The Socialist Unity Network

SOS campaign and Yvonne ridley

Andrew Walton

I am a Socialist Party member, who was involved in the Save Our Schools campaign (I was the electoral agent for their candidate, Pat Kennedy).  I read your article on Yvonne Ridley with some interest.
I don't think Save Our Schools were under any misconception that we would get a sizeable vote in the by-election. We were simply using it as a campaigning platform, and have already achieved some local and national publicity as a result, as well as distributing leaflets to every household in the constituency.
This is in sharp contrast to Yvonne Ridley's position on education - and while I see why you did not criticise RESPECT (after all they are viewed as a viable left alternative to Labour), I did find your criticisms very ironic.
The Socialist Party is opposed to the champagne socialism of Ridley and Galloway. While the RESPECT manifesto is, on paper, very sound, the activities of some of their leading members bring their socialist credentials into question, as you have reported.
The elected representatives of the Socialist Party - in Scotland, Ireland and in Coventry all take the average wage of a skilled worker in their constituency. We believe that you cannot truly represent the interests of the people who elected you if you then proceed to join the moneyed classes.
Unlike RESPECT, the Socialist Party is a thoroughly democratic organisation, built from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down. We see groups like SOS as a way to increase the involvement of ordinary people in politics; to show that through their actions they can make a difference. Most emphatically, Pat Kennedy was NOT our candidate. He is simply a parent of a child with special needs, who is outraged at the contempt shown by the local government in Leicester for the opinions of ordinary people. We found, on the doorstep, widespread support for our campaign, but obviously we were completely overshadowed by national politics and the understandable desire of the electorate to give Blair a kicking by voting in the Lib Dems.
RESPECT are guilty of distributing different material to different ethnic groups - an election leaflet I received called for a vote for "Sister Yvonne". To some extent, they have betrayed their socialist principles in aligning with the Muslim Association of Great Britain, with its faith-based attitudes, which are opposed to homosexuality and abortions, for example.
I do not want to come across purely as a sectarian. It is important that groups on the Left acknowledge our common desire to rid society of capitalism. We need to build a new mass workers' movement and this can only be done through a united Left. However, we also need to point out betrayals of our socialist ideals, otherwise such a unity will achieve nothing. I appeal to members of RESPECT to think more deeply about the tactics their organisation is adopting, and whether, in the long run, they are correct. Where we can meet on common ground, we should campaign together. Where differences occur, we should debate them and agree, comradely, to differ.

July 2004

Ben Drake's reply to this piece can be found by clicking here
Andy Newman's piece on Yvonne Ridley can be here.
Jim Jepps' piece on the by elections can be found here


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