Selected by a mass meeting

David Henry of the Hazel Must Go campaign is Tusc candidate for Salford and Eccles. Chris Strafford interviewed him

How did the Hazel Must Go campaign become part of Tusc?

Hazel Must Go was born in June 2009 after Hazel Blears survived the meeting to deselect her as Labour candidate following the scandal over her expenses. We had been doing petitions, leaflets and door-knocking long before we decided to stand a candidate.

The campaign involved people from the Salford Star, Salford Unison and disenfranchised Labour members, as well as various socialists, Greens and Liberal Democrats. People from community organisations who have had their funding slashed and staff from the civic centre also got involved. It was a random convergence of people who saw an advert in the Salford Advertiser. After my ‘citizen’s arrest’ of Blears I was asked to join the new committee against her.

Before the candidate selection we voted to stand under the Tusc banner after hearing Dave Nellist speak at our meeting. A large proportion of people abstained, as they either weren’t too bothered or didn’t know what Tusc was. Most people there were local and just wanted to get rid of Hazel Blears. We only had the provisional manifesto at that time. There is no way that anyone can say it was just a socialist or left event. We put out about 10,000 leaflets and many local residents came down to find out what it was all about. It was like a primary.

I was the only Tusc candidate that was selected by a mass meeting. There were three other potential candidates, including Alec McFadden, the head of Merseyside TUC who works at the Unemployed Resource Centre. He hadn’t been involved in the Hazel Must Go campaign and didn’t come to any committee meetings, but put himself forward as a candidate. At the selection meeting I won with a majority of five to one.

Now we are campaigning for something, as opposed to against something, and also others have joined us. We applied for and got money from local RMT branches, which covered the deposit. We also have raised about £1,000 through fundraising events like the one with comedian Mark Steel.

Some voters think at first we are campaigning for Hazel Blears, as her face is on our leaflets. But that makes for a good discussion. We may end up splitting the vote and letting in the Liberal Democrats, but that would be Blears’ own fault. Norman Owen, the Lib Dem candidate, tried to hijack our campaign at the local hospital, but refused to be photographed next to the trade union banner, saying: “I support the workplace, not the workers”.

You used to be in the Green Party. What is your position now?

I haven’t made any decision yet. The Green Party is changing all the time, especially with the prospect of Caroline Lucas becoming their first MP. They have been trying to protect their profile and asked me to remove any reference to the Greens from my site. They said I couldn’t be considered a member, as I was standing under a different banner. But people thought I was more involved with the Green Party than I was.

The Greens are a socialist party, even if they don’t come out and declare it. I don’t think you have to say you are a socialist if your policies fit in with socialist ideas. A lot of socialists have joined the Greens, as they are the only group on the left that offers a way in to serious politics. I consider myself an independent campaigner.

What would you like to see come out of Tusc?

In Salford it will help raise the profile of the voiceless - there isn’t really a platform for campaigns to get a proper hearing. It is such a high-profile seat and there is a lot of media and public interest, which is good for Salford and the movement.

I am trying to open doors for people through the contacts we have made. I also want to draw attention to the closures at the Salford Royal Hospital, where Hazel Blears’ husband is on the board. She was originally against the cuts, but is now defending them - even the closure of the maternity ward.

Nationally Tusc has been evolving since it started, but was put together at a late stage as a last-minute plan. I think it has come out of the need for a new workers’ party. There are people who are on the left of Labour who think the party will lurch left after the election. I think Labour will fall to pieces and suffer defections if they lose.

I wasn’t involved in No2EU. The worse thing was its name, as it came across as another Veritas or UK Independence Party. It wasn’t xenophobic, but the name was poor. In the north west we should have tactically voted for the Green Party, not No2EU, to keep the BNP from winning a seat.

I think we need a new workers’ party which is strongly anti-capitalist, anti-fascist and socialist, but encompassing everyone from green socialists to anarchists. Groups should be allowed to keep their separate identity, but be part of a united organisation. We could also form pacts with established left groups such as Respect and the Greens and try not split their votes. The situation in Scotland between the Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity is ridiculous, but the problem is the unrepresentative system - we must push for electoral reform.

What do you think of the CPGB and Workers Power not being allowed to stand candidates under the Tusc umbrella?

I am disappointed that those that wanted to be involved have been denied the opportunity.