Sullen SP still on board
Notts Socialist Alliance steer- ing committee met on January 22. The main item was the selection procedure for the candidate for Nottingham East later that evening.
The choice was between Andy Birchenough of the Socialist Workers Party and Pete Radcliff from the Alliance for Workers' Liberty.
The potential for the meeting to descend into a sectarian bunfight was there from the outset with the news that the SWP, after the agreed deadline for submitting candidates and after consistently stating that it had no wish to field one of its comrades, did precisely that. Suddenly it announced the intention of comrade Birchenough to run for the seat.
Many comrades fear that this signals growing SWP exasperation at SP wrecking tactics and, following the recent stitch-up between the two organisations, is the start of an SWP grab for control.
The SWP organised a meeting of their comrades on the preceding Sunday to discuss tactics. Leading comrade Rob Hoveman attended. We understand that a 'frank discussion' took place.
In protest the SP's Gary Freeman, issued a statement to the NSA e-group: "We have serious concerns regarding recent developments regarding the late announcement that Andy Birchenough wishes to be considered for the general election candidate "¦. At the NSA meetings the SWP had continually stated that they would not be standing a candidate "¦. Pete Radcliff was nominated and there appeared to be general agreement that the NSA could unite around him. In the last fortnight or so, the SWP started saying that they do not feel he is appropriate "¦. If the SWP have major concerns with Pete they should raise them openly in the meeting and we should discuss them. As Pete was nominated some time ago, and until the SWP raised their recent objections there did not seem to be a problem, we believe Pete probably has the support of a wider range of opinion in the NSA."
This was widely seen as an attempt by the SP to prepare the ground for a walkout. The favoured scenario, according to one SPer, was that the SWP would pack the meeting, everyone else would vote for comrade Radcliff and the SP would then piously claim to have been right all along: it was 'impossible' to build a 'genuine' alliance alongside the SWP. The SP would use the episode as justification for a decision to abandon the NSA and would be able to flounce off to Leicester West and back its 'own' SA general election candidate.
However, this was not to be. As the meeting started, the SWP made a welcome, and tactically astute, move in the interests of uniting the alliance, withdrawing comrade Birch-enough's nomination and confirming its support for Pete Radcliff as the candidate for Nottingham East.
Some amusement was derived when it dawned on the increasingly sullen SP that for the moment it no longer had an excuse to withdraw what remains of its local membership from the alliance.
On a positive note, things seem to be gathering some momentum, with a lot of hard, organisational work undertaken by ex-SPers Paul Shawcroft and Bill Walton contributing to the overall success of the meeting. Nearly 60 comrades attended by far the biggest we have had. Comrades Radcliff and Birchenough both made upbeat speeches and there was a generally enthusiastic response.
A brief report on finance was given. There was still very little in the bank, despite the £100 donation from the Communist Party of Great Britain. The SWP has pledged to contribute £500. The AWL has promised £70. The SP said it would also contribute, but has not as yet come up with a figure. This will provide Socialist Party comrades with a good opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the NSA, and we look forward to an impressive contribution in the near future.
A mass leafleting session is planned within the Nottingham East constituency itself, and other work, including the campaign for rail re-nationalisation, is also set to continue.