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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 15:24 GMT
Labour men back socialists

SSP banner
The SSP believes many Labour voters are ready to change allegiance


The Scottish Socialist Party has launched its campaign for the Ayr by-election with support from two former Labour MEPs.

Alex Smith, who failed to be selected by Labour to fight the seat, now backs the SSP, despite remaining a Labour member.

Alongside him at the launch of the campaign for the Scottish Parliament seat was Henry McCubbin, who was a Labour MEP but resigned from the party during the Kosovo campaign.

Mr Smith said: "We can see a build-up of momentum among Labour support who do not like what they see from New Labour."

Challenged about the possibility of the SSP dividing the vote and allowing the Conservatives to win, Mr Smith said: "I'm not here to hand anything to the Tories. No-one can forget what they did in their years of power."

Pondering ideology

Mr Smith said he remained a member of the Labour Party "by the skin of my teeth", but did not expect to survive after publicly supporting the socialists.

He has not so far joined the party led by Tommy Sheridan MSP and added: "I am not entirely clear in my own mind what ideology to follow."

Mr McCubbin said he thought a realignment of the radical parties in Scotland was a possibility, as had happened elsewhere in Europe.

McCubbin and Smith Henry McCubbin and Alex Smith support the SSP
The SSP now has 50 branches and claims 2,000 members, twice as many as last year.

It has just completed its second annual conference, which had the theme of redistribution of wealth and power.

Welcoming the backing from the former MEPs, Ritchie Renton , the SSP's West of Scotland organiser said: "The theme from both of them is that Labour has completely abandoned its voters.

"Neither of them are members of the SSP, but they are considering their positions," he added.

Minimum wage

The SSP candidate is James Stewart, a 36 year old USDAW shop steward in an Ayr bakery.

He plans to reject the full MSP's salary and live on an average Scottish skilled worker's wage, following Mr Sheridan's example.

Mr Stewart said:" One of the causes of poverty that I will highlight during the by-election is the scandalous level of the minimum wage.

"MPs on 50 an hour have the cheek to tell us that 3.20 for workers aged 18-21 and 3.70 for those over 21 is all we can have."
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See also:
28 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Hague slams 'puppet' executive
26 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Socialists riding high
25 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Dewar hint on election curbs
22 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Lib Dems pledge to deliver
21 Feb 00 |  Scotland
SNP kick-starts Ayr campaign
23 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Ayr by-election candidates

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