Mollie Stevenson is the Communist Party general election candidate for Newcastle East, interviewed here in the Morning Star.

“I’ve been involved in politics most of my life,” says Stevenson, who works part-time as a sales adviser for a major print cartridge company.
“I used to be in the Labour Party, but when Labour shifted to the right, I left Labour and later joined the Communist Party,” she explains.
Stevenson turned her back on Labour during the Blair years, partly because of the Iraq war but also because “I just didn’t feel that it was the party for the people any more.
“Public services got privatised and sold off and it just wasn’t the party I wanted to be involved in.”
She took a break from active politics after leaving Labour to have her children. Once they were older, she decided to become involved again and opted to join the Communist Party.
A member of the Unite union, she is fully involved in her local community as secretary of North Tyneside People’s Assembly.
“The people involved in the People’s Assembly come from lots of different backgrounds,” she says.
“It’s very interesting to work with other organisations and to listen to what other people think, talk about things broadly instead of always being against each other as political parties and organisations.
“A number of local union branches are affiliated to the People’s Assembly and we do get lots of support when we have events.”
Stevenson has pulled together an enthusiastic and hard-working band of supporters for her contest, receiving a warm reception on the doorstep.
“The main issues raised in Newcastle are the bedroom tax, benefit sanctions and local unemployment,” she says.
“We’ve had a very positive reception locally. I’ve had quite a few people saying that they are going to vote for me and are very interested in the policies.
“Getting our party name out there has been good and people are starting to realise that Communist isn’t such a scary word as they thought it was.
“I think that the good reception we’ve got has been because we have got policies for the people.”
While looking into the rise of foodbanks last year, Stevenson discovered that the busiest in Britain was in her own area, being visited by 22,000 people.
She snorts her disdain for David Cameron’s claim that foodbanks have attracted more custom because of publicity he has given them.
“I certainly don’t think it’s that,” she laughs.
“I’ve looked into them quite a bit and I know that people have to be referred to a foodbank by social services or their GP.
“They can’t just go in because they’ve seen it advertised. There would have to be a proper need. They would have to be assessed and have no money and no other way of getting food for the family.”
The Communist Party has pushed the boat out in this election, investing in colourful billboards with candidates’ pictures and the slogan Tax the Rich that have aroused great interest where they have been put up.
That was certainly the case in Newcastle East where the Communist message appeared on a billboard outside the Stagecoach bus garage.
Despite it being put up legally and paid for weeks earlier, the publicity company that rents out the billboards on behalf of landowners notified the Communist Party that Stagecoach wanted the poster removed.
“We were told that Stagecoach had complained, claiming that it was their policy not to allow any political billboards,” says Stevenson.
It is worth noting that Stagecoach chairman and co-founder Brian Souter received a knighthood in 2011 on the recommendation of the Scottish National Party government just as he was donating half a million quid to the SNP for the Holyrood elections.
Souter also bankrolled a campaign to oppose repeal of a law banning the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools, resulting in billboards peddling a homophobic message popping up all over Scotland.
Against political billboards? Perhaps it’s a question of what brand of politics.
Stevenson points out that, at this stage of the campaign, it’s impossible to find new hoardings to project the Communist message because they are all booked.
“I don’t understand why you can’t have freedom of speech and have a billboard up when there is an election on,” she says.
“I’m not sure if it would be the same if it was a different party. None of it really rings true.”
Newcastle East has been rock-solid Labour for decades, so why put up a Communist candidate without a realistic chance of winning?
“It’s very much a case of putting pressure on Labour, such as what’s happened with the bedroom tax,” explains Stevenson.
“Abolition wasn’t Labour’s policy a year or two back, but as it’s got nearer to the election, they’ve said that they will. We’ve always said that we don’t agree with the bedroom tax.
“Because Labour is getting pressure from the left, it is having to adapt its policies now, but whether it actually happens when they get into power is another matter. Whatever happens, we’ll continue putting pressure on,” she says.
“We’re standing to let people know that there are other policies out there. It might persuade Labour to return to some that it used to have many years ago.”

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