Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
Waltham Forest community campaign ‘Save Our Square’ and Socialist Party members organised what can only be described as a swarm of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s virtual Question Time on Thursday 11 February.
Our intervention not only reflected our determination to be heard, but gave a voice to the struggle happening outside on the streets of London. We put Khan and the London Assembly on the spot, demanding that our town square is not handed over to private developers to build unaffordable housing. We demanded action to build council homes to meet the needs of the 9,000 households on the housing waiting list in our borough.
Organising during lockdown has been a challenge, but we have successfully used social media. We encouraged all our supporters to register for the event with an image showing bees circling the words “swarm the mayor’s question time” and with the accompanying link to registration. It was viewed 5,000 times in less than four hours.
We also prepared questions for our supporters to use as a guide. When our questions appeared in the chat of this virtual event, we encouraged our supporters to like each other’s questions to force our questions up the agenda.
As the night wore on, Waltham Forest won the popular vote in virtually every category, leading the mayor to refer to us as the ‘People’s Republic of Waltham Forest’.
The event showed just how awful the current raft of assembly members and Khan really are. The Tories blamed Khan for not cutting more, and Khan blamed the nasty Tories for making him do it. Apart from our campaign there was a complete lack of urgency to fight back. The mood music from both Tory and Labour members was the inevitability of more austerity to come.
Our small swarm of bees represented the real fightback on the night. We need more of this, we need socialist and trade union fighters standing as candidates in the forthcoming Greater London Assembly elections on 6 May. We need socialists into City Hall.