TUSC brings activists together to demand Housing For All!

Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, introduces the meeting

Nancy Taaffe, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow, introduces the meeting

Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition held an important and successful public meeting on the housing crisis on 3 December. The meeting was joined by four residents of Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers, Sandra Sharpe who has been fighting the bedroom tax, and several young people concerned about the situation in private renting. Nancy Taaffe, prospective TUSC candidate for Walthamstow in next May’s general election, introduced the meeting and highlighted the different campaigns that have erupted in the last year. For example, the Focus E15 Mums campaign was launched by single mothers in Newham who faced eviction from their homeless hostel because of cuts by the Labour council. The New Era campaign is fighting extortionate rent rises and possible eviction. Nancy pointed out the important role of residents refusing to move when faced with eviction. She also called for councils to use their compulsory purchase powers to forcibly take over housing when huge rent rises are threatened and transform the units into social housing.

Locally, we are at the start of a campaign to defend Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers in Leytonstone. The council is trying to force through renovations of the blocks by a private developer. Nancy called for the £10 million (that the council has said is available) to be spent on the renovations – not held hostage to force residents to agree to the council’s preferred plan (including privatisation, sell-offs and building between the blocks). Nancy said that those residents who want to move should be able to do so with the guarantee of secure tenancies and social rents elsewhere. But those who don’t want to move should refuse to go. We have to argue that social housing is a public good – when people move on to somewhere else, the housing should go to others from the community who are in housing need. The consequence of these attacks on social housing, Nancy said, is that younger people are a captive market in the private renting sector. They face completely uncontrolled rents and crippling insecurity. TUSC calls for rent control, democratic rent councils to decide fair rents, an end to the bedroom tax and a mass programme of building and renovating council homes.

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, chairs the meeting

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, chairs the meeting

Louise Cuffaro, chair of the tenants federation, who chaired the meeting, appealed to people to collect signatures on the TUSC petition calling for rent control in the borough. She said that those social housing residents on the tenants committees in the borough could potentially get thousands of signatures between them in support of private renters, who in turn should get involved in the campaigns to defend social housing. In this way, this TUSC meeting was important for bringing people with different individual housing concerns together to agree on common demands and strategy. What was universally agreed is that the Labour Party is not willing to take the types of action necessary to guarantee everyone a decent, affordable home. The movement developing against the housing crisis needs a political voice, which is why building TUSC, including through May’s general election campaign, is a vital part of the struggle.

TUSC calls for rent control and council house building

TUSC calls for rent control and council house building

TUSC campaign a success for anti-cuts movement in Waltham Forest

Campaigning on Walthamstow Market

The results
In our first time standing widely across the borough, Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) gained 5,482 votes. This is a great success for our 33 candidates and all supporters and campaigners.
TUSC candidates received 3% of the overall vote, which is about 5% when adjusted for the number of seats we stood in. In High Street ward, where we stood a full slate, we got 5.2% of the vote; the same in Leytonstone with 4.9%. Our highest vote, 362 for Dan Gillman in Markhouse, means more than 11% of voters in the ward voted for Dan. That our vote held up regardless of how many candidates stood in each ward shows the real advantage of standing widely and will hopefully encourage other trade unionists and campaigners to join us next time to ensure we can contest all 60 seats.

Some of our candidates

The stand
Even before election day, the campaign was a big achievement. Working class people are told that politics is not for us – to leave it to the men in suits. So to gather 33 ordinary people who live and work in Waltham Forest to stand against all the pro-cuts parties, was a feat in itself. Our list included 5 workers from Whipps Cross hospital, 4 members of the RMT transport union (which supports TUSC nationally and also helped fund the campaign) a firefighter, teachers, young people and community activists.
We all pledged something that none of the other parties will dare to – we would vote against all cuts to jobs and services and stand side by side with the people of Waltham Forest to lead a mighty campaign against Eric Pickles and the Con-Dem government. Instead of a fight like this, Labour councillors meekly put up their hands in favour of cuts and claim there’s nothing they can do.

Preparing the cars for our cavalcade

The campaign
If election results depended purely on who had run the best campaign, TUSC would have been the hands-down winner. For months our pink ‘rent control’ banner and signs have made a splash on street corners and at stations around the borough.
Our demand for rent control to bring down rocketing rents and investment in building affordable council housing got a huge echo. We heard horrifying stories of families living in cramped, damp conditions, facing eviction for raising maintenance problems and paying astronomical sums.
We spoke to thousands of people on our rent control flashmobs, knocking on doors in our target wards and leafleting at supermarkets and schools. With relatively small numbers of campaigners and finances compared to the mainstream parties, we managed to leaflet 6 wards fully and another 3 partially. On all of these activities it was clear that the majority in Waltham Forest are sick of the mainstream parties and were pleased to learn of an anti-cuts, working class alternative.
On our final canvass, the night before the election, someone said he would definitely vote for us because we are saying what Labour leader Ed Miliband should be saying but is too scared to.
On election day we campaigned in Walthamstow Market all day and at stations across the borough at commuter times. It was clear that the campaign had made a mark – people enthusiastically wished us good luck and told us that they had or would vote for us. One woman told us she was so pleased she had met us as she wasn’t sure what she was going to do at the ballot box or if she would even bother voting. This shows with bigger numbers, which we’re sure to build up before the next elections, we could have offered an alternative to even more people.

Campaigning on election day

The future
The very good results in Waltham Forest are part of a national picture where over 65,000 votes were won by 560 candidates and one TUSC councillor, Keith Morrell in Southampton, was reelected. Given the limitations we faced – in particular a complete media blackout of the project – this is a roaring endorsement for TUSC’s clear anti-cuts stand.
We’re already looking ahead to the general elections and beyond. In Waltham Forest we will have monthly TUSC committee meetings, open to anyone who wants to help build TUSC in the area. We will continue our campaign for rent control in the borough – initially by collecting the 4,000 signatures needed to force a debate on the issue in the council chamber.
These elections were just the start.

Why we’re standing: High Street candidates

Nancy

Nancy Taaffe, sacked library worker:
“I have lived in Walthamstow for 30 years, I had my children in Whipps Cross and they both went to local schools. I worked in Waltham Forest Library service for 12 years, first at the big Central Library in the Market and then at Wood Street Library. I lost my job in January 2012 in phase 12 of the cuts.
The current High Street councillors, including cabinet members Clare Coghill and Liaquat Ali of the Labour Party, voted through these cuts. We now have 700 fewer jobs for our young people. Our youth services, which Clare Coghill is portfolio holder for, have been deemed some of the most cut in London – what a record!
Cynically the Labour council has spruced up the crossroads and pavements in this election year. But they have also already agreed another £40 million of cuts – they are not publicising this fact until they have your vote.
In TUSC we believe Clare Coghill and Liaquat Ali took the easy option, keeping their jobs and positions and believing that people like you would have no choice but to always vote them in. This time you have a choice.
We oppose the land-grab and speculation that is taking place in High Street ward. The properties being built are expensive boxes and will not solve the housing crisis. We also think that people who have small business that are linked to property development should not be councilors, in the interest of transparency and accountability.
The racist division of parties like Ukip is no solution. We stand for a united campaign to turn the tide. We want the rich to be taxed, the privatised industries to be brought back into public control and for the money to be spent on creating decent jobs and homes for all.

(Senan) Thanabalasingham Uthayasenan, Socialist Party activist:
“Having lived some years in High Street ward, I have sadly witnessed the deteriorating conditions in
this borough. Campaigning against cuts to jobs and services I have often joined protests at the Town Hall. One Labour councillor told me in no uncertain terms that not only would they not oppose the cuts – they were proposing them! But the council has a choice – they could refuse to wield the Tory axe but don’t. I stand long with other TUSC candidates to fight austerity.

Marvin Hay, local government worker:
“I work in housing for a council in a neighbouring borough so I know all about the housing crisis we’re facing in London. TUSC calls for rent controls to bring rents down and for a mass programme to build and renovate council houses.
Everyone should be able to afford a decent place to live – TUSC would make sure we can.

We’re off – final four weeks!

It’s confirmed – 33 no-cuts candidates are standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in Waltham Forest in May’s council elections – at least one candidate in every ward of the borough. It’s part of a national challenge where more than 500 candidates are standing. We have a really impressive list of workers, community activists and young people – all ready and willing to vote and fight against all cuts.
The work is well underway. Workers at Whipps Cross hospital are meeting twice a week to do activity in the two wards (Forest and Leytonstone) where 5 of their colleagues are standing – 1,000 leaflets have already been given out. Teacher Dan Gillman has given out 2,200 in Markhouse ward where he’s standing. Candidates in Higham Hill ward have given out 800. In High Street ward Socialist Party members will be canvassing three nights a week for the rest of the campaign.

Some of the local ward leaflets

And then there’s the general activity at transport hubs, Mosques, colleges and supermarkets. Our pink flashmob rallies for rent control, highlighting the issue of unaffordable housing, are getting known across the borough.

One of our rallies for rent control - by Whipps Cross roundabout

One of our rallies for rent control – by Whipps Cross roundabout

There are less than four weeks to go until the elections. Labour wants to think that people don’t have any choice but to vote for them – their canvassers have even told our supporters that no socialists are standing! But the truth is that people do have a choice, and have had enough of the three main parties who all essentially stand for the same thing.
If you agree then now is the time to get involved. Get in touch, come to our activity, tell your friends and on 22 May, vote for TUSC – a voice for the 99%.

Why I’m standing: Sarah Wrack, Valley

Sarah on the National Union of Students demonstration in 2012

I first moved to Waltham Forest in 2004, when I was 15. I didn’t spend much time here then – it was before I got involved in politics, all my friends were still in Tower Hamlets and as far as I was concerned, there was nothing to do here.
But when I came back from university in 2010, I started a job in Leytonstone and moved into a shared rented house just down the road. I was a member of the Socialist Party by then and so got to know lots of other activists who worked and lived in the borough.
At the end of 2010 I organised groups of college students from Leyton Sixth Form to protest as part of the student movement against the tuition fees rise and scrapping of EMA.
I helped set up the Waltham Forest Anti-Cuts Union and in 2011 we marched through the borough against the devastating cuts being made by the local Labour-led council, particularly to children’s and young people’s services.
In 2012 I took part in the campaign against the far-right, racist English Defence League who attempted to march in the borough twice. There was a fantastic response from the community and we stopped the EDL holding their rally in August and scared them off completely in September.
In 2013 I was involved in the campaign led by Whipps Cross hospital workers in defence of the hospital and trade union rights and against cuts and down-bandings, including a great demonstration through the borough, led by the nurses affected.
So in 2014 I’ve decided to stand as part of the Waltham Forest Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition list against all cuts. I’m standing because these fantastic campaigns might have successes or failures, but the bosses and politicians always have more attacks around the corner.
The issues aren’t separate – NHS cuts, council cuts, racism, the anger of young people – all a result of the capitalist system we live under that is run purely for the profit of the super-rich 1%. I’m fighting for a system democratically run by and for the 99% – one that can provide everyone with a decent home, education, job, healthcare and leisure time.
I’m standing because I want the 15 year olds in the borough today to feel engaged – to be involved in fighting to make the borough, and society generally, better for themselves and their futures. I don’t think any of the main parties are capable of offering that, but TUSC is.

Why we’re standing: William Morris candidates

Ken, Paula and Mike – local residents standing against the cuts

Ken and Paula are local parents
“We have lived in William Morris for thirteen years. Our two daughters have attended Winns Primary and Willowfield Secondary schools.
“We campaigned with dinner ladies and parents when the Labour council tried to privatise school dinners. When the teachers at our girls’ primary school were forced to fight against threats to pay and conditions, we organised a campaign of parents to support them. When Blackhorse Lane was proposed as a possible new waste incinerator site, Paula helped set up a campaign with local people, Residents Against Pollution. All of these campaigns were successful!
“As members of the Socialist Party, we have campaigned locally to defend Whipps Cross hospital, against the bedroom tax, to stop the racist English Defence League when they tried to march up Forest Road, against the war in Iraq and many other issues”

Michael McClinton is a retired train driver and member of the RMT rail union
“I have lived in east London since 1977 and in Walthamstow since 1985.
“For a long time I was involved with the local Labour Party and was chair of the local ward when it was known as Lloyd Park, before the reorganisation of the ward boundaries when it became William Morris.
“During this period local people worked hard to improve the area and introduced popular changes such as the controlled parking zone around the station.
“Those of us who found it difficult to park outside our own houses prior to this change will know what a difference it has made.
“It is crucial in these local elections to make the government coalition partners realise that they cannot go on cutting benefits and services for the most vulnerable in society.”

In William Morris vote:
Kenneth Douglas
Michael McClinton
Paula Mitchell