By Greg Tucker and Joan Twelves (Trade Union Liaison Officer and Secretary, Vauxhall Labour Party)
London Labour Briefing, No. 40, June 1984
Support for the miners has become stronger in South London as the dispute has gone on; and people are dipping deeper into their pockets as awareness of the need to ensure the miners aren’t starved back to work has become more widespread.
A South London Co-ordinating Committee has been set up which meets weekly and at which CLPs, particularly Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth but also from other boroughs, several trade union branches and miners staying in South London to organise speakers’ tours are represented. It is in contact with CLPs in Lewisham and Greenwich where miners on picket duty are staying. The Co-ordinating Committee’s first task was to organise a Rally in Lambeth Town Hall on 25th April, which was sponsored by 30 labour movement bodies and attended by over 500 people, with others being turned away because the hall was full. Over £2,000 was collected at the Rally, where speakers included Tony Benn, Jack Collins and Kay Sutcliffe from the Kent Miners’ Wives Support Group, who received a well- deserved standing ovation. The Rally was on the same day as the NEC agreed to levy party members; and to link up with the occasion Lambeth Council’s Urgency Committee agreed to twin with the two mining villages of Aylesham and Eythorne, much to the horror of local Tories.
The other task the Co-ordinating Committee has been concentrating on from the start is trying to ensure that every Labour Party and Trade Union branch in the area has a speaker from the Kent NUM. Most LP branches have now been covered, and the trade unions are responding. We also want to ensure that women speakers go to women’s sections and groups.
Like co-ordinating committees in other areas, we are trying to ensure that the basics getting speakers, collecting food and money – – are covered in every area, Activities like that of Lambeth Trades Council, which is collecting every Saturday on the steps of the Town Hall, and of Norwood CLP, which held a street meeting in Brixton with miners speaking, are good examples of what should be being done throughout South London.
One of the strengths of our co-ordinating committee is that it has brought together Party Secretaries and Trade Union Liaison Officers who usually work in isolation. The committee has acted as a forum for discussing how we deal with problems such as effectively organising the NEC’s call for a levy of Party members.
The levy will be a major test for the Party’s organisation. At the grass roots we are aware that some ward organisation will be strained and a useful spin off of the levy will be that this should get tightened up – and allow those members who find attending meetings a problem to play a part. Our CLP has set itself a target of collecting f500 per week through the levy and street collections.
In Lambeth particularly links with the Kent NUM are becoming very close. Norwood CLP’s May Day social was attended by a number of miners and their families and a coach trip is being organised for 2nd June. SOGAT 82’s London machine branch has sponsored one coach and the trip will include a cricket match, the miners’ choir and a steel band.
The South London Labour Movement Co-ordinating Committee in support of the miners meet every Friday at 6pm at County Hall and can be contacted c/o Vauxhall Labour Party. It is open to delegates and individuals from CLPs, trade unions and trade councils in South London.