A working-class feminist on Islington Council

Submitted by Matthew on 21 August, 2010 - 11:49

In 1982, Pat successfully stood in St. George’s ward for election to Islington borough council. Socialist Organiser, the predecessor of Workers’ Liberty, was active in the Labour Party at the time. The following extract is taken from an interview with Pat from Socialist Organiser No. 83, May 6 1982. As workers again face a Tory government seeking to make savage cuts, our class will need councillors like Pat who will argue for councils to refuse to pass on the cuts that Tory central government wants them to make.

We need Labour councillors prepared to stand up to [the Tories] — to refuse to pass on the cuts or to pass on the attacks in the form of increases in rents and rates. It’s no good arguing for these policies in Labour Party meetings unless you are also prepared to put forward candidates who will fight for the policies, and replace the councillors who collaborate with the Tories. It is important also that more women are prepared to stand for the council and to fight for women’s rights.

One of the main points of the Islington Labour manifesto is to decentralise: to build up neighbourhood groups and to provide on-the-spot help with maintenance and repairs. We want to put more control into the hands of those who are directly affected by council services.

A Labour council must also refuse to police council workers in the usual management role. Instead, we want to strengthen union organisation and to act as a team with them in fighting the Tories.

The Islington Labour Parties, like many others, have been very much affected over recent years by women active in the women’s movement or influenced by it who have come into the Party, established strong women’s sections, and played a big role in the left.

The fact that many of the Labour candidates standing this time round support women’s rights and have been active in the women’s movement will make a big difference; in terms of taking up women’s issues and helping women to organise to fight for their own demands.

In Lambeth, Ted Knight justified rate rises by saying he had to buy time until the big battalions of industry, like the miners, moved against the Tories. Especially in an area like Islington, with no big concentrations of industry, mobilising against the cuts and the Tories means mobilising tenants and the community as well as trade unionists. A fightback by working-class women is a very important part of that.

Many women are isolated at home. They don’t go to work, they are not in a trade union. Many are very despondent and cynical about Labour councils after previous administrations. I hope we can get more women interested and active. By holding public meetings and putting out information, we can help raise women’s expectations and provide a focus. The manifesto says that the section on women’s rights will be carried out “in close consulation with the women of the borough through meetings of comunity activists, trade unionists and Labour Party members.”

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