Campaigning in Waltham Forest, east London - photo James Ivens
Campaigning in Waltham Forest, east London - photo James Ivens

Waltham Forest – 24 candidates and fourth biggest party

With 24 candidates across the borough, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is the fourth biggest party contesting the Waltham Forest council elections. 

Socialist Party members leafleted workplaces last autumn appealing to trade unionists to stand. We discussed with workers on the picket lines of RMT night tube strikes and at Whipps Cross hospital.

TUSC hosted a meeting to argue the case for a no-cuts budget in December. And we have consistently raised in the Save Our Square campaign that standing in elections is a key part of challenging the council’s policy of handing public land to private developers to build expensive flats no one can afford, while 24,000 people are on the waiting list.

The result? Our candidates include Whipps Cross workers and tube train drivers, housing and Save Our Square campaigners, education workers who have been on strike in schools and universities, and community campaigners. The age range of our candidates is over 55 years!

There’s been a purge inside Waltham Forest Labour Party. Hardly any candidate who previously supported Jeremy Corbyn got through the selection process.

Nonetheless, the pressure from angry working-class residents, and years of relentless campaigning by the Socialist Party and TUSC supporters against cuts and for council housing, has had an effect.

Labour candidates declare on their leaflets that they will build 1,000 council houses… over four years when there are 24,000 people on the waiting list!

Some may consider protesting against Labour by voting for the smaller number of Green candidates, or for independents. We appeal to the Green, independent and the Labour left candidates: join with us in fighting for a no-cuts needs-based budget, and help us mount the fight necessary to win the funding Waltham Forest needs.

Almost everyone we meet can vote for us. There’s only two wards out of 22 where we don’t have a candidate. Our campaign is big and bold, out on the streets as much as possible, visible and talking to people.

We are conducting a central campaign that anyone can get involved in, so all our candidates feel they are part of that. At the same time, everyone has the freedom to work their own patches and run their own campaigns. 

We have a station roadshow in the mornings. As well as our main campaign stall on a Saturday in the heart of the borough, we leaflet and talk to people on Sundays, and on weeknights at different hubs.

We are at the main workplaces, like the hospital, the town hall and the job centres. Our youngest candidate has organised campaign stalls with other young supporters aimed at students.

We want debate. But there are only two planned hustings, hosted by the trades council and Save Our Square. Socialist Party members helped organise both. Labour Party right-wingers try to whip up a Facebook frenzy against us on community pages – without much success – but disappear when we say, ok, let’s have a public debate.

We’re enjoying our campaign. We know it’s modest. But we have seized the opportunity of this election to put a socialist alternative before a mass audience. In our small way, we are pushing the debate forward in workplaces and union branches.

Paula Mitchell, TUSC candidate in William Morris

Newham Labour cuts and gentrification

The Socialist Party and allies in the Newham Resists campaign group put pressure on Labour’s Rokhsana Fiaz at Newham mayoral hustings on 23 April. James Ivens was speaking on behalf of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) mayoral candidate Lois Austin.

Newham Labour council is branding its next round of £47.9 million cuts and charges as “savings”. James made the case for a needs budget that would utilise Newham Council’s £616 million reserves, and the need to build a mass campaign to fight for the money from Number 10.

Mayor Fiaz spoke about the council’s plan to build another 4,000 council homes. But only 50% will be at social rents. When challenged from the floor why it wasn’t 100%, she said it was to make it “financially viable”.

We have over 34,000 people on the housing register, private rents are skyrocketing, and the current cost of living in Newham isn’t financially viable for most people. TUSC raised that the council could start a mass project of council home building tomorrow if they grew a backbone and fought against Tory austerity.

The mayor was clearly rattled, even accusing TUSC of ‘financial illiteracy’. We reminded her that on top of millions in cuts and charges to the working class, when her council repurposed Stratford Circus arts centre, it was able to lose £300,000-a-year Arts Council funding.

Fiaz was talking about how Labour is delivering ‘affordable’ homes for Newham, while the hustings venue was surrounded by luxury developments in Canning Town none of us can afford.

When challenged about the closure of Newham City Farm, Fiaz claimed that underfunding and mismanagement put the farm in such disrepair and the animals so badly cared for that the council needed to close it down.

Labour has controlled this council for decades, with Fiaz being mayor for the past four years. Surely if those problems existed, she could have provided the funds to rectify those issues?

Yet that never happened, and an important and loved community feature has been lost. And the same people in that community are being hit with new charge after charge from this council.

Newham needs a change. We need socialist councillors and a socialist mayor to fight this cost-of-living crisis and improve the lives of the working class in this borough.

We need an end to all cuts and gentrification, with council homes and rent control. And we need genuine training and jobs for young people. Vote TUSC and for all ‘needs budget’ candidates in Newham.

Ferdy Lyons, TUSC candidate in Maryland

Oxford cost of living – I worry for children in my classroom

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) appealed to me because it was prepared to put up a fight. When Tory central government says to 120 Labour councils “cut”, the Labour councils simply reply “how far?” TUSC challenges these Labour councillors to either admit that they have become a vehicle for austerity, or come on board and join the fight.

On the streets around the Cowley Centre, we get NHS staff, BMW factory workers and pensioners all asking why they are not being paid more to cope with spiralling inflation. There is anger and, at times, despair. People feel they are not supported by the government and council, and are not being listened to.

One NHS nurse who stopped to talk when she noticed we were calling for a 15% pay rise for NHS staff, said: “Great. We need a proper socialist party.” A young school teacher asked: “I’m already struggling to pay my rent. What is being done to tackle the housing crisis?”

As a school teacher myself, I worry that children will soon be coming into my classroom from homes with no electricity, or at the end of the year will come in hungry because their parents have had to choose to heat or eat.

Only TUSC is prepared to stand up for working people. And we are gaining momentum, with seven candidates in Oxford this year. Whatever happens, we will continue to grow and get the message out there about a genuine socialist alternative.

Stephen Brown, TUSC candidate in St Clements

Tower Hamlets interest in socialist alternative

From our door-to-door canvassing, people are interested in the Socialist Party and what we stand for. Those that showed interest were concerned about the cost-of-living crisis and the environment.

A lot of people weren’t even aware there was an election coming up. Our stand outside Mile End station was a success – collecting a lot of names and selling the Socialist. Leafleting outside Queen Mary University got more students interested.

Nandi Shalita, East London Socialist Party

Hackney cost of living turns people against Tories

Our campaign has consisted of leafleting, canvassing and postering to draw attention to our upcoming public meeting – the cost-of-living crisis has been a constant topic of conversation.

People are opposed to the Tories, open to the ideas we put forward, but wary of not voting Labour. But we will continue to highlight the gap between what we need and what we are getting from the Labour council.

Cameron Henshall, Hackney Socialist Party