It’s the Genocide, Stupid: Change Will Come from Below

By Dawn M. Sanders

Content Warning: One mention of drug use.

Despite the fact there are more candidates standing in this general election than ever, 459 of which are independents, shedding light on a movement directly speaking to the broken two-party monotony which has gripped the likes of the UK and other western democracies, there are still those who will ask – if not the Tories or Labour, then who?
Not only is the answer in the writing on the wall, with smaller parties becoming more ambitious and vehicles for alternatives, the mainstream media, simply by-pass the true extent of viable alternatives, as not to upset the status quo.
According to Democracy Club, who collates candidate data and supplies data to the Electoral Commission, there is in fact, more choice than ever, so the lesser-of-two-evils syndrome, need not be an excuse for honouring pendulum politics.

Palestine, although horrifying, is the perfect example of and lightning rod for, mobilisation of the public and public opinion.”
As mainstream media gives no airtime to independents, this piece will not only counter that trend, but expose what official polls just will not reveal.
Many independent candidates are ex-Labour left-wing councillors or members, purged for their political persuasion; many are standing on the single issue of the genocide taking place in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank against Palestinians and some are pitching themselves at the heart of their communities, making a stand for marginalised and disenfranchised groups.

In the whirlwind of the final two weeks of campaigning, I caught up with one such candidate, motivated by community assemblies. The Umbrella framework has emerged to support various movements, such as Just Stop Oil and other initiatives, as the assembly movement is taking off.
In Exeter, a Labour stronghold, William Poulter (Willy) is challenging the Labour candidate, Steve Race.

Photo of Willy Poulter
Photo of William Poulter

Studying environmental science, Poulter realised the driver behind climate breakdown, was political breakdown itself. Joining the climate justice movement, he was arrested, where he first ‘cut his teeth’ in campaigning.
He worked as a community organiser, then became a support worker.
Being a support worker was a difficult role – the people were amazing. However, one of the problems I had was seeing people struggling with no real affective safety net. That was hard to witness, and people were being left to die and that’s not putting it too bluntly.
In his twenties, he had been a domiciliary carer and things had become so much worse.
He was made redundant as a support worker: “It was ‘so devastating’ because people were already struggling and now, they were losing their support worker as well.
He describes supporting people who, for whatever reason were isolated, whether from bereavement, poor mental health, or mobility problems and were losing one of their few lifelines.
A Labour party candidate came to my door and told me, even though he supported a wealth tax to put more money into the community, they would not advocate for it strongly and urgently, because it was not part of the Labour manifesto. Something in me snapped, maybe cracked and I was angry! I was angry with this person, how things were set up and how things had been allowed to be set up.” He emphasises, when Rishi Sunak announced he would cut national insurance, starting with community projects: “Something ‘really snapped…
He was so upset he committed an act of civil disobedience – painting “Stop punishing the poor” “Tax the rich” on Exeter’s city council building and sat down to wait for arrest.
The reason I did it, was because I was desperate. It might not have been the most sensible thing to do, but I was desperate to show people, to give people a voice.
He told how when people resigned themselves to, ‘this is how it is’ struggling on with no support, it was hard to handle. So, when the Assemble campaign was formed, he jumped on it, as it was exactly what he wanted, being angry and desperate for change.

Not having a fixed manifesto, as part of a network of independents, what they are pushing for is fundamental change in British politics. A more inclusive, deliberate democracy, siting the current system not working for most people and more for a small affluent minority. Assemblies would be set up finding out what people wanted, what affected their lives and build a manifesto based on this principle, from the bottom up. He stresses how the campaign introduces something new – modelling what an MP or candidate should look like. When asked how the needs of people might be actioned, such as marginalised communities, Poulter acknowledged the challenge of assemblies was getting represented groups to the forums, such as community leaders.
For example, in one recent assembly for housing, homelessness and poverty, a couple of homeless people came, a few workers from Gabriel House (temporary placement) attended and he describes some results as, ‘amazing’ with members of Acorn (renter’s union) and the people of no fixed abode, expressing the need for safe spaces to drink and use needles.

Beyond the election, the growing network of assemblies would forge ahead locally and nationally – pushing for a House of the People to replace the House of Lords, sitting alongside the House of Commons, holding them to account.
Poulter explained how Exeter University student guild held a hustings, yet he and his team were not invited, as the Guild were not obliged to include candidates unlikely to get a considerable proportion of the vote. So, in defiance and to demonstrate true democracy, he leafleted and spoke to people outside going into the hustings.
He touched on how inaccessible it was to stand as a candidate if one did not have an entourage of support or sufficient funds.   

On the plight of the Palestinian people and some independent candidates standing on that single issue, he said:
Palestine should be on everyone’s agenda, and I can fully understand why some are doing that, but what I would say as a candidate is, it is not something I would take to parliament. I would trust the people to advocate on the things that are important and when you look at polling, people of the UK are supporting independents who support Palestinian rights.” He points out how Palestine is making clear just how corrupt politics is and how the establishment haven’t stood up to weapons manufacturers or the big money tied up in maintaining the genocide.
He cites how in the assemblies, when people come together: “There is magic, I’ve seen it.
Palestine, although horrifying, is the perfect example of and lightning rod for, mobilisation of the public and public opinion.
So, it is no wonder independent candidates tend to not get recognition unless of course they are prominent and pitted as outsiders by the mainstream media.

At Exeter Transform, a left-wing forum and day of networking, within a discussion panel exploring beyond the genocide, it was pointed out how the establishment were simply waiting for people to get tired and give up the demand for a ceasefire. Sadly, this is proving true, as most mainstream media has dropped Palestine from the headlines. 

Looking beyond the election, Poulter says: “We need ideas from people and to listen to people who traditionally don’t have a voice and we’re using this candidacy as a platform to do that.
Acknowledging he will probably not win, as a candidate: “If people started to show compassion, feel hope and gain solidarity, which would be incredible and a massive win for this campaign.”

This is a rare effort by the mainstream to not only ask, “If indeed Keir Starmer becomes the next Prime Minister” or “If Labour wins” as the establishment’s multiple mouthpieces all but conclude the general election is a done deal in obsessing over poll predictions, but goes that one step further in acknowledging the important and unique position held by independent MPs. While a coalition of smaller parties might form an opposition, at least part of any such coalition will be composed of independence reaching beyond party politics.

Seemingly, it is only small left-wing publications, alternative outlets or social media fully grasping the seismic independent movement at grassroots level. Often overlooked, due to perceived vulnerability without party backing, perks or constrains of affiliation, independents are gaining widespread support, simply ignored by the old guard – the mass rallies happening in real time in contrast to tired televised debates are amplifying ordinary or marginalised voices in this election.
The advantage of independents, particularly with a cost-of-living crisis, widespread poverty among children and a raging genocide, are their communities. This may be the get-the-Tories-out election, handing Labour a win but alas, the mainstream media have taken notice of the undemocratic tactics flying around and how Keir Starmer’s party treats its members, potentially replicating such distain toward the electorate, as any win will be short-lived and fragmented.
Rishi Sunak, on his way out, has gifted us with the perfectly timed opportunity    – when mass protests are ignored against the worst miscarriage of humanity since the 2nd World War, the next step is simply the ballot box.

This article has been updated with some factual and grammatical corrections. 

© 2024

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