Exclusive: Interview with Chris Flood, TUSC candidate for Lewisham Deptford
This is an email interview conducted earlier this week with Chris Flood. Chris was formerly a Socialist Party councillor in Telegraph Hill in Lewisham Deptford and is now standing as the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in the parliamentary elections.
What would be your first priority if elected as MP for Lewisham Deptford?
My first priority if elected would be to call a public assembly to oppose austerity & appeal to Lewisham council to stop implementing cuts & join us in fighting for the necessary extra funding from government to deliver health, education and other essential public services.
TUSC is standing over 100 candidates in 2015. Do you think TUSC will make any impact on the election debate?
We think it's crucial that we offer an alternative both locally, where we have had a record, as with Ian Page and myself campaigning against cuts in Lewisham council going back many years. But equally important is that we also start to offer something that has a national focus too, which TUSC does have now with 135 candidates standing in the general election. This is a significant achievement even if we get modest results. So therefore imagine if we get a weak coalition government and there is another election in a year or two? Having shown we can stand 130 plus candidates, what stops us in the next election standing say 200 plus? By this point the electorate may well have had a bellyful of any 'lesser evilism Labour administered cuts.' We will see of course. A lot of this will be determined by events.
Many thousands and thousands of individual trade unionists are supporting the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, who are not politically aligned at this stage. Of course we want all of these strands to be the back bone of a new workers party. TUSC is not just about elections, but part of a process towards developing that new party and to campaign. Straight after the May 7th election therefore, no matter what government is formed, TUSC will be calling public meetings across the country to bring together all those who want to campaign against austerity.
Can you tell us about your record, as a councillor and local activist?
Firstly I'm an active trade unionist and have been since being a young adult doing my nurse training. I am currently the Vice President of the lecturers union (UCU) at City University London where I train mental health nurses and do health services research. I am privileged to work with a great trade union branch and members and other executive members who defend UCU members conditions and education standards and principles daily.
My record as a previous socialist councillor still stands as well, as an elected representative along with Ian Page on Lewisham Council. We would argue these were principled achievements, often achieved having mobilised significant sections of the community to engage in the politics of a given situation with us, showing what socialist councillors can achieve where they are elected.
Readers can take a look here at our record: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/txt/132.pdf
I'd argue this is a record therefore that people can trust.
But also of course there's my role in the NHS. As a young shop steward in the National Union of Public Employees I was in the leadership of a campaign that successfully defended the threat of closure of Charing Cross hospital in the early 90s whilst I was general nurse there. This was part of the Tomlinson hospital closure programme. Again more recently whilst a Socialist ward councillor in Lewisham council I used my position and health expertise on the Health Select Committee to pressure the powers to be to 'recall' the Picture of Health proposals in 2008, proposals (read as cuts) which we all know were resurrected once again more recently. At Lewisham Hospital in the end, under the weight of public opposition, these Picture Of Health proposals were shelved. Showing how a principled anti cuts councillor position on the council can be used to support public campaigns with great success.
Similarly with the Hyde housing campaign in New Cross where as Socialist councillors and tenants we stopped a massive stock transfer of council homes in New Cross out of the control of the local authority. As we explained at the time stock transfer would not be in the interests of local peoples' housing needs and would in fact be another step towards housing privatisation with all the associated increases in rent, lower accountability, less democracy, less transparency over decision making and closer links with the private sector and so on.
Details of that successful campaign can be read about here: http://m.socialistparty.org.uk/international/all/International/3595
What issues are you active on now?
In terms of current campaigns I am in complete opposition to school academies. The threat to our local Lewisham Prendergast schools is clearly of great concern to all those who support good community democratically accountable schools. Again the 'academization' of our schools reflects a trend also being pursued in health and housing where big business gets increasingly the biggest say and it's hands on the finances, whilst the democratic input by local communities, teachers and parents is completely pushed to one side.
For his reason I am also closely working with other TUSC candidate Martin Powell Davies, a respected National Union of Teachers executive member, and TUSC candidate for Lewisham West Penge, to support and build for the next Stop Academies in Lewisham (SAiL) demonstration and strikes in the coming weeks to oppose the academization of the Prendergast schools.
As well as TUSC, People Before Profit and the Green Party are standing in Lewisham Depford. Is there a danger in splitting the "left" vote?
Within TUSC, we have appealed for all progressive forces who oppose cuts to come together in coalition with TUSC, with their own right to campaign and use their own materials. We don't have to agree on everything, thus allowing for different traditions and minor differences of view. We simply ask that all groups agree to a public declaration of being pro trade union, anti cuts, anti privatisation and to support the other progressive policies that we cite here: http://m.tusc.org.uk/policy.
There are excellent examples of where this has worked. For example in Camberwell and Peckham where Left Unity and TUSC are standing together by jointly supporting Nick Wrack. There are other examples of this nationally as well. There are the rebel Labour councillors that are working with TUSC nationally, such as the two cllrs in Hull, the two cllrs in Leicester, two cllrs in Southampton, two in Walsall and Warrington. In addition there's the former Labour cllrs in London - Kingsley Abrams and in Harrow Nana Asante.
Do you have any predictions for 7 May?
While I hope to see the back of the Tories, the reality is whoever wins in terms of the main parties - (including a Miliband and Balls led Labour government), we will see a continuation of attacks against the working conditions of ordinary people. In other words a continuation of job loses, more difficulties around finding homes and paying for accommodation, reduced public services and pay, all whilst the rich get richer. But we recognise the need to be patient. It's an important period as the space on the left for an alternative is opening up and TUSC wants to be part of continuing that debate on the need for a new workers party. Our intervention in this election is crucial in being part of that.