Loss of a comrade

Cecilia Prosper: February 13 1960 - January 8 2004

The untimely death of Cecilia Prosper will cause sadness throughout the left. Perhaps best known to the public for her excellent result as a Socialist Alliance candidate in the Greater London Assembly elections of 2000, Cecilia played an important role in making the SA a credible force in London politics at that time. I first met her when we both worked for Islington council in the 1990s. She was a housing worker and an active member of the Socialist Workers Party. She was also very involved in Unison and played a prominent role as a leading SWP member within the union. She was open and personable and able to work with others in a way that many of her comrades could learn from.

When she and 11 others were sacked by Islington Council in 1998 following an unofficial walkout, Cecilia took the lead in taking the council to an industrial tribunal. She won and the council were found to be guilty of racism, sexism and wrongful dismissal.

It was apposite that her Labour Party opponent in the GLA election was Meg Hillier, a councillor in Islington at the time of her sacking. The Socialist Alliance campaign was militant and serious, and it showed in the results: 8,269 votes (7.2%). In some wards in Hackney Cecilia won up to 20%. This demonstrated that the Socialist Alliance had a base from which a start could have been made in building a credible working class alternative. Even more, it showed how a serious organisation and a serious candidate, with politics far to the left of what is now being proposed for Respect, could make an impact.

Cecilia stood in three more elections after 2000. She opposed Brian Sedgemore in Hackney South in the 2001 general election and won 1,401 votes (4.6%). She also stood in two local elections in Waltham Forest, gaining 147 in 2000, but only 47 in May 2003 - the poor result perhaps reflecting the decline in the Socialist Alliance under the stewardship of her own organisation after the enthusiasm of those early campaigns. She must have been frustrated by the experience of that final electoral intervention. I worked with Cecilia when I was also a candidate in the GLA elections and again when she stood in Hackney. I found her completely unsectarian in her approach to politics. I was struck by her candour, when challenged during exchanges at political meetings and on the doorstep. Even when she was asked something she was not prepared for, she tried to give an honest and straightforward reply.

As a person she was warm and gentle. She will be missed for her vitality, commitment and humanity. Our deepest sympathies go to her family - particularly her young son - who will find it hard without her.

The best thing we can do in her memory is to redouble our efforts to build the mass working class party that Cecilia Prosper herself showed was possible. Anne Mc Shane * A memorial will be held in the near future. Details to follow