Wednesday, 30 April 2008

"Our Lives Are Worth More Than Your Profits" - A Week in Politics in Cardiff

RH Tawney once quipped, 'What thoughtful rich people call the problem of poverty, thoughtful poor people call with equal justice a problem of riches.'

Over the last 7 days, our two Cardiff RESPECT candidates standing as The LEFT Party - Joe 'Red' Redmond, Adamdown & Karen Tyre, Butetown - have been out campaigning against war, racism, privatisation and poverty.

This is a record of the final few days of our campaign. We have encountered huge disillusionment with mainstream politics and politicians. In Butetown we met some of the poorest communities in Wales, surrounded by luxury apartments, next door to the Welsh Assembly. If we have in a small way helped empower people to organise at the base of society against the rich and powerful, then our campaign will have been a success


A day of strike action all over South Wales meant an early start and plenty of picket lines for Respect activists to visit before joining a huge teachers’ rally for in Cardiff. After chatting with members of the NUT and other unions, Joe and Karen were interviewed by Radio Wales, who asked whether today’s strike signalled the rebirth of the trade union movement – we told them “having been on civil servants’ and postal workers' picket lines we know there is already a mass movement against Gordon Brown’s attack on public sector pay and conditions. We applaud teachers for joining the struggle and will continue to build links between all unions.”

“Inflation and the cost of living are spiralling out of control at the same time as New Labour enforces the abolition of the 10p tax rate and hands billions of pounds in public money to Northern Rock. The government keeps telling us there is no money for workers in the public service to earn a fair wage and clearly this is a lie!”

Teachers also seemed very interested in Saturday’s demonstration against the St Athan, especially as several schools in the area are discussing investment from private companies which will underwrite the curriculum and groom pupils for the Military Academy.


A quiet day as far as canvassing goes – all our energy is focussed on making sure there is a strong turnout for the weekend’s two major events. Like every other day for the past few weeks though there are always more leaflets to be posted!


Joe & Karen join March against £14 billion being spent on a huge Military Academy being built near Cardiff run by private companies like Raytheon who manufacture cluster bombs. We think this is a massive waste of public money - why are we told there's no money for pensions and public services, but there's always money for war? There are lots of young people on the march and a big delegation from the PCS trade union, many of whom we have met on the picket lines in the last year.

Police serve Public Order Act on the demonstration to prevent us marching in the City Centre where people can see us - it seems the political establishment in Wales is rattled. The highlight of the day is an impassioned speech from Davy McAuley from the Derry Raytheon 9 campaign; he talks about meeting a family in Lebanon who lost 20 family members to a Raytheon bomb, and seeing children with their limbs blown off. Later in the bar, we have a long conversation about socialism, setting up an organised trade union faction and the living wage campaign.


With many of our members up in London joining thousands at the LoveMusicHateRacism Carnival against the Nazi BNP, the rest of us canvass a couple of neighbourhoods in Adamsdown.

It's good to see a local shop with our election leaflet up. On the doorstep a major issue seems to be lack of youth facilities and anything for young people to do in the area. People complain about politicians making promises to the local community but not delivering, the local park for example needs work. We try and connect the local issues to the big issues of privatisation and the government’s refusal to tax the rich to fund public services, and the lack of decent council housing.

We also challenge those who want let our politicians off the hook by blaming immigrants for bad housing and the state of the NHS - we defend our multicultural society.


Joe and Karen visit Butetown Community Centre to hear a presentation from the Local Health Board on the future of health services in Cardiff and specifically the future of Butetown Community Centre which has been threatened with closure. There is a great turnout - local people are extremely worried about the disruption to services and question why other parts of the city are getting a better deal. One woman says she’s been seeing men in hard hats outside her window every day for 25 years – but all that gets built is luxury flats.

After the meeting we speak to community leaders who believe the council wants to force residents off the land so they can sell it to property developers. Just like people in Adamsdown they are angry about the lack of investment in leisure facilities. They blame lack of amenities for contributing to rising tension between young people from different cultures – creating rivalries rather than cohesion. We meet some really passionate people who are extremely sceptical about promises from politicians and interested in hearing what Respect has to say about offering something new and not just looking out for big business.


Karen attends a public meeting organised by Cardiff Trades Council to mobilise people to defend public services. A small meeting, after all, it was competing with election canvassing and the Champions League semi-final! During the discussion, we talk about how different ways of trying to reach people need to be used, relating to people enthused by the anti-war movement and anti-racist work. We've made a start at getting new forces involved in this campaign, lets hope we can keep up the momentum.

Meanwhile, our other candidate is getting the message out in the Adamdown ward, he says "I'm visiting the people in my block and surrounding streets – make sure they know the name!"
Other supporters are at the anti-Military Academy campaign meeting.


Karen and Joe have been invited to Red Sea House (home of the Butetown Elders’ Centre – an important meeting place, particularly amongst Somali men). We’re visiting after evening prayer so there should be plenty of people there and we’ll also be doing more canvassing locally if we have time.

Thursday Election Day

On the ground in both wards!

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