Monday, 24 August 2009

A Lewisham Peoples Alliance ?

I attended an important meeting in Wigan on Saturday. Held at the Pemberton Central Labour Club, the meeting established a Peoples Alliance -the coming together of the local Community Action Party, local trade unionists, the local Socialist and Respect Parties and a range of community campaigns. The unifying platform is the adoption of the TUC Peoples Charter in defence of jobs and services. The aim is to build a membership of a 1000 local people, gain signature's in support of the charter and stand candidates in both the local and pending general election. Dave Nellist the former Coventry MP and currently the leader of the socialist group of councillors in Coventry. Dave reminded the meeting of the years Kier Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party spent travelling around the country speaking in support of the established of an independent Labour Party from the Liberal party. One of the unifying and driving elements of the Alliance is the need to offer an alternative to working people and in doing so stop the rise of far right and the BNP. Dave reported that the No2EU formation is likely to take steps in September to establish a broad coalition. I will be arguing that in Lewisham we establish a Lewisham People's Alliance and stand in as many seats as possible, including a candidate for Mayor.

Monday, 17 August 2009

First steps to local left and community action unity

Hot on the heels of developments in Wigan, it appears that across the country progressives, community activists and leftists are having discussions and coming together. I have read reports that across many towns & cities in Lancashire, the example being set by comrades in Wigan is being followed. Locally Cllr Chris Flood from the Socialist Party has taken the initiative and invited a wide collection of community campaigners and leftists to a meeting last Saturday that has explored the possibility of standing candidates in not only the local elections, the pending parliamentary elections but also Mayoral election. A web site is being established and a further, hopefully, a larger meeting is planned for September.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The face of a loan shark

As unemployment rises, more and more desperate people are tempted to turn to loan sharks. John Kiely made more £3m from desperate families in East Manchester. He was convicted recently for five years following the work of council trading standards staff. Kiely lent to 1,200 families financing a luxury life style based on harassment and violence -charging lenders between 433% -2,437%! However both Labour and the Tories -the Lib Dems will meekly follow, all intend to cut Council services, which would include services like Trading Standards. Labour have done very little to promote Credit Unions, being until the credit crunch and banking crash, enthralled by the city and bankers. Credit unions are the best way working people on low incomes can save and borrow money on reasonable terms. ACTS Credit Union is based at 262 Kirkdale, Sydenham.

Millions jobless

News that the jobless claimant count nationally now stands at 2.4m is truly shocking. Locally more than 3,000 people are now claiming job seekers allowance and are embarking on a relentless search for work. These numbers are however likely to be a massive under-estimate. Hundreds of people who's partners are working after 6 months will loose their £60.45 and fall off the register and receive no income support. This level of unemployment is fast approaching the levels last seen in the mid 1980's under Thatcher's regime. It is not surprising that the dying days of this so-called Labour government could see higher levels of unemployment that Thatcher! These figures reflect the dependence of the UK economy on the banking, financial services and house building sector which has been badly hit. Other European economies -Germany and France who still manufacturer and produce things appear to be moving out of the recession. The plans of both Labour and the Tories to slash public spending are likely to lead to a "double dip" in the current financial downturn and lead to more than 3 million official jobless.

Road to Wigan

Radical, progressive and community forces in Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield appear to have come together to form a People's Alliance. The plan, as I understand it, is for community and political groups to come together to stand not only in the local elections but also in the pending general election. This could be a very important and interesting development and perhaps a model for others to follow.

The launch meeting is being held on 22nd August -importantly and significantly in the Central Labour Club, Pemberton. I hope to be able to get along and will be looking to network with others locally to suggest that this could be the way forward.

This political approach is very much in line with the thinking of the Socialist Party, No2EU, Respect and many independents. this ground upwards approach is very much in contrast to the previous 'top down' approach of the Socialist Labour Party and others.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Building a new party of the left

A couple of weeks ago I took a day's annual leave to help out the Greens in the Norwich North by-election. I helped staff a polling station for most of the day ('a teller') in a very rural party of the city - which apparently is going to be hived off to another Tory seat at the General election. Not sure to what extent if at all my polling numbers were really used -I think I was simply their to pretend to give an appearance of a real 'knocking up campaign' which both the Tories and Lib Dem has done to some extent. The Tories spend a fortune (I thought their were restrictions on how much parties and candidates can spend in elections ?)and romped home in a previously reasonably safe labour seat -but this term is now no longer valid! An almost 17% swing saw a fresh faced Tory party apparatchik elected -apparently Cameron and his team are delighted that so many Tory grandees have been caught out by the MP's expenses scandal that he can stuff parliament with even more of his clones and yes people -very much in the mould of New Labour's tactics. The Greens did quite well in gaining more than 3,000 votes and almost 10% of the vote.
I have worked in a number of by-elections for socialist candidates where even saving the deposit is a real achievement. The real advances the Greens however have made in the city has been in Norwich South where they are breathing down the neck of the former homes secretary Charles Clark. The lessons for the left however is that solid local work in Council wards in supporting local people in their daily lives can start to pay results.
I have been studying with interest the work of the Independent Working Class Association in a number of 'pilot' areas they have chosen to focus their limited resources -especially in Oxford. Modeling themselves on a community politics approach from the Republican movement in the 6 Counties, they have run advice surgeries, produced a regular newsletter, helped organised community events, Saturday film clubs for children and more recently running a football festival. I am pleased that some Respect branches are starting to do similar things. The IWCA have gained a footing and level of trust and respect in a number of communities, especially where the local Labour Party has ceased to be active. This used to be the tactic of left, previously the CPGB, especially the old Independent Labour Party. I think this approach is the way forward, rather than trying to take a short-cut and announce a new left party from above. Its going to be a long slog but combined with the likely movement of the teutonic plates of British politics on the left, a new party of the left could take shape quickly.

Picket of climate change minister - Joan Ruddock

I have been passed details of a picket at Joan Ruddock's surgery on Friday 7th 3pm August at Sayes Court club house 341 Evelyn Street Deptford in support of the Vestas wind turbine workers who have been occupying their factory.
I would have liked to of joined this protest, calling for the nationalisation of the plant to be put under workers control, but the event is during my work core time. I have been reading with interest the united red green action in support of workers at the plant. Recently it has been revealed that the local Tory MP has been in the forefront of campaigning against wind farms. The nasty anti union Danish firm Vestas Blades have claimed that their is little demand for wind turbines in the UK -clearly rubbish when only a few days ago yet another wind farm has been given the go-head. Strange how when the banks were recently in trouble they were effectively nationalised but a plant to help tackle CO2 is not seen as worth saving. This again shows how far to the right the Labour party has moved. In the 1970's under Wilson nationalisation would at least have been on the agenda. More information can be gained from http:/