Scargill launches campaign

Just over 50 people attended the well publicised launch of the Socialist Labour Party?s general election campaign in Hartlepool on May 13. The candidate is of course none other than SLP numero uno Arthur Scargill himself.

A handful of SLP comrades from different parts of the north-east were in the audience, along with a smattering of former National Union of Mineworkers activists, an older layer of ex-Labour Party socialists and supporters of the Socialist Alliance.

Arthur gave us his usual mix of class struggle politics combined with a bit of ?how I will save Britain by withdrawing from the EU?. Arthur is a good turn and can play to an audience with quite brilliant skill. However, he appeared a little off form this evening, lacking his usual vigour. Not that his audience gave him many troublesome questions. Apart form a few persistent moans about ?benefit cheats?, the questions were largely planted. What will you do about the anti-trade union laws? Will there be any health service if Labour gets in again?

Stockton South SA candidate Lawrie Coombs wished the SLP well in Hartlepool and asked a question about how Scargill thought we could campaign to stop trade unions such as the NUM throwing away millions supporting anti-working class Labour candidates, and leaving unions freer to support candidates such as those of the SLP in Hartlepool and the SA in Stockton. Arthur seemed taken off guard and gave a complicated reply about a small number of trade union regions and branches who are affiliated to the SLP, but said we should not challenge the political fund, as it would divorce unions from politics. He also seemed wary of directly challenging the trade union bureaucracy politically. Several in the room seemed slightly bemused by this reticence.

In this, the supposed showpiece campaign for Scargill?s party, things do not look good - even one or two of his own SLP comrades bravely running the show locally are sceptical about Scargill?s go-it-alone policy. There were no comrades selling Socialist News, the SLP paper - only the Weekly Worker and The Socialist were available outside.

Arthur?s single-mindedness and self-belief have made him a household name. However, although the old master can still tell a few decent jokes, the biggest one is the shell that ?Britain?s fourth largest party? has become.

Bill Jeannes