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Interview with Roger Nettleship, Fight For An Anti-War Government Candidate, South Shields
WDIE: Can you tell us why you decided to stand, and the reasons behind the official name of your candidature, "Fight for an Anti-War Government"?
RN: It was not one decision but of many thinking people in South Tyneside especially those in the Stop the War Coalition. Ever since 2003, the fact that the government ignored the will of the people and launched their attack on Iraq has meant that the focus has been on the necessity for an anti-war government in Britain. This has become even more the case today with the refusal of the government to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan, the government's blatant support for Israeli war crimes and its continued threats to Iran and other countries. Of course, added to this is that there is a dangerous situation that all the big parties standing in the wings to take power are also supporting this same pro-war stand. So the issue for the electorate is to reject any new pro-war arrangement and fight for an anti-war government. This is the crucial issue in this election.
WDIE: Can you say something about the history of the struggle of the anti-war movement on Tyneside? We understand that you are forming an alliance with the Green Party candidate also in advancing this movement, which is clearly a significant development.
RN: Speaking of recent times, the anti-war movement has become more permanently organised on Tyneside. The people of Tyneside opposed in their thousands the attack on Afghanistan in 2001 and on Iraq in 2003. In the last few days the ComRes survey for The Independent and ITV, shows that 72% of the electorate in Britain said that the war was unwinnable in Afghanistan and the troops should brought home immediately. This is in part due to the fact that the anti-war movement has kept this issue central in the political life of the country. It is important that we carry this unity of the people against the war into the election not just so people can vote for the alternative to the pro-war bloc but significantly can develop the anti-war movement and its political alliance for an anti-war government within the old Parliamentary system. This is a system which tries to fool the people with the competition of the big parties when they essentially stand for the same pro-war and anti-people programme.
WDIE: How do you think that the character of your candidacy points the way forward nationally?
RN: It points the way forward because it shows how the anti-war movement can occupy the space for change over the war in the general election and keep the initiative in the hands of those forces that are part of the working-class and people's fight. It shows the importance of building confidence in worker politicians and other forces that are part of the people and isolates the Westminster cartel of the three main parties and the monopoly interests that back them. Without this fight, we cannot place the workers and people directly in the centre of the political life of the country and at the same time keep the initiative in their own hands.
WDIE: What has been your experience in regard to the local and monopoly media so far? It seems, for example, very much the case that there is a conspiracy of silence against the war in Afghanistan being highlighted as a crucial issue.
RN: Yes, there is a conspiracy of silence on Afghanistan between all the big parties and the monopoly and local media so far in this election. Whereas before the local media would at least factually report the stand of the candidates, up till now my press release has been ignored for raising these issue whereas particularly the big parties have had large coverage. In fact, it goes further than this. In spite of declaring that I was a candidate weeks ago I am not reported on the BBC or other local newspapers as a candidate. So far only the Northern Echo has reported that I am a candidate but says that I am an independent when I have registered with the description Fight for an Anti-War Government.
WDIE: Do you have a view on what the ruling elite is attempting to achieve with this election? For example, there is much talk of its being a "three-horse race" at the moment, and it seems that the media is actually pushing for a hung parliament. What do you think they would achieve by this?
RN: I think this has to be seen in the context that the political, economic crisis is so deep in Britain. That no clear champion of the ruling elite has emerged means that they are backing all the horses to unleash them on the people and test them out and then have the option to very quickly back a new arrangement when a clear champion emerges. Further, could this be the beginnings of a war coalition government, or "national" government, and if so then it is even more imperative for the people to break up these warmongering arrangements.
WDIE: It is early days, but how is the campaign going? The Westminster cartel always seem to try and steal a march on the electorate with their monopoly of power!
RN: Yes, but their campaign is a media campaign and in the media they are ignoring us and the anti-war movement at the moment. But the significant thing is that they are not able to occupy this space for change either other than saying they support "our boys". In terms of what we are doing, because we are participating in the election by presenting the electorate with an alternative and occupying the space for change, we have gone all out to mobilise people politically for an anti-war government. We have already prepared and had delivered 42,000 election communications to every household. We have also invited all the first-time voters, the youth, to our concert for an anti-war government which will be attended by myself and Shirley Ford, the Green Party candidate. Our supporters have been in the town on Saturdays canvassing support for the election campaign. So the issue is that we are there politically regardless of the outcome.
WDIE: Thank you very much. We sincerely wish you every success with your campaign.
List of candidates, South Shields Constituency
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