Gerrard Sables explains why North Devon branch of the Communist Party is standing in a by-election
When I stood this year in the general election for the North Devon constituency I believed myself to be the very first communist to stand in the South West peninsula. I was wrong. Edwin "Tappy" Tapscott stood in February 1950 for the Totnes constituency. Involved in that campaign were two comrades I had the privilege of meeting in their later years, Ernie Benson author of To Struggle is to Live and the Pensioners leader and author of No Thanks to Lloyd George Dave Goodman. Suffice it to say I was probably the second communist to stand in the South West peninsula.
Sixty years later in the South West outside of the cities the Labour Party is dying as a political force. In Barnstaple the Liberal Democrats have the working class vote. The Town Council comprises 19 LibDems, 4 Tories and a Green. On Thursday 19 July I will be standing in the Barnstaple Central ward,where I live, against a LibDem and a Tory.
Nick Harvey, North Devon's Lib Dem MP, stood on a strong anti-Tory platform and even at the count stated that a Tory victory would be "a very bleak prospect for the people of North Devon." The reaction to his becoming Minister for the Armed Forces has been met with dismay and disbelief. Many who might have voted Labour, Green or even Communist chose to vote for Harvey to keep a rather unpleasant Tory out. The first test as to the level of disillusion comes with the bye-election.
Wage levels are low in Barnstaple and a lot of the Central ward is either social housing or small rented flats. Each voter will receive a CP election leaflet and each Polish voter will receive a letter from me in Polish. I will not only be seeking votes but asking voters to get involved in joining and strengthening trade union organisations. The election campaign urges people to start tenants' organisations and claimants' unions.
What is clear is the need for working class organisation to resist the Tory onslaught on living standards an onslaught aided by the LibDem collaborators.
If there is a really strong campaign we should be able to attract the votes of all who consider themselves socialists or greens as well as disgruntled LibDem voters. Who knows what might happen?
Those able to give help in leafleting should phone Gerrard Sables on either 01271 373338 or 0845 3138397.