Ben Stevenson’s answers to Croydon Advertiser’s q&a

 

As part of their coverage of the election in Croydon North, the Croydon Advertiser sent a few round robin questions to all candidates. Here’s Communist candidate Ben Stevenson’s answers in full:

What would you do to improve the public image of Croydon North?

This is presumably a question for those parties that have lots of policies on cleaning up dog shit and street lamps. I’d start by improving Croydon North itself rather than worrying about its public image. We need jobs, we need investment, we need public facilities, we need democratic accountability, we don’t need image consultants. Croydon is not a tourist destination or a concept it’s a community of people. I’d concern myself with improving the lives of the people of Croydon North first – that would be an example worth fighting for and promoting across Croydon, London, England, Britain and the rest of the globe.


Name one thing you have done, or would do, to make Croydon North a better place.

Bring democracy back to the people. Set up local street level bodies and fighting for the transfer of real powers to them. We’d also fight for more powers for the local council, stop political parties from being able to pay companies to do their job for them. Introduce a spending limit on campaigns and donations to political parties. Fight for the introduction of single transferable vote in all elections in England. Campaign for a federal democratic Britain with separate economic, legislative and other powers for Scotland, Wales, London (and other regions of England where it is wanted). Withdraw from the bosses club of the EU (a policy we’ve had for more than sixty years by the way) and end our involvement in foreign wars and costly expenditure on useless nuclear weapons.

 
What would you do to diversify Croydon North’s high streets?

Support the development of local small businesses and co-operatives
Our manifesto commits us to closing all tax loopholes and going after monopoly corporations and the super rich who own the vast majority of Britain’s wealth so we can help support and develop small enterprises and the cooperative sector. Not only would this benefit employers, it would benefit workers as well as cooperatives in particular eliminate the need for bureaucratic middle management (the David Brent’s of this world would be a thing of the past). 
Getting rid of the betting shops, pay day loans and cash for gold shops plaguing our high street. And I’d also work with others to ensure all Croydon council contracts new and old are with local public companies – particularly those cooperatively owned and run.

  
Croydon North is seen as a foregone conclusion electorally. What would you say to people to reassure them their vote is still worthwhile?

All the mainstream parties (including the likes of UKiP who are just as much a part of the political establishment as the rest of them) are counting on your indifference in this election, none of them are putting any resources, campaigning or even bothering to turn up on your doorstep or in your communities to find out what you care about and what you’re interested in. That tells you all you need to know about what they’re interested in – your vote and that’s it. They don’t care about truly fighting for or representing you. I do. Whatever government is elected, the people of Croydon North need someone in parliament and on their streets who will fight for them. What’s more we won’t disappear after the elections over. Communists in Croydon will continue to fight on the other 364 days of the year for the interests of ordinary hard working people.

 
What would you do to reduce the burden on Croydon University Hospital and improve the NHS?

Reopen neighbouring hospitals, facilities and build more (not through PFI!) to ease the pressure on Croydon University Hospital. Transferring services to GPs has just lumped work onto already overworked surgeries and erected another barrier between people and proper medical care. Reverse the Tories health and social care act and kick the profiteers out of our NHS. I’ve had personal experience of just how overstretched, bureaucratised and obsessed with delivering the lowest quality of care for the cheapest amount of money the NHS trust has become. I’d kick out Virgin health and set up a board composed of unions, doctors, nurses, patients and local representatives to run our hospital. We’d also either scrap or pay the tuition fees of any person in Croydon North who wants to get a medical degree – providing they commit to spending 6 years practicing I’m the borough when they start practicing.

 
How would you tackle the housing crisis in Croydon North?

Build more council housing rather than another yet another glass tower block with luxury apartments and shopping complexes. End the selling off of council housing stock. Introduce a rental cap of 50% of average earnings locally – reducing it each year until it’s at 25%. Scrap the bedroom tax. Provide a grant for all working families to enable them to meet the ridiculously high cost of private renting. Set up a dedicated private sector inspection team to look at the quality and overcrowding in existing private rental accommodation (only 37% of those owned by private landlords, meet the decent homes association standards whereas 100% of council housing does). All this and a hell of a lot more is in our pamphlet produced in 2010 to deal with the housing crisis in Croydon – when nobody else was talking about the issue.

 
What effect do you think immigration has had on Croydon North?
What would you do to improve the public image of Croydon North?
This  economic, legislative and other powers l

Croydon North is an incredibly contradictory constituency, it’s one of the most diverse parts of our borough – something that we should celebrate and fight to protect from racists, fascists and xenophobes. But it’s also one of the most deprived parts of London, immigration isn’t the cause of this it’s a symptom. In the 1950s immigrants from the west Indies and Indian subcontinent were blamed for the economic problems faced by white workers, it’s classic divide and rule tactics. The interests of working class people are the same whatever country they come from and whatever ethnicity they are. We are of course in favour of leaving the EU and NATO – and establishing proper mutually beneficial economic, diplomatic and friendly relationships between countries in Europe and the rest of the world. Investing in other countries (and other parts of Britain) and developing their infrastructure is the only way to reduce the level of immigration – people migrate because they’re looking for work and better lives. Britain is the sixth richest country in the globe it is a crime that has been perpetrated by a tiny minority (less than 1%) of the population on the majority. Austerity has actually made the rich richer and the poor poorer we’d end that trend and much more…

And now for something completely different

While the Croydon Communist Party’s election campaign in Croydon North gathers pace, let’s take a break and look at what’s happening in Croydon South. Notwithstanding some nervousness by the Tory candidate, Chris Philip, over UKIP – in his election address he blames the Tory’s loss of Croydon Council last year to Labour by 10 seats to UKIP defections – this seat is a plumb job for life for whoever the Tory Party selects. This is especially true if the appointee can keep his previous business interests going. Who can live on an MP’s salary of £74,000 these days?

This will suit Mr Philip. He’s a Cambridge graduate in physics, which means he’s smart and expert in mathematics. Like many with this qualification, however, he turned his back on physics and applied his skills to the murky but more lucrative world of finance, i.e. those clever people who brought the economy to its knees in 2007-8, not, as the Tories would have you believe, the Labour Party by employing too many nurses. Having abandoned physics he went to work for McKenzie, the US consultants and wheeler dealers, then left (following a well trodden path) to start his own businesses in ‘distribution’. His election address says he drove the delivery van himself at the beginning, but don’t be fooled: he’s a money man through and through. He sold the business in no time at all and must now be a (multi?) millionaire. Then he went on to become a co-founder and partner in Pluto Finance, a business that lends to developers of luxury apartments. Their most prominent investment in the UK is a 36 apartment development in West Hampstead in which a one bedroom apartment sell for £0.5 million, two bedrooms for £0.7 million. Just what the UK housing crisis needs!

So much for the man. What about the policies Mr Philip is putting before his electors? He would like to take credit for the new A&E unit in Croydon University Hospital, ignoring the fact that it has been failing due to Tory cuts. He brags about the government having created 1.8 million new jobs but doesn’t mention zero hours contracts and job insecurity. But then even the Labour Party doesn’t these days mention the best form of job security, strong trade unions. He says he wants to protect the NHS while ignoring the fact that his government is responsible for its current parlous state. Most ludicrous of all, he would like to “hold Southern Rail to account” for its “terrible performance”. it doesn’t need holding to account, it needs to be stripped of its franchise and for the service to be re-nationalised.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to get used to Mr Philip and his foibles. It’s said that the voters of Croydon South will vote for anyone provided he (and it usually is he) wears a blue rosette. Provided Mr Philip can avoid the slip ups that tend to beset Tory MPs in safe seats, he’s likely to be around for a long time.

Croydon North communist candidate Ben Stevenson calls for revolution in our democracy

 

Croydon North Communist candidate Ben Stevenson spoke to assembled national and international media at an event in Westminster today organised to promote the CPs election manifesto.


Whatever government manages to be formed come may 8th 9th – whether it’s blue and purple; red and orange; green, pink, black, gold or yellow 

What’s clear is that what we wont get is a government that will break the neoliberal consensus which has dominated our politics for the last 35 years. We won’t get a government that will represent the interests of ordinary working people over that of the city spivs, big business or any other section of the top 1% who own and control nearly all of Britain’s wealth. Why is this, well over the last 35 years we’ve seen a sustained and gradual selling off, erosion and rolling back and of our democracy by Tory, new labour government and now this unelected coalition government.

What we need is a revolution in our democracy. If we’re serious about tackling tax havens why don’t we start with the 2nd largest one in the world – the city of London – that resides just a couple of miles down the road. A revolution in our democracy that challenges the power of the city and punctures through the Westminster bubble

That’s why the Communist Party puts forwards the creation of a truly democratic relationship between the nations and peoples of this country. A truly federal Britain, which will include extensive economic, financial and law-making powers for Scotland, Wales and the regions of England (where it is wanted).

To those that say regional government in England doesn’t work, just look at London even with a blithering idiot like Boris Johnson as mayor – public transport in London (despite its many faults) is streets ahead of other cities and regions of Britain.

Of course as a communist MP I would go even further in my constituency setting up local street level bodies and fighting to transfer power back to the people.

What’s more all three nations would benefit from Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and NATO, enabling us to pursue domestic, foreign and non-nuclear defence policies free from pro-big business diktat and aggressive foreign wars. These are the kind of policies that the Communist Party is putting forward at this election and that we will be fighting for whatever government is formed on May 8th.

Right to Buy or Just Plain Wrong?

It was disappointing that, while Ed Miliband was prepared in the BBC leaders’ debate last night to oppose the new Tory wheeze to grant housing association tenants the right to buy, supposedly financed by further syphoning from the dwindling council housing stock, he was not prepared to condemn the original Tory rip-off or its continuation under Tory and Labour governments. A recent study found that a third of ex-council homes sold in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher are now owned by private landlords, many of them resident in off-shore tax havens. Another study found that in one London borough almost half of ex-council properties are now sub-let to tenants.  Anyone gullible enough to think that Tory politicians do not feather their own nests should reflect on the fact that Charles Gow, son of Mrs Thatcher’s Housing Minister who drove through the policy, now owns with his wife at least 40 ex-council houses. As Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB, said about this outcome: “You couldn’t make it up”.

Neither Labour nor the Tories has any coherent idea on how to address the housing crisis. While both speak about building more houses, both would lack the means to ensure this actually happens. Instead of direct public investment in housing, the government spent £35 billion in 2012-14 on Housing Benefit, a subsidy paid directly to landlords which ensures that house prices stay high. The cost of this support has risen a third under the coalition and will continue to rise as our kids increasingly find that the choice facing them is staying with Mum and Dad into middle age or renting in the private sector. Yet neither party has an alternative. Not so the Communists. Only we appear to be clear sighted enough to recognise that there is a need to de-couple people’s need for a secure home from their desire to invest and accumulate even when this accumulation tends to be at the expense of those who do not own their homes and tends to benefit the banks even more than the borrowers. What would communists do? Invest in council housing, albeit with more democratic control than has applied in the past – for example no more bedroom taxes! Our Economic Commission has called for the implementation of Land Value Tax, initially at a low level so that it simply replaced Council Tax, but with a view to raising the rate over time so that, in effect, land would become a socially owned asset. Communists would end the scandal of 80,000 young people experiencing homelessness every year when there are one million empty or second homes out there.

Impracticable? We don’t think so. Visionary? Unapologetically!

One Step Forward for Labour, One Step Back

Labour’s commitment to scrapping non-dom status should be welcomed as a modest step to reforming our not-fit-for-purpose tax system. As the Communist Party’s pamphlet From Each According to their Means argues, much more needs to be done including scrapping our dependent offshore tax havens, instigating a wealth tax and moving to Land Value Tax. The Tories’ hysterical response can only damage their own election prospects. Suggesting that Ed Balls, Labour’s right leaning shadow Chancellor, may have been over-ruled will only strengthen Labour;  and claiming that abolishing non-dom status will drive “thousands of rich people abroad” is a total own goal. As Danny Dorland argues in Inequality and the 1%, Britain cannot afford its super rich. They are not a national asset – they simply own assets and, in consequence, drive up their prices and distort our economy and politics. They are a drain on us all and, as Wilkinson and Puckett demonstrated in their excellent book, The Spirit Level, we would all be better off without them.

The Tories also scored an own goal this week with their claim that Labour would be prepared to enter into coalition with the SNP whose price would be scrapping Trident. The truth of the matter is that nuclear weapons are illegal, unaffordable and totally useless against any threats we face, now or in the foreseeable future. There is absolutely no mass support for them in England and Wales and open hostility to them in Scotland where they are based. Scottish voters are not stupid: they understand that they would all would be wiped out in a few minutes if a Westminster government even unleashed them. Anyone who values nuclear weapons above halting cuts to our welfare, education and health services is going to vote Tory or UKIP anyway. Yet, having been presented with this magnificent own goal, Labour retrieved it from their opponent’s net and booted it straight back into their own. ‘Of course we will upgrade Trident’ they brayed, ignoring its unaffordability, illegality and immorality – and their own prospects of being elected. New Labour lingers on, it seems.

Canvassers for the Communist Party will be out again this weekend and in the coming weeks in Croydon North and will be happy to discuss these and any other matters you wish to raise with them on the doorstep. Our canvassers are not like those of the big parties – we like talking politics, even with people who don’t necessarily agree with everything we stand for. Furthermore, unlike the big parties, we are rushing to secure a promise from you to vote for us. We don’t expect to win, but just think what a better place it would be if Ben Stevenson and the half dozen or so other Communist Party candidates standing in these elections were actually elected.

General Election: the starting gun is fired

What did you make of the “leaders” television debate last night? Communist Party campaigners will be on the streets this Saturday in Croydon North and elsewhere where we are standing asking what you think.  My immediate response was to take some encouragement from Miliband’s attacks on zero hours contracts and the need to strengthen tenants’ rights and pleasure from Cameron’s obvious discomfort at the entire process – he was clearly trying to ooze confidence but only managed, as usual, to ooze. The anti-austerity sense talked by the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru was also encouraging. Needless to say, the Sun, Times, Mail and Torygraph saw it all as a great triumph for Cameron, but the speed with which they posted up their headlines confirmed that these had already been dictated by their owners prior to the start of the debate. For how much longer must we put up with this affront to democracy? It should be unlawful not only for anyone not domiciled in the UK and paying UK taxes to own a newspaper but for any national newspaper to be structured in any way other than as a co-operative owned by the readers. There would, of course, still be right wing rags like the Daily Mail spouting nonsense, but at least it would be nonsense their dwindling readership came up with. The two most significant omissions from the debate for me were the failure of anyone to speak up for restoring trade union rights and the fact that only the Green mentioned global warming. So it will be five more years of fiddling while Rome burns – for ‘fiddling’ read carbon omissions, for ‘Rome’ read the world. Meanwhile, whoever ‘wins’, let’s hope Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of Unite, sticks with his resolve  to hold unlawful strikes if the next government seeks to enforce a higher threshold on strike ballots.