Catherine Clarke, Southampton West Socialist Party
Over the past four weeks there has been a great outpouring of support for the Palestinian people in Southampton, and a weekly vigil outside the council. At the same time there is a feeling of dismay at both major political parties unrepentant in their complete support for the Israeli state and its siege and bombing of Gaza.
It wasn’t until 5 November that the ruling Labour group on Southampton City Council released a statement in step with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s line of “Israel’s right to defend itself” and not calling for a ceasefire, as so many actvists are demanding. No councillor has attended the weekly vigils.
Southampton Trades Council, in which Socialist Party members play a leading role, has written to local trade union branches and community organisations to invite them to discuss how to hold our Labour councillors and prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) to account.
The meeting organised by Southampton Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) on 2 November attracted seven new attendees. Among them were figures from the city’s Muslim community and ex-Labour activists we have met campaigning.
One spoke of her desire to see candidates stand in council and general elections independent of Labour and the Tories. When she raised this at the vigil on 4 November it received a great response.
The TUSC meeting agreed a number of tasks including:
- Organise a deputation to the city’s two Labour PPCs, Satvir Kaur and Darren Paffey, to clarify their position on austerity and war
- To start preparations now for candidates in May’s council elections, developing a clear anti-austerity and anti-war manifesto based around TUSC core policies and the needs of the Southampton working-class community. To organise a series of meetings in different areas of the city to develop the manifesto
- Take part in the trades council open meeting taking place on 14 November to discuss political opposition to the war and the need for working-class political representation