Socialist Alliance: Supporting anti-gay candidates?

Correspondence between the SWP's John Rees and Stuart Richardson of Erdington SA regarding rumours of a 'Peace and Justice' electoral campaign

Letter from John Rees of the SWP and SA executive to the previous Birmingham SA committee, June 11

I would be more than happy to speak at a Birmingham Socialist Alliance members meeting to discuss any action that I have taken to advance the strategy agreed by the Socialist Alliance executive as far back as the planning of the London meeting in Friends Meeting House last March and more recently adopted by the national conference. I will also be happy to report on other meetings that I have held on the broad issue of left unity, even though some of these were discussions between comrades in the Stop the War Coalition and in which I was neither asked to, nor did I, speak for the Socialist Alliance.

Yours fraternally
John Rees

Personal response from Stuart Richardson, treasurer of Erdington SA and supporter of Resistance, issued at the AGM

Comrades will notice John Rees has not given the information as requested by the Birmingham Socialist Alliance committee. To provide some information I will report on my conversation with John at the national SA conference on May 10.

John had reported to the conference that a meeting had taken place between himself, Salma Yaqoob and a representative from the Birmingham Central Mosque. I asked why the Birmingham Socialist Alliance had not been informed about the discussions at this meeting since part of the conversation involved the 2004 Euro elections. I also stated that I would welcome a muslim candidate who stood as a socialist candidate on a basic socialist programme.

He stated that he had discussed with Salma Yaqoob and the proposal was that she stand in the Euro elections on a limited programme - limited in its commitment to women’s rights and there would be no mention of gay rights.

Seeking to avoid a long discussion, I stated it was important he report in writing to the Birmingham SA so that all comrades could be aware of the proposals. He avoided giving any commitment to keeping the Birmingham SA informed of these discussions.

In my view it could be a dangerous proposal for the SA to support a candidate who does not stand on a socialist programme and even refuses to support lesbian and gay rights. The New Labour government is introducing a limited proposal to enhance the rights of couples in same-sex relationships. Are we going to support a candidate who has more reactionary/backward views on women’s/gay rights than the government? Surely it would discredit the SA in broad sectors of the labour movement and in particular in the lesbian and gay community if we promote candidates who refused to support full and equal rights for women and lesbians/gays?

However, if candidates from the muslim community are willing to stand as socialist candidates, in line with the resolution passed at the last national council (“We should aim to build for a big intervention into the next general election with the goal of ensuring that there is a socialist candidate in every constituency”), we should welcome them with open arms.