McCann: why I’m standing for Westminster

Eammon McCann hadn’t been expecting to run for Westminster, but he handed his nomination papers in at the Electoral Office at eleven this morning. He explains below why he and his party, the Socialist Environmental Alliance, changed their minds last Sunday.From Eammon McCann:

The SEA had intended to contest the local elections only. We don’t really have the resources to fight a Westminster constituency, too.

But we decided to give it a go anyway after a discussion last Saturday afternoon of the Westminster campaign so far. The stale and depressing nature of exchanges between the mainstream parties emphasised the need for a radically different agenda to be put forward.

The contest so far hasn’t been so much an election as two parallel polls, one for Catholics, one for Protestants. We have entered the fray to offer a very different perspective.

Sinn Fein is asking voters to deliver the killer blow to the SDLP and confirm themselves as the sole authentic voice of Nationalism in the North. The SDLP’s main thrust is to counter this argument. The basic difference between the parties concerns which of them will give the more forceful representation to one community vis-à-vis the other.

The DUP and Ulster Unionists are mirror images of Sinn Fein and the SDLP. They are contesting Foyle, not in the hope of winning a seat but so as to maximise their party’s overall total across the North. Again, the main point is, which of them will have more right on the day after the poll to speak for the separate interests of Protestant/Unionist community.

This pattern of politics leaves people who don’t fit into either category completely out of the picture. It also means that issues which don’t fit into the Orange-Green template are given a low priority, if they get a look-in at all. On both sides, those at the bottom of the pile are left behind.

This pattern also makes it certain that as soon as the election is over we’ll be back to stalemate. A vote for any of the main parties is a vote for more of the same—for stalemate and stagnation.

Meanwhile, poverty, unemployment, cuts in health and education, the destruction of the environment, the sell-off of the public services, economic development at the dictat of big business, lack of access to family planning, the repression of the young, the marginalisation of trade unions etc., etc. will continue, effectively ignored.

Water charges make the point.

All the mainstream parties say they oppose water charges and privatisation. But all are equally opposed to a campaign of non-payment—the only strategy with a realistic hope of defeating New Labour’s plan.

The main reason for the reluctance to back non-payment is that it’s impossible to fit a campaign of this sort into Orange-Green politics. You can’t mobilise against the charges in one community only. Water charges and privatisation will be defeated through a campaign which transcends the divide or they won’t be defeated at all.his involves people joining together in their common interests across the divide in

Building a serious non-payment campaign would do more to break down sectarian divisions than any other single idea or development on the horizon. But parties which are based on representing one community and not the other would be directly threatened by a campaign which mobilised people on a basis which has nothing whatever to do with what community they come from.

This is why they all claim to be against water charges but are unanimous in opposing a non-payment campaign.

The SEA is in favour of non-payment for the exact reasons the mainstream parties are against it. This is the difference in a nutshell.