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Rotherham: Standing against cuts, corruption and racism
Last week, multinational steel firm Tata announced that another 110 jobs would be lost at the Thryberg Bar Mill in Rotherham.
This comes on top of the 540 miners that will be made redundant by the closure of Maltby pit and the 750 posts that will be lost through cuts at Rotherham NHS Trust.
These blows to an already depressed town are the backdrop to the Rotherham byelection taking place on Thursday 29th November caused by ex-Labour MP Dennis MacShane resigning after he was revealed to have fiddled his expenses. Now we hear allegations of a neighbouring Labour MP doing the same thing.
No wonder Rotherham people are angry at the bosses and politicians, disillusioned with the mainstream parties and want a change.
Eleven candidates are standing. As well as the three big parties there are two independents, three far-right candidates, the right-wing Ukip, and also Respect, all trying to pick up on that mood of anger.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate Ralph Dyson has been getting a warm response on the streets to TUSC's campaign against Cuts, Corruption and Racism.
In particular, Ralph's pledge to be "a workers' MP on a worker's wage" has helped counter much of the cynicism caused by "all the fat pigs with their noses in the trough" depicted in the photo on the front of his election leaflet.
One 'fat pig' is Brian James, the Rotherham NHS Trust chief executive on a £250,000 a year salary who recently announced the downsizing of the local hospital with the loss of 20% of the entire staff.
He's now announced he's retiring, no doubt with a fat pay-off, leaving 3,000 staff not knowing whether they will even have a job after Christmas.
But there are others seeking to exploit the disillusionment and despair of voters. The far-right have targeted Rotherham in recent weeks with two demonstrations, supposedly against the cover-up of the grooming scandal, but with the purpose of whipping up racism and division.
There are no less than four far-right candidates in the byelection including an EDL organiser masquerading as an Independent.
But they have no answers to the real problems faced by local people. When confronted by two young Socialist Party members about their economic policies, the English Democrats said: "We don't bother with that rubbish!"
Ralph, who was a steward at both the anti-far right counter protests, has issued a statement saying that 'fascist' organisations should not be given a platform for their racist and divisive ideas at hustings organised by BBC Radio Sheffield.
Yvonne Ridley, who as a Sunday Express journalist was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and later converted to Islam, is standing as the Respect candidate.
With the split in the local Labour Party due to the imposition of an external candidate, Respect has poured resources into the campaign and won some support, especially amongst Asian people.
Their Ad-Van and Battle-bus have definitely got Labour worried that there could be another Bradford West upset.
This has led Labour to take desperate measures including near fisticuffs outside a mosque and allegations of fraudulent leaflets.
TUSC nationally has written to Respect to seek to coordinate electoral challenges but so far they have not been prepared to talk.
Whilst Respect is unlikely to win, the fact that its odds with the bookies have been slashed shows the potential mass support for an anti-cuts left wing alternative.
Another indication of that potential is a self-styled 'white knight' candidate Simon Copley who is leading over both Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the byelection odds.
He says: "A red, blue and yellow elite are out of touch.....I will do my best to fight corruption, speak out for justice on tax, call for investment in health, education and young people, oppose racism and division and reconnect politics with the issues people care about.
"I did not go to Eton, I am not a millionaire, have never fiddled my expenses nor appeared on Celebrity Big Brother".
Simon said he could not fault any of Ralph's policies. I said to him that he should join TUSC after the election. He said "I might just do that".
TUSC election rally, Monday 26th November:
The floods and privatised railways deprived the rally of its two guest speakers but didn't stop Rotherham TUSC supporters from holding an inspiring pre-election rally towards the end of an uplifting campaign.
Daren Ireland (RMT executive member) brought solidarity from his rail and maritime union along with the call to nationalise the railways.
Adrian O'Malley, Unison branch secretary at Mid Yorks NHS Trust, spoke (in a personal capacity) about the present strikes by mainly women admin and clerical staff against job cuts and pay downbanding. Rotherham NHS workers need to follow in their footsteps to fight 750 job losses here.
TUSC election candidate Ralph Dyson, having just refused to share a platform with fascists at a radio debate, gave an impassioned speech about his life experiences that have made him a socialist fighter, peppered with anecdotes from the election campaign.
Everyone left in agreement that whatever the election result on Thursday, Rotherham TUSC would be back on the streets on Friday and Saturday continuing the campaign against the cuts.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 26 November 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.