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A Socialist for Coventry South

Zarah Sultana on why she's standing to be Labour's candidate in Coventry South - and why the party should go into this election fighting for a transformative socialist government.

Coventry is a great city, it is a city of refuge and a working class city. But the livelihoods, hopes and capacities of its people have been under attack. Not just from a decade of brutal Tory austerity, but four decades of assaults on union power, deindustrialisation and rising inequality. Enough is enough.

Born and bred here in the West Midlands, I’m standing as Labour’s candidate in Coventry South because I know the issues that working people in cities like Coventry face and I want to deliver for them.

As the threat of the climate crisis looms large and the right sets out to divide our communities against each other, Coventry needs a transformative Labour government. What’s more it needs dynamic socialist MPs that will fight for our communities in Westminster and build their power outside of it.

The coming election will be an unprecedented opportunity to irreversibly shift the balance of wealth and power in favour of working people and to offer new hope to those seeking refuge.

Having just run as a West Midlands Labour MEP candidate in this year’s European elections, I am ready for the campaign ahead. As a community organiser, I know how to win by mobilising people at the grassroots and as a young worker saddled with £50,000 of debt, I know what kind of transformation we need. 

I’ve seen the reality of inequality, low pay and precarity first hand, working in retail to fund my studies. I want a society where workers see the full fruits of their labour, starting with a real living wage at least £10 for all workers regardless of their age. I will not just push for a massive expansion of trade union rights, but from the CWU posties out on strike to university staff balloting over pay and pensions, I will be on the picket lines working to build the labour movement.

We should make no bones about it – austerity has targeted working people, people of colour, women and the disabled in Coventry, exacerbating inequality in the city. I will fight for complete reversal of the austerity programme, pushing for the replacement of Universal Credit with a system that respects, values and empowers people.

Coventry has long been a centre of automobile manufacturing. To secure and expand these jobs in the future, I will push for a Green Industrial Revolution to democratise our economy and deliver at least 850,000 well paid, highly-skilled, unionised jobs.

Just as the industrial revolution began in Coventry our city can now lead the transition to green transportation. As an activist with Labour for a Green New Deal, I will be a strong supporter of Coventry’s Green New Deal group, supporting climate mobilisations locally, and bringing a vision of a worker-led transition. In Parliament, I will demand decarbonisation by 2030.

With two universities in the city, it’s crucial that we support students by fighting for a free education system which recognises it as a collective social good not an individual privilege. Having been an organiser in the student movement, I want to fight to build the labour movement in our universities and further embed it within the local party and trade unions.

As the granddaughter of a migrant foundry worker, one of the things I love most about Coventry is its rich tradition of welcoming refugees and migrants. It is incumbent on us all to deepen and strengthen this tradition in the face of the rising far-right, and I will always be a voice for communities of colour and migrant communities in Coventry and Westminster.

The recent cruel deaths of 39 people trying to make their way to safety is just one example among many of the violence of our migration policy which is certain to escalate in the face of rising climate displacement. I will demand the closing of all immigration detention centres and an end to the hostile environment, pushing for migrants access to safe legal routes and public funds.

I will fight for a properly-funded NHS, an end to privatisation in all its forms and an end to the requirement on our medical staff to act as border guards policing patients. I want to ensure proper integration with a social care system which gives people all the care they need, supports disabled people’s right to independent living, tackles loneliness and ensures we all live better as we live longer.

As Coventry becomes City of Culture 2021, I will push to ensure that development in the city is led by the needs and interests of ordinary Coventrians – not developers. We need regeneration not gentrification, an expansion in affordable social housing, and public infrastructure and amenities to match, in participation with the local community.

Not long ago, a 27ft knife Angel stood outside Coventry cathedral, a memorial to those whose lives have been devastated by knife crime. Having personally experienced the scourge of knife-crime in our cities, I know we need a passionate fight for a public health approach to the problem, one based on prevention, early intervention and rehabilitation.

This must go alongside a dramatic expansion in youth services and community spaces. A political problem needs a political solution, and if I am elected I resolve to be part of it.

These are my priorities for this city, but they must be the beginning not the end of a transformation of our society in the interests of working people. I’m not standing in Coventry South just to wield power on behalf of working people in Parliament, I’m standing to give that power back.

If selected and elected as Labour’s MP for Coventry South the things I fight for and the decisions I make will be determined with, by, and for the communities our movement exists to empower.