On the red green campaign trail

Dave Kellaway kicks off our coverage of left and green candidates in this general election campaign who are standing to the left of Starmer. These include left Labour MPs from the Socialist Campaign group, like Diane Abbott in Hackney, as well as candidates standing to raise the burning issues of Palestine or the ecological emergency, such as Tanuska Marah in Hove and Faiza Shaheen in Chingford

 
Tanushka Marah
Tanushka Marah

Even before nominations formally close, there are now hundreds of independent left candidates standing—more than in any other recent general election—as a result of Labour’s forced march to the right. Some of these candidates are more worthy of our attention than others. We will be reporting on those candidates who are credible. Although they are unlikely to win seats, they will win a useful number of votes. These campaigns are drawing wide support and are not tied to a narrow party-building project. Furthermore, they will contribute to the ongoing resistance on Palestine, austerity, anti-migrant racism, ecocide, and other issues. This needs to continue once the election spectacle is over, and we face a Labour government wedded to a partnership with capital.

Tanushka Marah

Tanushka Marah is running in Hove against Peter Kyle. A supporter of Tanushka’s campaign writes:

A vibrant campaign launch took place on 2 June 2024, for the Tanushka Marah campaign to replace Peter Kyle (the right-wing, pro-Zionist Labour MP) in Hove and Portslade. Tanushka is pro-ceasefire in Gaza, anti-austerity, and campaigns for working-class families in all their/our diversity. There were speakers, singers (The Liberation Choir), poetry, more moving singers, and speeches from, among others, Damian McCarthy of the Trades Council (trade unions), and a speaker from Brighton and Hove Jews Against the Occupation of Palestine. Libby Barnes and Hannah, as organisers and motivators, also spoke. We had between 200 and 300 attendees of all ages, diversities, and versions of Leftism and Peace for Palestine—vibrant!

What a campaign and what a superb, committed, and charismatic figurehead we have in our candidate, Tanushka Marah. Stuff the Tories! Stop the War! Stuff Starmer’s Labour, Stop the Occupations. Welfare, Not Warfare! In Hove and Portslade, on Thurs 4 July, vote Tanushka Marah (supported by, among many others, Ken Loach, Andrew Feinstein, and The Collective; Transform, The Bakers Union, and Us!).

Here is Tanushka’s statement from her election address:

I am an award-winning theatre director and mother of two who felt the need to take a stand against UK complicity in genocide. As a British Palestinian, I want to see an end to UK support for Israeli apartheid and the occupation of Palestine. I am standing as an independent prospective parliamentary candidate against Labour MP Peter Kyle.

I have mentored young people in creating theatre in Brighton and Hove for 15 years, opening access to theatre and culture to children from low-income families.

Labour has abandoned support for a Palestinian state and opposes ending UK arms supplies to Israel during its genocidal war on Gaza. Keir Starmer has supported Israel’s war, even while tens of thousands of civilians are being killed by Israeli forces.

I am running a grassroots-based election campaign, opposing cuts and privatisation of public services, and action on the climate emergency. I support improved youth services, a fully public NHS, and affordable, secure homes for all to tackle the housing crisis. Faith in our broken two-party politics has collapsed—I want to see an end to billions spent on wars abroad while people here are suffering and their views are ignored.

I am joining forces with independent candidates across the UK to challenge the Tories and Keir Starmer’s Labour and bring hope by taking this stand.

Tanushka has a much better five-point programme than Starmer’s first steps. She stands for:

  • A Free Palestine and an End to Funding for Wars
  • Taxing The Rich to Save Our Public Services
  • Housing for Everyone
  • Climate Action
  • Real Pay Rise For All

Details of these points can be found here.

Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott’s campaign is up and running.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/diane-abbott-campaign

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott

Over forty Labour Left activists gathered last night to celebrate the defence of Diane Abbott’s candidature in Hackney and discuss how to take the campaign forward. The rolling back of Starmer’s leadership’s clear intention to remove Diane and put in another leadership loyalist was achieved in the teeth of silence and non-support from the recently elected pro-Starmer constituency leadership. They had echoed what we now know was an outright lie—that the disciplinary process was continuing and therefore it was forbidden for the local members to raise a defence of Diane. Councillors and the Mayor refused to sign any letters of support, and the voices of local members who defied this order were immediately deleted from local branch WhatsApp group chats. Since the leadership U-turn allowing her to stand, the mayor and other councillors have now voiced their support for Diane.

We had an interesting discussion about how to develop the election campaign to contribute to supporting campaigns like Palestine solidarity or defending the NHS and also to regenerate the left in Hackney. For instance, we expect that Diane will speak at a Keep Our NHS Public conference (see below) and will speak out in defence of migrants and support for the Palestinian people during the electoral period. People agreed that political content that is an alternative to the narrow limitation of the six first steps should be front and centre of the campaign. It was pointed out that we should mix the normal canvassing with street stalls and other sorts of public actions or meetings so these issues can be highlighted.

One problem that came up is that some of our communities in Hackney might be confused about whether Diane is even standing. Other voters might be so disgusted by it all that they think it is not worth voting for the Labour Party. The meeting was encouraged by the chance of Diane’s campaign winning activists back and gaining new people into local politics. Clearly, the new local leadership, which had used the long administrative shutdown of the constituency party to build a new majority, is not happy at the turn of events. They were hoping for a new MP more aligned with their political outlook.

Another important lesson of the Hackney events is that the left can still win; it can still push back the Starmer juggernaut. This has implications for the next Labour government. If, for example, it tries to further water down the Labour rights laws or not pay the health workers, we could see quite a battle. Some unions intervened in the Abbott affair. Sharon Graham, in a recent Guardian article, warned Labour about taking workers for granted. While the Corbyn project is dead and buried, the left inside or outside Labour is not totally down and out.

Keep our NHS public London conference advert

Labour Party sources now inform me that the success of the mass campaign in Hackney, which won the support of six trade union leaders, deputy leader Angela Rayner, and a roll call of Black artists and celebrities, probably prevented a larger purge of Socialist Campaign MPs. Starmer might ignore a bunch of lefties, but national treasure Lenny Henry was a line he would not cross. Aspana Begum, the Tower Hamlets MP, was particularly at risk. Certainly, the attack dogs around the leader had to be called off. Loyalist special advisors who had led the witch hunt and organised the renewal of the right of centre to defeat the Corbynist left had been rewarded. To the consternation of local parties, people like arch Zionist, Luke Akehurst, have been parachuted into safe seats. Retiring MPs had cooperated with the leadership to delay their withdrawal until the last moment to avoid any messy democratic selection of candidates by local members. Stalin would have been proud of how loyalists on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) were able to delete candidates like Faiza Shaheen (see below) and also agree that six or seven of themselves could have safe seats handed to them.

Faiza Shaheen

The attempted humiliation and hounding of Diane was pretty awful, but the way in which Faiza Shaheen in Chingford had been treated is truly horrifying. At very short notice, while nursing her young baby, she was dragged to an online interrogation where fairly innocuous tweets she made some years ago were used to deselect her. She had been working the constituency where she was born and bred for over six years to remove Ian Duncan Smith—one of the architects of Tory austerity. She was one of the few Labour candidates to achieve a swing against the Tories in 2019 and lost by only a thousand or so votes. Anyone who saw the emotional, tearful interview on Newsnight on the same evening would have been angered at the state she had been reduced to. It is hardly surprising she has resigned from Labour and has announced today she is now standing as an independent.

People across politics are raising a simple question: If the Starmer leadership can treat people like this—the bullying, the smearing, the lack of natural justice, the cronyism—then what sort of government will it lead? Even quite moderate Labour journalists like Michael Crick have been appalled by it. One of the central planks of Labour’s argument is: look how we have changed our party—this is how we are able to change our country.

Faiza Shaheen stands as an independent in Chingford.

Faiza Shaheen announces her candidature

We will return to the political impact of the left independent candidates and the Green Party campaign in future articles. Hopefully, these campaigns can help contribute to developing a network of activists prepared to continue the resistance once the Labour government is ensconced in office and failing to really change much for anybody. It does not help to get carried away and mis-educate activists involved in these campaigns that the left independents will win a series of seats or that the Labour left is totally dead. Corbyn has a good chance, Galloway may hang on, and there could be a surprise in Birmingham, but elsewhere it is unlikely. Any delusional approach can easily lead to demoralisation and even a retreat from politics.

A final call out—if any readers are involved in local campaigns, either with left independents, Socialist Campaign groups, or some of the ‘left’ Green candidates, please send in your reports, however brief.


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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

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