Dead Men Left

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Camberwell: does not like occupation of Iraq

Having plugged it remorselessly (once), the Troops Out meeting down in Camberwell went extremely well: something over 200 in attendance, an excellent platform, and a debate afterwards centring on two upcoming elections: those in Iraq, and those in the UK. Galloway, and two Iraqi contributions from the floor dealt very effectively with the elections there: I had not realised how few ex-patriate Iraqis had registered to vote: something like 25% of the estimated possible electorate. It says much for the bloody, farcical proceedings in Iraq that so little enthusiasm can be mustered for elections amongst a selection of people certainly not overburdened by loyalty to the Ba'ath party.

Kate Hoey added something to proceedings, since not only do I suspect numbers of people turned up simply because a local MP was speaking, but because it added an immediacy of the question of who longstanding Labour supports should vote for. The Stop the War Coalition itself doesn't have a position, stating simply that people should vote for candidates who opposed the war, but that doesn't prevent a certain amount of grandstanding. The Greens, for all their fluffy image, are consistently the worst for this sort of trick: it seems to be accidental sectarianism, but demanding Labour MPs and Labour members leave the Party (as their candidate for the are did) wins them few favours. It's the extreme electoralism that produces it: if elections are the only things that really count, and Greens the only party really worth voting for, there's little reason to work alongside anyone else.

Respect's position is more subtle, and I think the right one to take. There's little point in asking anyone opposed to New Labour to vote against, say, Jeremy Corbyn, or Diane Abbot, or a sliver of other left-wing Labour MPs. (For my part, it looks like I will have to vote Labour for the first time in my life in the general election. Perverse, but what else can you do with a sitting Liberal Democrat MP?) There's certainly no point alienating potential support by making demands that first they break with Labour then we can properly oppose the war, tuition fees, foundation hospitals, cuts in incapacity benefit, council-house sell-offs, ASBOs, new road schemes, anti-terror legislation... etc. It seems fairly elementary that the question should be put the other way roud: first we work together on this issue or that, then we can talk about wider representation.

Final thought. Having stood on the door, badgering people for money, names and addresses, emails and so on, there's a distinct new layer of people wanting to get involved with all this. There were around 100 people who left contact details (hey - I'm good at badgering, ahem): that is to say, a very large portion of the audience had never been in organised contact with Stop the War before. Speaking to a few, the divide seemed to be a large group of those rather passively opposed to the war, now wanting to do more; and small bunch of those who supported the war, and were now seethingly angry about it. This makes me quietly optimistic, if we can maintain the momentum, for the national demonstration on March 19th.