George Galloway makes a speech

Hundreds of independent and socialist council candidates are set to challenge the main parties’ support for Israel and austerity at English local elections on 2 May.

The official lists of candidates, scheduled to be released in full this week, were set to see many new forces putting themselves forward, as well as more established groups.

In the latest set of over 100 councillors who have broken from Labour, two councillors in Oldham, Greater Manchester, this week changed allegiances.

Nyla Ibrahim and Akhtar Shoab are both now sitting as independents because of Labour’s stance on Gaza.

It’s welcome that so many people are mounting a challenge to Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer—and for many, it’s Starmer’s crimes that have pushed them to stand.

But there also needs to be a serious discussion about what sort of left campaign is needed.

That was underlined last weekend when anti-fascist group Searchlight revealed the background of George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain (WPB) council candidates in Rochdale. 

It said Billy Howarth, an “anti-grooming” campaigner has been involved with numerous far right conspiracy theory groups, including Patriots of Britain events at Honor Oak in south London.

Socialist Worker research shows another prospective WPB candidate, John F Collins, who was selected as a candidate for Spotland in Rochdale, tweeted, “How come Diane Abbott’s son isn’t in prison? Sex offenses, drug offenses, assaults on the police… How come these charges all just went away? #dianeabbott #abovethelaw.”

Another Collins post said, “So (Sadiq) Khan and The Guardian demand Lee Anderson is suspended, and Sunak obliges almost immediately. See who’s in charge now? The Muslim mob is Khan’s army.”

He also reposted pro-Israel messages such as “If you support a ceasefire, tell Hamas to surrender” and pro-Israel army memes.

Collins announced last weekend he “stood down in Spotland in favour of a very good Lib Dem candidate”. 

The Lib Dems are contenders with Labour to be the bosses’ B team when the Tories become too unpopular. Nobody should be championing their candidates. 

On Saturday the No Ceasefire No Vote group meets in Blackburn to follow up its first conference last month. It brings together many of those who broke with Labour over Gaza.

It is scheduled to hear from Galloway, former chair of Respect Salma Yaqoob, Blackburn WPB candidate and former ambassador Craig Murray, councillor Suleman Khonat from the Blackburn Independents, independent socialist Michael Lavalette and others.  

It should both give a sense of the scale of the challenge to Starmer and also debate the way forward. 

We can’t build a serious left around a politics that sidelines issues of oppression in the fake pursuit of “class unity”.

Abandoning migrants or trans people in order to grub up a few more votes fractures the working class and strengthens rotten ideas.

We need a left that fights for Palestine—and also takes up other issues. And the most important direction for those who have marched over Gaza is still in the streets, building the movement, not the ballot box.

For details of the conference, go to noceasefirenovote.org

Jeremy Corbyn’s comeback is too late

Jeremy Corbyn’s Peace and Justice project was also set to meet this weekend. 

It’s a chance for Corbyn to declare he will stand against Labour and the Tories at the general election. Unfortunately there is little expectation that will happen. Corbyn could by now have been at the head of a mass movement if he had announced his candidacy when he spoke to 800,000 people at the Palestine demonstration in London last November.

Instead, still constrained by the desire to work inside labourism, he waits and waits. That weakens his impact and allows other forces to fill the gap.

For details of the conference, go to tinyurl.com/PandJ1304

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