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Year 2005 No. 58, April 28, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

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Personal Blog by Philip Talbot

Encounter with a Labour Party Candidate

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Personal Blog by Philip Talbot

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I have heard on the grapevine from usually reliable sources that rumour has it that “Stalinist” [!] New Labour “witch-hunters” have been looking into the party affiliations of a friend of mine Roger Nettleship, who is standing as Safeguard the National Health Service candidate in the next-door Jarrow constituency. Roger's election campaign comes out of his activism among health workers as a Unison official. New Labour presumably would like to cover up their plans to close or privatise hospitals, which Roger is trying to highlight. Cheap smear stories against him might divert attention from the real stories voters should be considering. Roger has never made any secret of his background in communism, and in fact he is one of the most open-minded and freshest-thinking political people I know – far more tolerant and generous-spirited than the New Labour “McCarthyites” now apparently trying to discredit his campaign. It would be a shame if the local mainstream media fall for any New Labour “red-scare” spin that might divert people from the real campaign issues.

            Ironically, in our own Independent campaign in South Shields, one of the issues we have been highlighting is how the present MP for our town David Miliband is not in fact a real local Labour Party MP – but a phoney Blairite type-of “Tory” in disguise, parachuted into the town to pretend to be a Labour MP. Miliband seems to me a London-based faker really. He is rarely even here actually. He has a house in the town locals call the “Black Hoos”! – because the lights are never on! He only pops into town for a few photo opportunities once in a while – which then appear at spaced out intervals in the local press to give the impression that he is here much of the time – then he hurries back to his real home in London. What contempt these New Labour people seem to have for ordinary voters in this town.

Philip Talbot (election agent to Nader A-Naderi, who is standing as an Independent candidate for the South Shields constituency)

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Letter to the Editor

Encounter with a Labour Party Candidate

Last Saturday I came upon a Labour election stall in the local shopping precinct.  I approached a leafleter and asked if the candidate, whom I understood from the leaflet was standing for re-election, had voted for the war and the attack on rights.  He looked rather embarrassed.  “Ask her,” he said, “She’s over there.”

            I waited patiently as she spoke to another man.   She was clearly in some difficulty explaining Blair’s relationship with Bush.  Then she turned to me.

            “Did you vote for the war?” I asked.   “Yes,” she said.

            “Did you vote for the Anti-Terrorism Bill?” I asked.   “Yes,” she said.

            “How can you stand there under the banner of labour and justify supporting war and fascism?” I asked.

            Her answer was surprising.  “Stop shouting at me,” she said.  “I’m not here to be shouted at!”  Actually, I wasn’t shouting at all, just speaking strongly.

            “Excuse me!” I said.  “As someone who claims to have represented the constituents here and is asking for their vote again, how can you not account for being instrumental in bringing about outrages the vast majority here opposed?”

            “I don’t have to account to you,” she said, “not to someone with such outlandish views!”

            “Excuse me!” I said again. “Are you saying the views of Brian Sedgemoor are outlandish, the retiring MP who denounced the government for bringing in a tyranny – those were his words – his father had died fighting?  Are you saying the views of such an eminent person as Kofi Annan are outlandish, that the war was clearly illegal, not to mention the views of millions up and down the country?”

            “Brian Sedgemoor is a friend of mine,” she said.   The relevance escaped me.   “Anyway, that’s not what you were saying at the beginning.”  She looked around for help.  Her burly minder was quickly at her shoulder.

            “We’ve another appointment,” he said.   “We’ve another appointment,” she repeated.

            With his arm protectively around her shoulders, hurriedly she was shepherded away towards an adjoining alleyway, the nearest escape route.

            “You’re just like your boss!”   I called after their retreating figures.  This time I was shouting.   “The views of millions count for nothing.  You just follow your instructions handed down from the rich!”

            Thinking about it afterwards, something really disturbed me about the woman – her appearance apart from everything else.   Her hair was elaborately blow-dried, bleached and couiffured.  She was expensively dressed.  But she wasn’t well-dressed in the English sense.   Then it hit me.   She looked like something out of an American daytime soap.  Glossy, groomed almost to perfection, unreal.  She clearly did not consider talking to her constituents to be part of her job description, certainly not accounting to them.   Here was a manufactured object, a participant in a political machine, going through the motions, doing the business of the state, fleeing from the people and their real problems as quickly as she could.

            This was underlined by her helpers.  They were clearly embarrassed.  They would not look me in the eye.  They began to pack up the stall.  One tried a feeble defence.  “I know the war is a worry,” he said, “but Saddam did murder trade unionists.”  I pointed out that the same Saddam had been kept in power and supplied with chemical weapons and WMDs by Blair’s predecessors and Bush’s father to use against Iran.  That wasn’t the issue.  The issue was war crimes and attacks on sovereignty and long-fought-for rights. He too went silent.

            I was left with only one thought.  How could you ask anyone to vote for such monsters?   Why not use the election to strengthen the alternative and to fight for a system where the people themselves decide?

West London Reader

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