Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Budget cuts

The recent budget is a clear attack on ordinary working people and the public sector. The rise in VAT to 20% will impact more harshly on those on low and middle incomes -struggling to replace household items -which are often designed not to be cost effectively repaired but thrown away and replaced. The Tories have a crude view of the public sector -bad, private sector -good and there is no relationship between the two! Hammersith and Fulham recently published a list of all invoices paid over £500. The vast majority of their expenditure was to pay for goods and services purchased from the private sector -helping to sustain thousands of jobs in the private sector. The government plans to slash 25% of public expenditure will lead to thousands of job looses. Locally in Lewisham, the South London Press reports more than 3,500 will loses their jobs -throwing even more out of work in the private sector. However Labour would have also carried out a similar scale of cuts -just not quite so quickly!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Alliance for Green Socialism turns corner

Just got back in from a long return drive from Leeds. I had been attending a weekend strategy conference of AGS. Not only has the the organisation decided to endorse and support the Rugby conference on 24th July, but it has turned the tide, stemming the tide of falling members. The years of active campaigning in Leeds is starting to pull in new younger members. AGS gained more than 3,500 votes in Leeds, gaining almost 8% in their strongest ward Chapel Allerton. The weekend decided to put to its growing members a range of options, including the possibility of engaging a part-time worker to help with building the organisation. In addition it agreed to explore the possibility of carrying out sustained community work -including running information and advice surgeries in some wards in Leeds. It also resolved to have a presence at Tolpuddle in July.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Inaugral meeting of Progressive and Socialist Parties

My good friend Pete McLaren and I have taken the initiative and decided to call a meeting of local community, progressive and socialist parties. The gathering will be seeking to explore the possibility of establishing a national network representative body. More importantly the meeting will seek to share knowledge, information and experience. The meeting is an invitational meeting. To date more than 6 local and regional parties have indicated they are interested in attending. The meeting will be held on 24th July in Rugby. The Tory / Lib-Dem government should have announced its clear target of slashes in public expenditure, throwing many thousands of working people onto the dole. Many local parties will be joining and supporting local campaigns to defend services and jobs and hopefully will be able share their experience.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Where next for the left

Hard to spot the difference ?
Lets be honest, whichever complexion of government had got in they would of carried out a series of savage cuts in public expenditure. The prospects for the left in the coming years could bring real benefits, but the outcome of the General Election for the left in terms of votes was poor. It would have been better for our class and our long term project of building a new party of the left if Labour had won -partly because illusions in Labour would have been stretched to the limit and some may have peeled away more easily to a new left formation. In the pending election for a new leader in the Labour Party, when I get my ballot paper from my union Unite, I will again be voting for the most right wing candidate on the ballot paper in the hope of one of the Milliband brothers continuing the rightward march of Labour Party & continuing a decline in support of working people for Labour. Only 29% of voters, voted Labour, which continues the downward trend of working people supporting Labour. However all of the organisations of the far left got very poor votes, less than 1% of votes on average and we have to question if a party with an out socialist programme is the way forward. Far better to form an anti capitalist broad left progressive party with key socialist demands but seek to appeal to a wide progressive left. What is wrong with the left coming together as the "Left Party" Interestingly our local party in Lewisham, 'People Before Profit' was picking up votes across the broad political spectrum, including Tory voters splitting their ticket!

Lewisham People Before Profit met this week to review our election work and the tasks that lie ahead -both locally and nationally. I circulated a discussion paper and floated some ideas of what strategy and tactics we should consider. It is clear that the Tory/Lib-Dem government is going to mount a massive programme of £6b in savage cuts to public expenditure, leading to thousands of job losses. The ques outside the polling stations on the 6th May are going to be matched by the ques of people outside job centres! Ian Page and Chris Flood, former SP Cllrs. were both present at the meeting and indicated they would be continuing their local campaigning. So many of Labour's paper candidates were elected, it is likely we are going to see a rash of by-elections in the future. PB4P will be seeking to support and help found local campaigning groups that are likely to rise up in the face of closing of services.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Well done to all our candidates in the local elections in Lewisham. We gained more than 13,000 votes for our 21 council candidates, John Hamilton for Mayor and George Hallam for Lewisham East. As party agent for our ward candidates, I attended the final count for Grove Park ward at lunchtime today. The ward has been a Tory strong hold for some time and they held on to x2 seats, but lost one to Labour. The Tories came close to losing another by 3 votes!. Harold Shalet our candidate gained 171 votes, so may have had a decisive effect on the result!
We gained some impressive votes in New Cross, our target ward. Susanna obtained over 600 votes. We also gained good votes in Brockley, Lewisham Central and Ladywell, where we were able to put out a leaflet. John Hamilton improved by 1000 his vote, despite the tide of votes in favour of Labour.
As I thought, our socialist comrades in Telegraph Hill did not survive. Ian Page and Chris Flood, despite getting their highest ever vote did not make it against the Labour tide. Working people were desperate to try and stop a Tory government at all costs and voted Labour down the line. I have never seen people queuing to vote in a British election -in New Cross, people were jumping off the bus, with poll cards in their hands, frantic to make it to the polling station before it closed at 10pm. At All Staints Church Hall polling station we even had a 'lock in' after 10pm, allowing people to vote who had been waiting for over an hour.
The Greens in Lewisham were also hit hard with -but they only have themselves to blame! We repeatedly offered to enter into an arrangement with them regarding candidates in Ladywell and Brockley but they refused and were determined to put at risk the socialists in Telegraph Hill by standing a full slate and running an active campaign -gaining more than 1000 votes for their leading candidate. It is important that we come to some 'pact' or arrangement at the next election where perhaps we only stand one candidate where the other party is strong. With some work our votes in a number of wards suggest we will get a much higher vote than the Greens -Bellingham, Catford South, Sydenham for example.
Importantly however, gaining votes was not our real aim in standing in the election. What we were seeking to do was establish our party and organisation, gain members and supporters. We can build our borough party in the struggles against the cuts that we are going to face in the coming years.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Stepping into the Town Hall

Many of our candidates were able to take an hour out of campaigning this Sunday to do a photo opp. Our party colours on display are drawn from both the Levellers and suffragettes -green and purple! Almost half our candidates are women -are far higher figure than most other parties in the borough. We have candidates who are new to political activity and young and also candidates who have a long history of community struggle and organisation. Last week I was able to visit Jean Kysow in St Thomas hospital to obtain her candidate consent forms. With just 35 minutes to go I was able to get her nomination papers in -allowing her to stand in Rushey Green ward.

On the march!

Many of our candidates and supporters were able to join the Pensioners and Unison trade union march on Saturday in support of public services and council housing. Interestingly it would seem the Labour party is going to include a proposal to allow LA's to build 10,000 council homes a year! A little late and to few, but better than their previous opposition to a return to council house building. It is a pity that the Labour party in Lewisham has had a visceral opposition to any talk of a return to council house building -it could be the Achilles heel that finally costs Labour control of the borough. Our call for a return to a programme of council house building is gaining real support-especially in our target wards. None of the established parties were present and lots of trade union banners and members amongst the 10,000+. In the past you would have seen dozens of LP banners on these marches -all this is now a thing of the past as the Labour party looses touch with the progressive forces in society and the labour movement.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Candidates and cabbages are in!

Around the country where councils have local elections, nominations closed at 12 noon today. The publication of those names is due at mid-day on Monday 12th April. We will know shortly where socialist and community campaigners are standing. Hopefully many of these local campaigners will have planted the seeds of future local organisations that will grow and development in the coming months. The established parties are all committed to slashing public services, so which ever party gets in and what ever government is formed, the real fight will begin in the coming months and years.
After work today, I took a brief break from supporting our candidates frantic effort over the last few days to get our People Before Profit nomination paper work in, with an hour or so working on my allotment getting in some early cabbage plants.
In Lewisham we have achieved our objective of having a candidate in every ward in the borough - apart from Telegraph Hill where we are supporting Socialist Party members, Ian Page, Jessica Leech and Chris Flood.
Standing candidates in every part of the borough was a feat I never thought possible at the beginning of our campaign. The reaction on the door step has been so positive that this evening it was resolved to consider not only standing a parliamentary candidate in East Lewisham but also West Lewisham & Penge -extending our support even outside of Lewisham into Bromley! We have also managed to stand additional candidates in Brockley and with 30 minutes before the close of nominations managed to get in papers from housing campaigner Jean Kysow who will be joining Warren Carter in Rushey Green ward. We will be seeking to make a number of central Lewisham wards additional focus of activity, along side our target wards in Deptford. We are planning on joining in any hustings meetings and seeking to hold a number of meetings ourselves.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Where next for the left after the election ?

These elections will be like no other. Not only will people be voting against a widespread loathing of many politicians but they will in London be combined with the local elections. We may see some surprising votes in certain seats like Luton, Salford and Preston. The likely increase in turn-out for the local elections could however have some negative effects for the few hard working Green & socialist councillors across the country with good track records. I am hearing reports that both the Greens and socialists are facing some real battles to get people to support them, especially when the election will be on the general election day and people seems less willing to "split their ticket" and cast a progressive vote to the Greens or left. We could however see the emergence of broad based community based parties, such as Lewisham's People Before profit and gains for Respect and Wigan's Community Action Party. Such community based parties should become the focus of work for the socialist left.

Partial democracy

I have been out and about with our supporters and candidates across Lewisham working to gather in our nominations. One kind elderly lady in Mount Pleasant Rd gave our canvassers a Mars bar each! The process of gaining consent from local electors to stand is not straight forward -the nomination form has to be exactly right as we know to our cost! The electors registration polling district and number recorded correctly. Signatures have to clear and the party title and description has to be exactly as registered with the Election Commission. We live in only a partial democracy, having the right to vote -only if you are able to register to vote and many people are unable to vote. In London, elections to council's are only every once every four years unlike the rest of councils which have annual elections apart from one fallow year. You could be paying both income tax, national insurance, council tax and VAT but if you are not an EU citizen you are unable to vote. Large numbers of Latin Americans who have long & well established communities in a number of boroughs have been removed from the election register as it is now a requirement to give your nationality -again New Labour playing the race card and pandering to the far right. Many have therefore lost the ability to vote and been removed from the register. In a number of wards in Southwark this is likely to have had a significant impact. Thousands of people are so disillusioned with the established political parties and politicians that they refuse to register to vote -even though this is technically illegal but no council has ever prosecuted anyone for willfully refusing to register.
The outcome of the election is likely to not only have a low turn-out of even of those who are registered but in many inner city areas fewer that 25% of the local population will be voting. Hopefully our intervention will help improve matters.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Trade Unionist Socialist Coalition

For a few seconds, in a blurred out of focus shot I was seen on Newsnight! My friend Toby Abse was in the front row so was seen more clearly. Last week the left that has come together in this coalition launched its campaign for the coming election. The meeting was held in a packed meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Euston Road. The windows to the room appeared not to open so the numbers of people present and combined with the 'hot air' being generated rapidly raised the room temperature! My visits to Malaysia with my partner over the years stood me in good stead to cope well with the conditions. I half expected a 'chit-chat' to scamper across the walls in the room! It would seem almost 50 candidates will be standing in many cities across the country and hopefully some of the candidates may well get respectable votes. The coalition and its programme is an improvement on the anti EU slate that was put together for the European elections, which had a flavour of 'little Englander" about it. But again the coalition has been put together at the last minute and is more limited than the Socialist Alliance. My concern is that apart from a few cities, like Coventry, Preston and Salford the candidates have not been able to establish a presence and may well get a very limited vote.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Sir Steve Bullock is no more!

As a result of concerns raised by our supporters to the Election Commission, following the anouchment of the local borough elections, the image and all mention of Steve Bullock has rightly been removed from the Council's website. I read with interest the legal advice from the council's principal legal adviser and it would seem that the continued display and links to the current Mayors political and personal websites contradicted this advice. I understand the EC also agreed and advised likewise. Lets hope this is not the only tumble the Labour Party is going take in these elections! How ironic. Labour party members have been complaining bitterly about my website when it turns out that it is the Labour party who have breech the rules regarding the Council's website!

Campaign starting to take off!

I am pleased to report that we have managed to get our first candidate duly endorsed and his nomination accepted by the election office. Warren Carter, a parent at Holbeach school and resident in Albacore Crescent will be standing for us in Rushey Green ward. We are working hard to try and get as many candidates as possible across the borough. Warren is a teacher and active member of his trade union at his place of work. We have selected to also stand in Bellingham ward, Jenny Steward, who lives in Burford Road. Jenny is an advice worker. David Hamilton has been selected to run in Catford South, a music teacher. My good friend Toby Abse, also an active member of the Alliance for Green Socialism, has agreed to stand in Brockley. Semi pro footballer and youth worker, Edward Osei, has agreed to stand in Evelyn ward, along with journalist Alexia Wdoswki. Our three candidates in our target ward, New Cross, Ray Walford, Susanna Farley and Barbara Raymond have been getting a great reception on the door step and at our latest packed public meeting last week. They are now delivering their forth leaflet and have started canvassing and putting up posters. We have printed over 1000 copies of our manifesto and are now staffing our election office full time. We will be also be standing George Hallam in Lewisham East to run along side our candidate for Mayor, John Hamilton.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Full support to Cabin Crew!

The attacks on trade unionists at BA seeking to defend pay and conditions is a real disgrace. It is to be expected that the employer will use every dirty trick and tactic they can to divide workers, organise strike breaking and scabs and intimidate and harass shop stewards. The Tories true to form, have also laid into the workers. However what is really shocking are the attacks on the workers by this right wing pro-business government. Usually the government would be expected to remain neutral in an industrial dispute -but once again this government, when called upon by the forces of the right and business makes it quite clear who's side they are on. Brown and unelected Transport Minster, Lord Adonis have called the planned strike 'deplorable and unjustified'. I have been so outraged by these attacks on workers seeking to simply defend their conditions that I have written to my Unite union leadership suggesting that the union might be in breech of its rules in giving financial and political support to a party which fails to offer even the most basic support to one of its affiliates.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Breaking from Labour

All around the country, under the radar of the established political commentators, new left leaning political formations are taking shape. In Borrow a local socialist party has taken root and gained seats not only on the local council but now also the County Council. In Wellingborough, near Northampton, a local socialist group has been formed and has already a local councillor and they are planning on standing in the general election. Last August I went up to Wigan for a meeting of their local left alliance. The Wigan based Community Action Party has been gaining support, winning thousands of votes and gaining dozens of members in the face of a rotten local political situation where Labour have held unchallenged power for years. In Walsall the Democratic Labour Party have gained a seat on the council and hope to improve on their support this year. In Leeds, the Alliance for Green Socialism hope to improve on their votes gained. In Preston, it is likely Val Wise will help enhance the forces developing locally to the left of Labour, arguing for a defence of local services, supporting workers in struggle and the basic principals of trade unionism. Meetings of the left have also been taking place in Manchester and more recently in Bristol. After the election will be an important time to take a balance and review of all these significant and important developments and to assess what is needed in the coming struggles the left will face. I have suggested a conference should be called, to seek to establish a national network of progressive, community and socialist organisations. Its purpose -to share information, learn from each other, and share best practice. A national network could seek to direct and encourage the coming together into one organisation, perhaps in a loose federal structure, and help develop a new party of the left.

Lewisham for people not profit!

The Election Commission has agreed to our recent request to amend our party name -just in time for the pending elections! The Commission has ruled that we can use the title 'Lewisham For People Not Profit' -they were not happy with us using 'People before Profit' in our title -but strangely it has accepted that we can use "Lewisham for People before Profit" as a registered party symbol on the ballot paper!

Excalibur Co-operative

A debate has been raging over the past few years regarding plans to 'redevelop' this community of pre-fabricated bungalows. The dwellings were erected during and after the war by prisoners of war. Meant to be only temporary housing following the emergency housing situation in the Attlee period of government, they were erected with only a 'short life' expectancy. The community is clearly divided over the proposals. The minority who have brought their properties, either under the RTB or from previous owners have often made improvements to improve the bungalows. However the clear majority of residents remain council tenants, where many of the properties are in poor repair and unimproved -lacking thermal comfort. These small bungalows house not just elderly people but families, many of who must be over-crowded. Basically the plan is to clear the site apart from a few bungalows that have been listed and build not council housing, but a large housing scheme developed by London & Quadrant Housing Trust. The Mayor has taken the view that a ballot of residents on the proposals is needed to settle the issue. If these plans were to build council housing they would have clear support.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Are Respect heading for seats!

Respects supporters in Tower Hamlets appear to be gaining support and momentum. Apparently two Labour councillors have have defected to them and leading members of the local LP have joined their party. Respect supporters are suggesting that senior government figures have made an approach to seek what terms they would settle for to support a minority Labour government. A very well researched article on the Socialist Unity website
suggests Respect may take control of Tower Hamlets and has a chance of gaining their two target seats. If the polls are as close as has been suggested, this really would be an amazing outcome. A minority Labour government, who waged repeated wars against Muslim countries, supported by a Muslim anti war communalist party!

Are we heading for a National government?

Quite a few political commentators are suggesting that we may be heading for a 1974 situation. I was not old enough to vote in the two general elections in 1974 but even as a school lad I was keenly aware of the dramatic political events of that year. I used to get a lift home from my FE College in Leamington Spa on Friday's -saving my bus fare if I met up with my parents in the Sainbury's at the top of town, getting a free lift home but having to help with the weekly shop! My parents on the journey home were in a state of total shock to learn that the Tories were desperately trying to cling onto power by trying to do a deal with the Liberals. A growing numbers of polls are suggesting the Tories are struggling to get much more than 40% of the vote and Labour appears to be gaining support. The latest polls on a uniform swing might suggest that on a figure of 39/34/17 would mean Labour winning most seats! Interestingly the Tories appear to have been having not so secret talks with the Ulster Unionists. I think however that we are not heading for a minority hung parliament but a very concerning government of National Unity- 1931 style. I think we may, like 1974, have two elections but with an unresolved outcome, leading to calls for a government of 'unity' -which will drive down wages, cutting welfare and unemployment benefits and slashing public services -driving the economy into a 'double dip' economic down turn leading to a massive rise is unemployment, social unrest and violence. The 1931 National Government lasted for 9 years and led to the appeasement of fascism and the growth of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in the long years of the Great Depression. Votes therefore for candidates on the political left, could mean that Greens, socialists and left wing independents could offer a progressive government the option of a left leaning coalition -French style, rather than a government in the pocket of the city and the bankers.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Gordonbrock rebuild goes ahead

Despite a concerted campaign by the powerful Brockley Society and Victorian Society, I am pleased to learn that the rebuild of the school is going ahead. Parents and the school have been fighting a long campaign to secure funding and planning consent to rebuild the school which is not fit for purpose. Two classes have to be taught in this post war hut with an asbestos roof! The plans for the school look fantastic, with a bio-mass boiler, grass roof, larger class rooms with more natural light. Even the Victorian school keepers house is being retained. The local ward Green Party councillors for the ward are clearly split over the issue. Sue Luxton appearing to give the plans critical support. Thankfully a review of finance regarding the school rebuilding programme has ensured the rebuilding plans will go ahead. The Green Party is usually in the pocket of the Brockley and Ladywell Society and it can be argued that it is their "political wing".
Our campaigning work for Lewisham People Before Profit in the borough continues a pace. We were out last week in Catford and got a warm response. We now have a number of people who have expressed an interest in standing in Rushey Green ward. On Saturday we were again doing a street stall in Deptford with our candidates. We have had an approach from a group of campaigning tenants on the Pepys estate and hopefully they will endorse our campaign and agree to stand under our colours. We will be in Lewisham town centre this Saturday. Over the past couple of weeks our candidates and supporters went along to a number of local ward assembly meetings, giving out leaflets and networking with active local people. We will be considering a proposal to stand in the parliamentary seat of East Lewisham at our next meeting.

(For the avoidence of doubt and for the benefit of those taking a keen interest in this site this update was posted, as always, from my home compter!)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Political grit

I must give apologies for not update this blog. I have been really busy working to establish Lewisham People Before Profit, our campaign to support John Hamilton for Mayor and our candidates in our target wards. It would seem that the Labour Party are taking a keen interest in this site and are clearly becoming worried! I will be seeking to incorporate into our "transitional demands" the call for winter local neighbourhood deposits of grit -allowing local people to help keep their paths clear from snow and ice -allowing their elderly neighbours out to shop! Clearly Labour feel vulnerable on this issue in the recent icy conditions!
I am pleased to report that the Election Commission appears to have agreed to register our name as we wanted, or as good as. I will report back when we have final confirmation. I am also pleased to report that we appear to have candidates coming forward to stand in Rushey Green ward! I will work hard to ensure we have a full slate.
We have distributed 2 newsletters in the wards in Deptford, held two public meetings and also managed to open a shop at the Tea Factory, 102 Endwell Road -which we will be staffing in the weeks leading up to the election. Our fortnightly meetings at the Brocca Cafe have been getting bigger and bigger! Our candidates have been getting along to the local ward assemblies, talking with local activists and giving out our newsletters and leaflets.
Lewisham People Before Profit will be meeting in emergency session if a snap election is called with a view to taking a decision to stand a candidate in East Lewisham. If LPBP decided not to stand a candidate I will convenue a meeting of all interested parties with a view to ensuring we have a socialist candidate in East Lewisham with true grit!
For those with a keen interest in this site and for the avoidance of doubt this update was made at 8pm on Wed 4th March.