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Q&A with TUSC Higham Hill by-election candidate Nancy Taaffe

Nancy Taaffe, the TUSC’s candidate for the Higham Hill by-election, sits down with the Echo to discuss why voters should pick her to represent the Walthamstow ward on Thursday 26th October

Nancy Taaffe

A candidate standing in the Higham Hill by-election under the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has said she would be a “fighter” against cuts to youth services and push for rent controls and more social housing.

TUSC candidate Nancy Taaffe is seeking the backing of Higham Hill voters to take what would be the TUSC’s first and only council seat in Waltham Forest. The TUSC is an electoral alliance of socialists, trade unionists and community campaigners.

An outspoken local activist, Nancy Taaffe has been central to several community campaigns in the borough. Facing redundancy from her job at Wood Street Library, Nancy led a campaign with the Waltham Forest Anti-Cuts Union against job cuts for staff before fighting a five-year battle to stop Waltham Forest Council from demolishing the library and turning it into flats. 

Speaking to the Echo, Nancy put a clear dividing line between Labour and the TUSC’s approach on housing, crime, and the environment. Criticising the council for “colluding with property developers” in its housing policy, Nancy said she would oppose the construction of a “column of tower blocks” in the Blackhorse Road area, and call for the removal of salaries for councillors.

Read her interview with the Echo below:

Why do you want to represent the people of Higham Hill?

I want to represent the people of Higham Hill to challenge austerity, stand up to central government and reverse the idea that relentless cuts and privatisation is the only way.

Why are you the best person to do that job?

I think I’m the best person for the job because I have been a tireless fighter for the people of Higham Hill outside of election time. As my election  leaflet says, we, the socialists and community activists fought to save Higham Hill library, not the politicians. 

We fought to stop the super incinerator that poisons the air of the area. We fought council tax and rent increases. The TUSC are seen all year round in the market, in Save our Square and outside tube stations, and not just at election time. 

What can your party offer that is different to Labour?

The Labour Party has been in power for over ten years. Historically they would be mobilising campaigns to stop Tory austerity. They haven’t. The Labour councillors dutifully trot into the council chamber and acquiesce to cuts. That’s not leadership.

They should not be colluding with property developers because they want more council tax payers because their grants have been cut. They should be demanding more money, like the Poplar council did, or Liverpool City Council did. Those Labour politicians stood up for us. Labour doesn’t represent the working classes any more; they’ve abandoned us.

What do the people of Higham Hill specifically need that they aren’t getting from the current labour administration?

Fighters. Strong leaders who won’t allow a column of tower blocks to be built in the Blackhorse Road area. People with integrity who will reject the monster model of housing that is being hoisted on us.

If elected you would be the sole member of your party in the Council. How will you make an impact on Council policy?

I would. But I wouldn’t be silent.  I would use my position to get to work with people from outside to pressurise those in the council chamber to change course. I would support the cleaning workers fighting for fairer pay, and I would fight staff redundancies in schools, and I would actively oppose evictions. These are the traditions that we need to rekindle if we are to reverse the feelings of helplessness. One lone voice in the council chamber linked to hundreds of voices outside can make a difference.

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

What is the very first thing you would do as councillor?

I’d put a no cuts budget together and go to the council unions to discuss it. I’d then look for support from those facing rent and rate rises. Plus, I’d launch a London-wide campaign with like-minded people for rent control and the building of council homes. I’d additionally reject cabinet politics and say that no councillor should be salaried.

What are the issues people have been telling you about on the doorstep?

People are angry at the building of monster blocks that are not solving the housing crisis and exacerbating the environmental crisis. Also, the council cut all the services for time in 2010. Now there are no services for young people.

Do you agree with current Labour policy on Low-traffic-neighbourhoods?

Everything has to be done with consultation. So I don’t agree with an imposition, no. I do agree that we need to cut noxious fumes across the borough. I believe we need to offer cheap or free transport (as they are doing in other European cities), especially on hopper buses.

Plus, I think if you provide local jobs and homes people will get out of their cars. I worked in Wood Street Library. They made us all redundant, bulldozed it, and turned it into privatised flats. 

Now we have to travel to find work. For working class people who have to get kids to school then to a job, then maybe to an elderly parent who is sick, LTN’s can make your life doubly hard. LTN’s need to be brought in only with the consent of local people and in conjunction with other services that will make our life better. It’s not lost that the same people telling us to get on our bikes are the same people building the super incinerator.

It’s often the case in local democracy that a small minority of people who make the most noise  are the ones who get heard and represented best in local decision making. How will you try and ensure that everyone in your ward has a say or feels heard?

Socialism is about everyone. It’s about including everyone, including the most oppressed and marginalised in decision making. I will campaign to ensure those that are not heard, are, but more importantly they should join with us and stand themselves. 

The Labour Party has a selection process that excludes left wingers and socialists, especially since Corbyn. We in TUSC want trade unionists and socialists to stand on their trade unions’ policies.

What will you do on issues of housing, on crime, and the environment?

I would call for a halt to the gifting of public land to private property developers, for all unfinished developments to be made safe and redesigned so that they meet humane standards, and I would start calling to house those who need to be housed. I’d link up with others across London and call for rent control. To have a licenced local recommended rate, based on real salaries.  Stop selling off council houses. Build council houses.

Crime is often linked to deprivation.  Cutting youth services back in 2010 was a false economy. Cutting those services that helped to steer young people away from crime is linked to an increase in crime. I would reopen and expand youth services. By expanding services we will create work for young people, just as Liverpool City Council did in 1985 when they created 1,000 new well paid jobs for young people and set about building 5,000 new homes. 

By creating jobs and homes for a layer of people we will steer them away from crime. There’s a reason more anti-social behaviour occurs in poorer neighbourhoods, we should be aiming to cut crime by investing in our young people.

On the environment, I would stop the building of the [Edmonton] super incinerator. I would link up with other campaigners to call for a socialist Green New Deal; one that creates work and at the same time develops environmentally friendly services and jobs.

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