Appeal for democracy
We ask you to support the ?Appeal for democracy in Hackney?. The facts of the case are set out in the appeal itself. Although the immediate occasion of this appeal is an attack by Hackney council on the rights of the Socialist Alliance, we believe the issues involved are of much wider importance and could have serious implications in the future. If Hackney council is allowed to harass the Socialist Alliance in this manner, a dangerous precedent will have been set. The rights of all smaller parties, and indeed anyone who chooses to oppose a local authority?s ruling party, will be compromised. The issue raised by recent events in Hackney has nothing to do with what people think about the Socialist Alliance or the Labour Party. It is about the fair conduct of elections, and the right of dissidents to express and campaign for their points of view. We hope you will add your name to the appeal, which we would aim to publish as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Liz Davies, Paul Foot
We, the undersigned, wish to protest against Hackney council?s attempts to curtail the political rights of people in the borough. In particular we wish to protest against the attempt to prevent the Socialist Alliance from communicating with the electorate.
During the recent election campaign the ruling Labour Party in Hackney circulated a leaflet claiming, falsely, that the Socialist Alliance ?come from outside the borough? and describing the Socialist Alliance as ?vandals?.
At the count on election night, at the instigation of Hackney council?s senior officers, the Socialist Alliance agent was served with an injunction barring the Socialist Alliance not only from fly-posting, but also from putting up removable placards on lamp posts or trees. Placarding of this type is a legal and accepted election activity in many parts of the country, practised by all the political parties. Now, in Hackney, it has been declared illegal.
There is a great deal of fly-posting in Hackney. Most of it is commercial. Some of it is political. But, as far as we know, only the Socialist Alliance has been singled out by Hackney council for this treatment. As a result of Hackney council?s actions, it is now illegal for any Socialist Alliance supporter to tie a poster to a lamp post. But no similar effective prohibition exists against any other bodies, political or non-political. We do not believe that it is in the interests of democracy that only those parties wealthy enough to buy commercial hoardings should be allowed to use public space to communicate with voters during elections.
The council is also taking the Socialist Alliance to court for the alleged costs of removing placards that were put up prior to the injunction being served.
Hackney council has even gone so far as to pay a private detective to harass one of the Socialist Alliance?s national officers at his home in Walsall, 120 miles from Hackney. The officer is himself a former deputy leader of Walsall council, and he has issued a complaint against Hackney council.
What we?re seeing here is the beginning of Florida-style democracy in Hackney. The local Labour Party leadership is using the council (and council taxpayers? money) to pursue a political vendetta against the Socialist Alliance. The role of Max Caller, Hackney?s chief executive and the returning officer responsible for the proper conduct of elections, must also be scrutinised. For over a year, the Socialist Alliance has been calling for Caller?s resignation because of his responsibility for the cuts and privatisation package adopted by the borough. His role in the selective enforcement of council powers in regard to the Socialist Alliance raises, at the least, the spectre of a conflict of interest.
The issue here is not just the rights of the Socialist Alliance, but all our democratic rights. We note that what happens in Hackney today may have an impact on all our democratic rights tomorrow.
- condemn the attempts to censor political debate and restrict freedom of expression;
- call on Hackney council to cease their attacks on the Socialist Alliance or any others opposing the ruling political party.
pp Hackney Socialist Alliance
PO Box 2 Centreprise
136-138 Kingsland High Street
London E8 2NS