Commemorating the Clay Cross struggle

Richard Redmore, East Midlands Socialist Party

“This council believed that when they were elected they would be held accountable”. These were the words of David Skinner who in 1972, as a Labour councillor, attempted to defend his constituents from attacks by the then Tory government.

Over 50 people attended a meeting, organised by Mansfield and North Derbyshire Socialist Party, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the struggle in Clay Cross against the Housing Finance Act.

David Skinner, one of the eleven historic councillors to take a stand, opened the meeting with an inside look into the councillors’ motivations, how it affected them and the town.

Targeting the most vulnerable in society, the Tories sought to increase the rents of working class people.

In Clay Cross, many people had recently been given the opportunity to move from the deteriorating mining slums into new council houses.

Seeing this Act for what it was – an attack on working class people – David Skinner and ten other councillors stood against the Tories and refused to raise the rents, ultimately being surcharged and undemocratically removed from their positions.

Footage from the time was shown, demonstrating the huge support the councillors had from ordinary people in Clay Cross.

They rightfully earned praise from Militant, the forerunner to the Socialist. The Labour Party Young Socialists came out in support of their comrades in Clay Cross by marching through local towns to raise funds for them as they fought legal battles against the government.

Becci Heagney spoke at the meeting about Youth Fight for Jobs and Education’s 2011 re-creation of the 1936 Jarrow unemployed workers’ march.

Alex Gordon, president of the RMT transport union, spoke passionately about the growth of the RMT as a militant union opposed to all cuts.

Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, highlighted how the Clay Cross and the 1983-87 Liverpool councils demonstrate what workers and councillors can achieve if they support each other in face of repression and inequality.

He stated that as the Labour Party is not taking this road today, it is time for a new workers’ party that would and called for people to support a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in their area.

An excellent finance appeal by Adrian Picton raised £150, some of which was agreed would go to support the struggle of the South African miners.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 12 November 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.