higham Hill towards our presence and the fight we put up. Our local history of running campaigns against the monster block and saving the Lime trees in the main square, were things people knew about, and our efforts resonated. Increasingly, people are seeing these monstrosities as environmentally damaging and not solving the housing issue as they are too expensive.
We had a particularly striking leaflet which had testimonies from people who collaborated with us to stop library closures or prevent evictions. The area is probably one of the highest densities of council housing in the borough, and housing was up there as an issue. Our call for council housing, no hikes in council tax and rent, along with rent control and secure tenancies in the private sector, appealed to young people still stuck at home with their parents, and appealed to their parents themselves.
The area also has an issue with young people having nothing to do. Many of the youth services were closed or severely cut in 2010 when the Labour council took a scythe to public services when they passed on the Con-Dem cuts budget. We called for a restoration of youth services combined with an extension of provision.
We experienced words of encouragement towards us, and words of disillusionment towards the establishment pro-capitalist politicians, as workers passed us in the streets.
A regular feature of the campaign was standing outside the Co-ops in the small shopping areas. Particularly in the final week, we made sure we were seen in these localities. One man passed me several times outside the Co-op and never made eye contact or took a leaflet. Yet, on polling day, he met my eyes and declared, I voted for you.
I met a woman who said that she had been looking for us online. She had been active under Corbyn in the Labour Party and couldn’t continue, especially in the light of Keir Starmer’s comment on Gaza, and wanted to become more involved with us.
In the middle of the election campaign we put a statement out on the terrible events in Gaza and circulated it on community Facebook pages etc. We met people who were voting for us purely on this issue.
By standing I believe we will build, through example and action, support for the idea that the working class needs its own voice and a party of its own.