Current Affairs

INTERVIEW: The Socialist alternative for London

Tony Grew April 15, 2008
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Lindsey German may be known to some Londoners for her work with the Stop The War Coalition, but the party she represents is entirely new.

The Left List is part of what used to be the Respect party.

Jubilant in the 2005 general election when their candidate George Galloway won a seat in Parliament, Respect has descended into acrimony and divorce.

The Socialist Workers part is now The Left List.

The Galloway faction retained the party’s name to become the new Respect Renewal.

As candidate for Mayor of London Lindsey German is not running against a former party colleague, though Gorgeous George has put himself forward as a candidate for the London Assembly.

Londoners will elect a Mayor and 25-member Assembly on May 1st.

Ms Lindsey has been a socialist all her life, in fact in her post-university career she has only ever been employed by the Socialist Workers Party.

She edited their monthly magazine for twenty years, and rose to prominence as Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition.

As Respect candidate in West Ham in the 2005 general election she came second with nearly 20% of the vote.

In the 2004 Mayoral election she won 61,000 first preference votes, or 3.2%.

Ms German spoke to about her experiences of running for Mayor four years ago, whether Muslims are more homophobic then the general population, and why she thinks there still is a lot of support for socialist values in London. This is your third election campaign, what have you learnt from your experiences of talking to Londoners?

You meet people that you barely knew existed.

I’ve lived in London all my life but last time (2004) what struck me was the different groups of ethnic minorities and the poverty.

It’s an educational process and you just find out many things that you didn’t know.

Do you thing that the voting system is fair?

I think that the system is unfair because of the money that you have to find.

I think that you should get some sort of award for raising 330 signatures and £20,000!

(Candidates must collect signatures from ten residents of each of the 33 London boroughs).

It can be really difficult for smaller parties. There are other ways that they can cut out frivolous candidates .

I think the media do give us a very hard time too. This election has been treated very much as the Ken and Boris show with the Liberal Democrat and the Green party getting the odd bit of attention.

The other candidates get very little coverage and I think that that is unfair.

What is good about the current system is that you can vote for the candidate who is closest to your views and then you can vote for the person who realistically has a chance of getting in.

Are you hoping for a seat on the Assembly this time?

I hope so. I got very close to it last time and I hope to be able to do it this time round.

I think there’s a lot more discontent with Labour and I’ve got support from the Stop the War group and also from the trade unions, so I hope that we can do it.

You want your supporters to vote for Ken as their second preference. Do you think that he is a good Mayor?

I think that Ken is a lot less popular than four years ago, but I think that Boris Johnson would be a disaster for London and it is important to keep him out.

Should London foot the bill for the Olympics?

It’s a national decision and it’s a government decision so why should the people who happen to live here fund the event?

If you took that logic, why don’t you just make people from the poor East London boroughs pay for it?

I’m not a big fan of the Olympics and I’m not particularly interested in sport. If your going to develop East London then develop East London.

At the moment it looks like it’s just going to benefit the property developers and the rich.

I live in Hackney and when I’m on the train I see all the construction work going on. I would like to see them working on council housing and schools for the children of London and not on these kind of projects.

Do you think that Ken should boycott the Beijing Olympics?

I don’t oppose him going, but I think that it is very important that people have the right to protest for the people of Tibet.

The British government has a habit of supporting countries that they want to do business with regardless of democratic rights.

Do you think that multiculturalism has failed in London?

I’ve lived in London all my life and I think that it is a lot better now than it was when I was growing up in the 1950s. London was not the festival of different ethnicities that it is now.

If you look at many ethnic minorities, particularly the Muslims in London, they’re the poorest, they have the worst education, the worst housing and some of the worst jobs.

We should be trying to bring their standard of living up, that’s the sort of integration I want to see.

Do you think there is a homophobic undercurrent in the Muslim community?

I think that you need to distinguish between the majority of Muslims and the small number of extremists out there.

In 2005 I stood for the election in West Ham so I met a lot of Muslims. I would say that most Muslims do not have a problem with gay people any more than any other group of people.

A lot of religions speak out against homosexuality but most people choose to adopt a laissez faire attitude to it.

In fact one of the people involved in the West Ham election was a gay Muslim man.

I think that our Muslim vote has been split and the more extreme elements have probably gone over to support George Galloway.

Last year there was a bit of a split in the party because we directed a lot of funds into having our own gay float.

We though that it was important to show that if you support one minority you should support all minorities.

George had an issue with putting too much money into the float which was one of the things that divided us as I felt that it was important.

Do you see the BNP as a threat?

The BNP always gains popularity when a Labour government is failing. When people see that the hospitals are lousy and the schools are bad, the BNP blame the immigrants.

People forget that things were always bad for the poor before immigrants arrived, but the BNP play on the peoples fears and that’s why they get a lot of votes.

The BNP also get a lot of publicity I mean Nick Griffin gets interviewed by the BBC on a regular basis.

I think that publicity is a very dangerous thing for them.

Do you think that working class people are prone to fascism?

I think that most working class people are decent and have an egalitarian attitude.

What the BNP and the fascists represent is a protest vote and that’s why they get support. A lot of working class people think that if they vote BNP then at least they will listen to them and in my opinion there is an element of truth in that.

What we are trying to do is become a ‘left’ protest vote to channel working class anger into positive force.

Do you think a socialist party will gain much support on May 1st?

I think that people are lot more interested in socialist ideas then there were four years ago.

If you are a socialist you have to be optimistic and I am very optimistic about socialism becoming a lot more popular.

Londoners will go to the polls to elect a Mayor and the 25-member London Assembly on May 1st.

Full list of candidates for Mayor of London:

Richard Barnbrook

British National Party

Gerard Batten

UK Independence Party

Sian Berry

Green Party

Alan Craig

Christian Peoples Alliance and Christian Party

Lindsey German

The Left List

Boris Johnson

Conservative Party

Ken Livingstone

Labour Party

Winston McKenzie


Matt O’Connor

English Democrats

Brian Paddick

Liberal Democrats

Stonewall will be holding a hustings event on Saturday 19th April attended by Ms German, Tory candidate Boris Johnson, Lib Dem Brian Paddick and incumbent Mayor and Labour candidate Ken Livingstone.

The event is fully booked.

More: Mayoral Election

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