Catherine Clarke, Southampton West Socialist Party

Nadia Ditta, a local community worker, has been outraged by the lack of response of Southampton Labour Council to what is happening to people in Gaza. She was one of a group anti-war campaigners who came to a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) meeting, organised by the Socialist Party – 258 people in total. The Socialist Party has been participating in the protests in Southampton, supporting Palestine liberation, and calling for a socialist intifada.

Our anti-war and anti-cuts policies completely aligned with her view of how politics should work. So, both Nadia and her friend – a trade unionist and community worker – have joined the Socialist Party. And Nadia wants to stand as a TUSC candidate in Bevois Ward to give her community a working-class alternative at the ballot box.

People piled in

Over the past month, Southampton Socialist Party branches have been preparing for our TUSC meeting in Bevois. Nadia and her friend worked hard with us, and their local community, to knock on doors and hand out leaflets to ensure a good turnout. People piled in.

Socialist Party member Declan Clune introduced Nadia. Declan is secretary of the Trades Union Council in Southampton.

He highlighted how appalling our Labour councillors have been. In power for most of the last decade, they have been stripping the poorest communities, like Bevois, of resources such as youth centres and large item waste kerb collections.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has been unwilling to support striking workers fighting to keep their children fed and warm, with a roof over their heads. And Starmer supports unconditionally the Israeli government’s bombing of Gaza. Declan stated that only TUSC has clearly stated that it is anti-war and anti-cuts, locally and nationally.

Nadia gave a rousing speech, calling the community to action to fight the council on issues that the local community informed her were concerning to them. During the meeting, they spoke about their local park not being safe for children to play in, since it is not been maintained, resulting in syringes and rubbish everywhere.

Large items of furniture are dumped on the streets. The Newtown Youth Centre, where the meeting was held, is being earmarked for sale by the council, as well as St Mary’s Leisure Centre, which we fought to save two years ago.

The audience heard how racism and Islamophobia is rife.

Local community has tried

The local Bevois community had always tried to work closely with the council, believing this would result in needed services being provided in the community. But it was just an information-gathering exercise.

The Labour council cares little for their needs. Now it is near impossible to see a doctor face to face. Homecarers are struggling daily without any physical support from the authorities.

Nadia rallied the troops, recorded issues of concern, got names of people who want to work with us. She told the gathering that they should be proud of their community, and their children, and that we will make our voices heard in the council chambers of Southampton.

We now plan to hold a city-wide ‘People’s Budget’ meeting to offer an alternative to council cuts. We will lobby the council budget meeting in February, and build support for a citywide election campaign to offer an alternative to cuts and war.