I, and other trade unionist TUSC supporters, visited Bilal Mahmood, the prospective parliamentary Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green on Sunday 26 January. TUSC had written to all the local Labour PPCs asking them to publicly state their position on trade union rights, restoring public services and benefits, a living wage, and public ownership.
Bilal was very hospitable and made us tea and biscuits. On the issues raised in our letter he explained that his general position was one of support.
He said he supported a living wage. He was appalled at the cuts and thought that his stance against Chingford MP and secretary for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith was imperative to stop ideologically driven cuts. He agreed with trade union freedom and supported taking rail and Royal Mail back.
However when we pressed him on how he would have voted on Trident, and the £30 billion cuts just voted through by 550 MPs from all three main parties(including Stella Creasy and John Cryer) he admitted, not unexpectedly, that he probably would have been with the official Labour Party. His words were: “I will tow the party line”.
Bilal Mahmood reflects a kind of Labour representative that believes that Labour has to be supported even if he doesn’t personally agree with them on every issue. He saw Labour as a “last line of defence”.
He explained why he had left the Labour Party after the invasion of Iraq. Along with millions of workers he was appalled that Labour could take the country to war. However, he later changed his position, and was seen welcoming Alistair Campbell of the famous “dodgy dossier” to a Walthamstow Labour Party dinner last year. He did not get the irony!
He echoed the position of a few Labour politicians that some privatisation, like the Academies programme, the sell-off of Royal Mail at a knock-down price, and generalised outsourcing of public services had gone too far. And also like many Labour politicians his conclusion was, predictably, that Labour wouldn’t be able to reverse any of these measures.
Working people in Chingford may want to get rid of the Tories, but, really, what kind of alternative does this candidate offer? This interview made us even more determined to try our best to get a TUSC alternative on the ballot paper in Chingford.
By Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective candidate for Walthamstow