The British General election is over and after 18 years of Tory rule, a Labour Government has been sworn into office...
Election 1997 news
British General Election Update
The British General election is over and after 18 years of Tory rule, a Labour Government has been sworn into office. The main issues concerning the British public during the election campaign were the economy, National Health Service, education and of course Britain's position and role within a Federal Europe.
However, for every Briton of Greek Cypriot origin the biggest issue on the agenda was Cyprus, its continued occupation by Turkey and what, if anything, a new British government would be prepared to do to end the illegal status quo in the occupied north of the island. The leading Cypriot community organisations planned their campaigns and accordingly some of them chose to support Members of the previous Parliament that they considered to be friends of Cyprus.
Lobby for Cyprus's campaign strategy was simply to oppose the well known supporters of the illegal Denktash regime, with the objective of helping the elimination of as many of these people from the House, as possible.
Lobby planned its strategy early in 1997 and put it into operation as soon as the former Prime Minister John Major set the date of the election as 1 May 1997. Lobby's main aim was to support the candidate of the second largest party in each of the constituencies where the sitting MP was considered by Lobby to be a non friend of Cyprus. Consequently, Lobby supported candidates from all three main parties, Labour, Liberal and Conservative. We compiled a list of these supporters of the Denktash regime using evidence derived from Early Day Motions, correspondence with Lobby and other activities that these Members of the previous Parliament carried out in relation to Cyprus over the last five years and before.
The list had almost forty names with the overwhelming majority being Conservative. Having taken into consideration our financial and man/woman power resources, we decided on which of the forty constituencies we could actually target. We also took on board advice kindly offered by an American campaign strategist sent to the UK by the Armenian lobby, one of the most successful US lobbying groups.
For each targeted constituency we assigned teams consisting of Lobby for Cyprus members and friends. Senior people in the Lobby ranks headed some of the teams. For example the Co-ordinator, Nick Kounoupias took responsibility for Sutton and Cheam, the constituency of Lady Olga Maitland, one of the highest ranked friends of the illegal regime. Other members took on Burton, the Constituency of Sir Ivan Lawrence, another leading figure in the so called 'Friends of Northern Cyprus' club.
During the 6 election weeks, Lobby for Cyprus members worked extremely hard in a number of areas across the country. Members of our teams joined forces with the campaign teams of candidates supported by us, carrying out door to door canvassing, distributing leaflets in churches, market places and also undertaking many other activities.
On 1 May, the British people made their own choices based on issues directly concerning them and voted for the party that they feel can best serve them in Government. We do not wish under any circumstances to claim that this was a result of our efforts. However, we do strongly believe, that in certain constituencies such as Ilford North, Sutton & Cheam and Burton, we have made a significant contribution towards the elimination of some of the supporters of the Denktash regime.
The following tables show the result that we helped achieve:
Of the 39 MP's Lobby considers unfriendly to Cyprus, 15 lost (see table 1), 14 were re-elected (see table 2) and 9 did not stand again either (see table 3) because their local party deselected them or because they lost their constituencies due to boundary changes. For the record, one of the nine was Sir Keith Speed another owner of property in the occupied part of Cyprus who was also the chairman of the so called 'Friends of Northern Cyprus'.
Some of the people who lost will not be missed by Lobby to say the least. People such as Lady Olga Maitland, Sir Ivan Lawrenece, Dudley Smith (who owns a house in the occupied Cyprus) and Peter Fry, were amongst the most outspoken and enthusiastic supporters of the illegal Denktash regime. The reunification of Cyprus will be a little easier with these people out of the House of Commons.
Unfortunately, in constituencies with large Greek Cypriot communities, some good friends of Cyprus, MP's such as John Marshall, have lost their fight for re-election and we are sorry to see them go. Nevertheless, we hope that their loss will be compensated by the fact that the newly elected MP's in these areas are well briefed about Cyprus and are likely to be as good, if not better, than their predecessors. People like Rudi Vis, Steve Twigg, Joan Ryan, Andy Love, have already stated their commitment to the re-unification of Cyprus. Another newly elected MP, Linda Perham, from the Ilford North constituency where Lobby for Cyprus worked extremely hard is also a committed supporter of our cause. See letter which Linda sent with the help of the Lobby to all Greek Cypriots in her constituency, enclosing a Lobby letter, both in English and in Greek endorsing the organisation's support for her.
In our view, as regards the Cyprus issue the overall result of the election was favourable. However, as a side we must not be complacent. Labour have made many promises but one must never lose sight of the fact that British foreign policy is controlled by the Civil Service and people like Sir David Hannay who in November stated at the London School of Economics that this policy (British Policy on Cyprus) was not likely to change under a prospective Labour government. In addition we also believe that the policies of the present Labour party are somewhat softer than those of the party when led by Kinnock. In a public address to the Greek Cypriot community in January this year, both John Prescot (Deputy Labour leader) and Robin Cook failed to make a single reference to the return of refugees to their homes, or the removal of the colonists. In contrast, in a similar address prior to the election of 1992, Gerald Kaufman, the then Shadow Foreign Minister, committed to the 'Removal of each and every Turkish soldier, the return of refugees and the repatriation of the Turkish settlers [colonists]". Today's Labour Party seem to us, to have either dropped the return of the refugees and the removal of the colonists, or do not consider them as important enough issues to be included in their manifesto. This could be in line with recent Foreign Office policy of sweeping under the carpet the issue of the return of all refugees and the disregard of the presence of the colonists, let alone their repatriation.
As regards Cyprus' application to join the EU the leader of the Labour Party and now Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair, confirmed the Labour Party's support for Cyprus' application to join the EU, but failed to clarify whether this will be unconditional i.e. he has not clearly stated that a settlement must not precede Cyprus' accession. On the other hand, Robin Cook the now Foreign Secretary, stated in writing recently (March) that, "accession should not be made conditional on a final settlement".
A labour Government is unlikely to seek the immediate implementation of Lobby's 3R's, (Removal of ALL Turkish troops, Repatriation of ALL colonists, Return of ALL refugees) but we must be positive and optimistic and seek maximum benefit of what we hope to be a more sympathetic collection of MP's. In the UK, we now have a government which has committed individuals in its ranks and with many more voices in our favour than ever before, both in the front and back benches. Hopefully, if nothing else is achieved, at least this government, if it maintains its promises could support the unconditional entry of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU. The Greek Cypriot Community in the UK has much documentation, written statements, letters, and recorded speeches, by leading figures of the Labour Party, now in Government, supporting, Cyprus' unconditional entry to the European Union, calling for the removal of Turkish troops and the restoration of the human rights of the refugees and must continuously use this evidence to remind them of their commitments.
We, Lobby for Cyprus, will remain alert and will continuously apply pressure to the new Government to honour its pre-election promises.
We shall remain committed to our 3Rs policy as the minimum principles for a just settlement to the Cyprus issue and shall continue reminding the new Government that the situation in Cyprus is one of invasion and occupation of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Cyprus by its expansionist neighbour Turkey and not, as the Foreign Office and State Department have in the past, and no doubt will in the future, try to present it as a problem between two feuding communities.
It remains to be seen whether the policies of the new Labour Government will be more favourable to Cyprus than those of previous Conservative governments. In Lobby's opinion - it is hard to see how they could be any worse.