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  • Published in News Archive

General election candidates at a South London hustings meeting were given a clear message: "We are fighting back".

East Dulwich Stop the War HustingsThe East Dulwich Stop the War meeting last night gave local people the chance to question parliamentary and council candidates about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the occupation in Palestine and cuts to public spending.

The local Stop the War group invited all parliamentary candidates for the constituencies of Peckham and Camberwell, and Dulwich and West Norwood. Local MPs Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman did not attend but were instead represented by Peter John, the Labour Group leader on Southwark Council.

The panel were grilled by the audience for two hours, facing criticism from the audience when answers seemed glib or disingenuous, particularly in response to comments by Conservative candidate Andrew Stranack that he had entered parliamentary politics to "do something about our broken society".

While Liberal Democrat Jonathan Mitchell and Conservative Andrew Stranack criticised the legality of the war in Iraq, all candidates from the main parties insisted that the current spending in Afghanistan and Iraq was justified and that "some good" had come from the civilian and military bloodshed.

Candidates were asked about Islamophobia In the wake of the EDL protests in Bolton at the weekend and the inflated sentencing given to young Muslim men for protesting over the Israeli strikes on Gaza.

Labour's Peter John controversially questioned the rise of Islamophobia as "not something I recognise". He instead used examples of tourists and local people being stopped by police for taking photographs in public as examples of the mis-use of terrorism laws.

The warmest reception came for Green candidate Shane Collins, who linked the unsustainable consumption of oil by the world's richest powers to conflict in the Middle East. Collins also argued for higher taxation for wealthy individuals and corporations.

While the evening was organised to question candidates on Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, local activists were clear in making the links between global capitalism, war and the savage cuts already sweeping the public sector.

Audience members argued that the proposed cuts would mean the destruction of the education and welfare system, and questioned how candidates could support the money spent on war in such a time of crisis.

Mick Lynes from Aylesbury Tenants First and Fred Milson from Defend Council Housing told the panel that residents of local Aylesbury Estate would not allow the planned demolition of their homes for a PFI scheme.

"People are starting to get angry about it," said Lynes. "If you tear down council housing you'll have a fight on your hands."

Nicola Field, an activist in East Dulwich Stop the War, reflected the sentiment in the room as the event drew to a close. She said: "How can you sit there and say there are going to be cuts? Do you realise that people are starting to fight back"

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