Roll on may 4th
“It was beautiful” bizarrely used to describe NUS conference at the Opposite of Apathy but perfect for a weekend spent in the People’s Republic of East London. On Saturday about 20 SWSSlettes descended on the Respect campaign in Tower Hamlets and Newham. The idea was to get a feel of how RESPECT can feel when it is really rooted in the local community and it worked. In Tower Hamlets particularly the mood has swung away from Labour to what can be a real alternative.
Canvassing the estates the responses towards what RESPECT had done were consistently positive with Labour’s main Issues of crime and ASBO’s looking like a dead weight around their necks. People who have seen youth facilities gradually disappear might have welcomed a respite from youths hanging around and given ASBO’s a chance aren’t so keen on them when they start to know children who have been served with them or similar schemes. Even those who haven’t experienced the injustice of them 1st hand were more open to RESPECT’s position of increased community facilities. It was a new experience to be in as a socialist where we’d been given half a chance and started to really show people we can make a difference. What also came through was the marked increase in support amongst the white working class in the area. The materials put out by Respect over housing and poverty really cut the false racial divide and the rewards of challenging Labour’s agenda and building our base in the area are starting to pay off. It would be foolish to deny our main base isn’t in the Bengali community but if we could win control and show that “our administration is different from a newLabour/Tory/Liberal administration” we could really start to take off to paraphrase a famous councilor. We should stand to win a large group on both councils, talk of winning out right is premature but we are clearly on our way.
But the overwhelming theme is clearly the implosion of New Labour. It could not be worse for Tower Hamlets Labour group to have the cash for coronets scandal just as they are mired in their own sleaze up to the neck. Labour’s credibility as an organisation for council tenants or working people has simply disappeared and their vote is in melt down. Everywhere we canvassed it was the first time a party had bothered since us in the General Election (and we were the only people they’d seen in between.) Labour’s vote maybe in meltdown across the country because of its attacks on pensions, schools and Iraq but East London will be the only place it will benefit the left. I challenge anyone on the left to attack that when Margaret Hodge so stupidly inflames the possibility of labour’s failure benefiting the Nazi’s.
This really is the final thing I want to cover because despite its obvious opportunism it contains in it a seed of truth. The failure of Social Democracy really has left some of its traditional support vulnerable to the BNP. Even in Bethnal Green where it is being undercut by the left you can sometimes sense it. Older Labour voters who have worked for 50 years to retire in dignity left with no one to repair their council house and no one to hold accountable. You can recognise it from outside houses, where no maintenance has been done for years because of poverty and old age and on the doorstep. With the turn to the politics of management politicians and local councils have retreated from ordinary people. Political parties don’t come round, tenants Associations collapsed and community organisations have disappeared leaving people with little more then a sense of betrayal. Saying these people are all going to vote BNP is dangerous and stupid but not as worrying as senior Labour movement figures ignoring the problem.