Poll turns against Labour, Socialist Alliance turns against justice

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

Brent East by-election, Poll turns against Labou, Socialist Alliance turns against justice

Labour canvassers faced hostility and anger during the recent Brent East by-election. Many former Labour voters declared they could no longer support a party which had launched an illegal war in Iraq and wants to bring in private investment in hospitals and education. In a massive rejection of Labour’s policies, its 13,047 majority was overturned by the Liberals, with 8,158 votes to Labour’s 7,040. The turnout was just 36%. Brent East is a socially and racially mixed area with a large Irish and immigrant population.

There was a total lack of enthusiasm and ideas from all the establishment parties. The single event to enliven a dull campaign was the candidature of Kelly McBride, a working class mother from North Belfast. Kelly travelled to London to pursue justice for her brother Peter, who was murdered by the British Army at the age of 18.
Kelly explained her reasons for standing: ‘I don’t expect to win… but…I hope to win justice. If a major can be expelled for cheating in a game show, why should convicted murderers be kept in the army, and even promoted? My brother Peter was unarmed, posed no threat, but was shot in the back. The courts convicted the two soldiers who shot him of murder. But [they] remain in the army.’ One of Peter McBride’s killers has since been promoted while fighting in Labour’s war in Iraq.

In a deliberate manoeuvre to undermine the McBride campaign, Eamonn McCann, a Derry-based supporter of the Socialist Alliance, spoke in Brent a few days before the election. He claimed that the best way to support the McBride campaign was not to vote for Kelly McBride, but for Socialist Alliance:

‘Kelly McBride has made it clear that she has not entered the election [to win]…but to focus public attention on the scandal of Peter’s murder and particularly on the actions of the British military and political authorities in condoning his murder. This she has achieved. The important thing now is to ensure that after the election there will be a political force with enhanced credibility left behind in Brent East…’

Yet if Kelly had not stood, Socialist Alliance would never have mentioned her brother’s murder. It is more interested in building alliances with so-called Labour left MPs than exposing the true nature of British rule in Ireland or building support for those fighting British oppression among working class people in Brent.

John Hume, ex-leader of the SDLP, is another dubious ‘supporter’ of the McBride family; he urged Irish voters in Brent East to vote Labour because its candidate had agreed to meet Kelly McBride after the election. Kelly says she has had lots of meetings with Labour politicians but has never seen any action from them.

Kelly McBride told FRFI she had received fantastic support from working class people in Brent of all nationalities, who were disgusted that her brother’s killers were promoted for doing Blair’s dirty work in Iraq. Kelly seemed amused by the interventions of John Hume and others: ‘Why are these big politicians interested in a wee working class woman from Belfast?’ Maybe it’s because Peter McBride’s story shows the true nature of the British state and its contempt for working class lives.
Jim O’Rourke

Kelly McBride got 189 votes. Socialist Alliance got 361.

The McBride campaign can be contacted on 07966 703137 or www.serve.com/pfc/#mcbride


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