The government has been trumpeting that economic recovery is under way: according to figures published by the Office of National Statistics, unemployment in the UK fell by 121,000 in the three months to May; the rate of unemployment fell to 6.5% from 6.6% in the three months to 31 March, l the lowest level in nearly six years; the number claiming jobseekers allowance has fallen to 1.04 million; and more than 78% of men and 68% of women are now in work.
The Tories are desperate to persuade enough of the electorate, or at least enough of the electorate who can be bothered to vote, that the economic crisis triggered by the bank collapse in 2008 is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After four years of austerity, government borrowing remains more or less where it was following the banking collapse. But reducing government borrowing was never what the coalition’s continuing austerity programme is about. It is an attack on the living standards of working people and it is succeeding. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, after inflation, the real, hourly pay of workers under the age of 30 has collapsed by 11% since 2008; and their household incomes are down 15%. Meanwhile, rents are up and the property market for buy-to-rent is soaring.
Every capitalist state requires a large pool of unemployed workers in order to subdue the rest and keep profits rolling in. This could be achieved with an even lower unemployment rate than we are currently experiencing – provided further measures are put in place to cow workers. This is why Cameron is threatening to further restrict trade unions and workplace rights and why there will be further tightening of unemployment and other benefits. These measures ensure that workers can be pressed into employment at rates of pay that scarcely provide for their subsistence and ensure that their kids will never be in a position to enjoy even this modest level of subsistence or have families of their own.
The solutions are obvious. We need the government to promote trade unions, not attack them. We need solid financial support for our young people before they enter employment, not student loans. We need a living wage, not the derisory minimum wage. We need security of tenure for tenants and a huge council house building programme. Only with a bedrock of social housing will the private sector curtail its exploitative behaviour. We need generous social security benefits and an end to attacks on claimants. We need a media that doesn’t attack the unemployed and foreigners, not one owned by billionaires who fund the Tories and yet don’t themselves pay tax.
The Labour Party, or at least a significant element within it, once supported all these measures. These days they believe in “equality of opportunity” and seek to appeal to upwardly mobile “hard working families”. Don’t they understand that for every family on the way up, there is one on the way down, and that working class families have kids and these kids won’t be in a position to start families if nothing is done?
If enough pressure is brought to bear on the Labour Party, it could be brought round again to progressive policies. This is the idea behind Croydon TUC’s recent decision to launch a Croydon Assembly, bringing together workers, special interest groups and local activists in the area. A meeting of the Assembly has been called for Saturday, 15 November at Ruskin House, South Croydon. The Communist Party gives this initiative its full support. Whether Labour can be shifted from the secure middle ground that offers it the prospect of winning, or at least sharing, power at the general election in 2015 as the ‘least worst option’ remains to be seen. One thing is clear. This is the last opportunity to attempt this. If Labour takes power and continues with further austerity and more neo-liberal policies, or indeed, if it loses the election having stood on a platform of such policies, we will have to conclude that, as they say, the party’s over.
Following Ofsted investigation into Birmingham schools and the resulting undignified spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May, David Cameron was forced to intervene and explain what Gove meant by the “British Values” he wants to see taught in English and Welsh state funded schools. Apparently these “British Values” are freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions.
This list is loaded with class implications and is worth picking apart. Taking them in order:
Freedom – a term always banded about by those on the right but never properly defined by them. They mean, of course, freedom for those with wealth and power to enjoy these with as few constraints as possible.
Tolerance – this means a relaxed view to the views of others provided they don’t impact on those with wealth and power. Ownership and control by the rich and powerful of the mass media does, of course, ensure that really dangerous views such as socialism can be not so much tolerated as safely ignored.
Respect for the Rule of Law – this means rigorously enforcing those laws that protect property and generally disregarding those laws which protect the rights of ordinary working people. To ensure this, the judiciary is drawn from the powerful and wealthy sections of society and can be relied on to protect their class’s interests.
Belief in personal and social responsibility – this means that ordinary working people should not anyway expect “rights” under the law. They must take personal responsibility for their own welfare, just like the rich and powerful do.
Respect for British institutions – this means we should not criticise or question those institutions that prop up the ruling class – the police, parliament, the army, royals etc. Such unquestioning respect need not, however, apply to those institutions that actually serve ordinary working people such as the NHS, our trade unions and those schools that have not yet been sold off to business interests.
It is quite easy to think of a more wholesome set of values. The list could include solidarity with fellow workers, opposition to sexism and racism and treating other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves. The problem with these from a Tory perspective is that they are not exclusively “British”. How strange then that Cameroon and his Tory chums appear to have overlooked that it would only take one more clumsy intervention from them in the debate in Scotland on independence and the term “British” will become an historic relic.
The Croydon Guardian appears to have splashed over its entire front page this week the shock-horror headline “Labour Spending Plans = 27% Council Tax Rise”, followed by an article explaining that this estimate is arrived at by costing up all the proposals in Labour’s Croydon Manifesto. Only in very small letters on the front page does the word “advertisement” appear, and nowhere on this page can one find who the advertiser is. Only on closer examination is it apparent that the Tories have paid for an entire four page, full colour wrapper.
This raises an interesting question. It is not whether Labour’s manifesto, on the whole a mild and timid document that does not seek to reverse, or even halt, the savage cuts in services, would really result in a Council Tax rise of 27%. If the estimate of the tax rise necessary to fund Labour’s plans were accurate and reliable, it would say more about the extent to which cuts have undermined Croydon Council’s services than about the profligacy of Labour.
The interesting question is how can the Tories afford to pay for such publicity.
The Tory party can afford to spend huge sums on electioneering because it is essentially a conspiracy against the people. It receives vast sums of money from big business and wealthy individuals and rewards them with the laws, regulations and tax breaks they require to make more money and give further donations. That’s where the money to fight the forthcoming local government elections and, on a much, much bigger scale, the general election next year comes from. Furthermore, with breath-taking guile, they have even managed to seduce the hapless Lib-Dems into their conspiracy, getting the Lib Dems to prop them up in parliament for five full years in return for a few meagre ministerial posts, which have been filled ineffectually, and the promise of a referendum on proportional representation (which they lost).
Such is the success of the Tory election-money machine that Labour essentially adopted the same strategy –Tory-lite or, as they called themselves, New Labour. The best argument for voting Labour in the forthcoming elections is not the hope that Miliband will reverse the New Labour sell out, it is the same old argument we have heard for years: vote for us, we are not as bad as the Tories. For how much longer Labour can get away with this dispiriting argument remains to be seen.
In parliamentary democracy, with its two, or two and a half, party system, there is no real choice. Vote for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. Even then, unless you happen to live in a marginal constituency, most votes don’t count. There is no way of fixing this with PR. Even if the ultimate winner receives the most votes, or is, say, the least unacceptable candidate, the system is run by career politicians on behalf of big business and the wealthy. The mass media is, in consequence, controlled by these same interests and ensures that left wing alternatives, particularly the Communist Party, are shut out. Communists, however, aspire to something better. A society run to benefit ordinary working people, employing direct democracy so that they, not career politicians, have responsibility for decisions and where the mass media is owned by the readers and viewers, not a few media moguls with their own agendas. Meanwhile, however, and despite our lack of funds, Communists do stand in elections if only to give a few voters in a few constituencies and wards a real choice; and we do, where possible, enter electoral alliances such as No2EU – yes to workers’ rights. But never be fooled into thinking that this is democracy. That must await a communist future.
Croydon Communists stepped up their campaign in the May 2014 local elections. Members were out yesterday leafleting in the three wards where we are standing candidates in the May 2014 local elections: Bensham Manor, Selhurst and Broad Green.
Ben Stevenson, Croydon Communist candidate for Bensham Manor, said, “This is the real start of our campaign. We will be using all available media channels as well as traditional campaigning methods to get out message across to local residents that we offer a genuine alternative to the relentless austerity, public service cuts and total lack of accountability offered by the Tories. They also need more than the vague platitudes presented by Labour about more transparency and cleaning up dog mess! We all deserve better than this government or the lacklustre ‘Tory-lite’ response being offered by the Milliband-Balls ‘purple’ Labour plan of exactly the same policies dragged out over a couple of years.”
Croydon Communists see the election as a real opportunity to take the fight to the Con-Dem Government and explain to local people that there is a future worth fighting for based on a genuine socialist political and economic strategy. The Government continues to try to con people into thinking that they offer the only way out of the economic crisis. But ordinary people know when they are being sold a pup. Real wages remain significantly lower than they were before the recession hit; pensioners and benefit claimants have seen a significant reduction in disposable income; and the NHS, education, social housing and other public services are under a sustained assault by a government determined to turn the clock back to the social conditions of the 19th Century. It’s time we put people before profit – and fought for a people’s Britain rather than a bankers’ Britain.
Dr Peter Latham, Croydon Communist candidate for Broad Green, said, “Labour’s talk of ‘difficult choices’ and providing public services ‘differently’ utterly misses the point. The experience in Lambeth and other councils are well known – residents are faced with an impossible choice. Either support the provision of vital local services staffed by volunteers, with all the impact that has on the quality of service delivery and the jobs of the staff themselves, or see them disappear. This is no choice at all!”
Croydon’s communists support more democracy at street and community level, with real involvement by residents in local projects. Communist policies for Croydon are based on a realistic and objective assessment of what’s deliverable at local level in current political circumstances and include:
• More affordable public sector housing and a cap on private housing at affordable rents
• Compulsory take-over of empty office space
• Defend the freedom pass and fight for more investment inpublic transport
• Council-led drive for investment in clean technology and an increase in recycling
• Higher council tax rates for top-band properties
• A council-led drive for jobs and facilities for disabled workers
• No more outsourcing or privatisation of council services
• A tight cap on councillors’ allowances and expenses.
John Eden, Croydon Communist candidate for Selhurst, said, “I’m standing up for ordinary people in the ward. Croydon Labour Party’s manifesto for the May 2014 elections provides a clear illustration of their failure to offer a vision for Croydon which presents a genuine alternative. Our community faces job losses, inadequate housing and all-out assault on local services. I look forward to the challenge presented by this election, taking the fight to the Tories and explaining to local people that there’s a future worth fighting for based on a socialist vision that empowers them and offers hope of a better future.”
Notes to editors:
1. For enquiries phone 0208 686 1659 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Ben Stevenson is 29 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election.
3. John Eden is the Communist Party candidate for Selhurst. He is 64 years old and a carpenter and joiner. He is a member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee and has lived in Selhurst for 27 years.
4. Dr Peter Latham is the Communist Party candidate for Broad Green. A former lecturer, he has lived in the area for many years. He is the author of ‘The State and Local Government: Towards a new basis for local democracy and the defeat of big business control’ and a longstanding member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee.
5. Croydon Communists recently published a well-received pamphlet on housing issues in the borough, ‘Decent Homes for All – End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now’, which is available on the website or by contacting us direct.
6. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.
It’s reported by Inside Croydon that the Conservative-run Council have been forced to concede that the management of Croydon’s soon-to-be privatised public libraries should be monitored monthly, rather than the annual reporting frequency originally proposed. This is a small step in the right direction. But, of course, there was no need to privatise the library service in the first place. This is an ideologically-driven move, part of the Tory-led Government’s plans to use the economic crisis as cover to dismantle the welfare state and sell-off public services. The contract, valued at £30 million over eight years, has been awarded to a subsidiary of John Laing plc, who reportedly came last out of three bidders.
Campaigners are rightly concerned about the impact of the privatisation on the quality of the library service and that the public libraries’ assets will be used to bail out the council’s troubled Urban Regeneration Vehicle (URV), which is effectively council-funded property speculation. Concerns are growing about the viability of the URV given the current state of the property market and the role of vested interests in its operation. Again, secrecy prevails, as the contracts for this publicly-funded enterprise, worth over £450 million, have not been published. Meanwhile, the council’s new headquarters building is estimated to be costing £150 million. But details remain a secret and it’s impossible to judge value-for-money. You have to ask whether this represents a good use of public money, given the very real problems around housing and joblessness in Croydon, or whether this is simply another council vanity project.
Attempts by the opposition or local residents to find out what’s going on at the Council are usually shouted down or ignored by the Conservative group in Council meetings. The lack of transparency and anti-democratic political culture that characterises Croydon Council should come as no surprise. The refusal of the Conservative leader of Croydon Council, Mike Fisher – who receives allowances of £53,223 per year plus expenses – to detail the hours that he spends on official business has also been noted recently. These developments all beg serious questions about the level of accountability and competence at the Council.
Such secretive practises and potential abuses of public resources are all too real example of the anti-democratic trend in Britain. Despite the Government’s rhetoric of ‘localism’ and decentralisation, democratic institutions have been steadily undermined as local authorities’ powers have been eroded and the interests of big business and the City have been advanced by the privatisation agenda. Voters rightly demand high standards of their public servants and elected politicians. But the recent MPs’ expenses scandal, as well as the exposure of close links between Government Ministers and corporate business interests and their lobbyists, demonstrate all too clearly that our political system is experiencing a significant ‘democratic deficit’.
This concentration of political power is aided by a media monopoly, owned by transnational corporations and tax-dodging millionaires, which represents their class interests in favour of privatisation and foreign wars, which is clearly hostile to the left and which distorts the news agenda towards a steady diet of celebrity trivia. The Leveson report into press ethics isn’t going to change this as the crucial issue of press ownership was excluded from the enquiry’s remit.
Deliberately fostered cynicism about the political process by the media plays, of course, to the right who are keen to encourage apathy about the scope for politics to change people’s lives for the better. As the recent Croydon North by-election demonstrated, small, serious, parties like the Communist Party, are fighting an unequal battle. Despite a low turnout, the party managed to increase its share of the vote. But while we secured some good local media exposure, with no national media coverage, no business finance to fund the campaign, and the refusal of the Council to honour their statutory obligation to make council premises available for election candidates, the constraints faced by the party in getting its message across are clear and the absence of real democracy is palpable. The by-election result was a vindication of working people’s dislike of the Coalition government rather than the vacuous, backbone-free, New Labourite Steve Reed, whose lack of any real political programme is plain for all to see.
The record low turnout demonstrates how disconnected ordinary people are becoming from politics. If we’re to build a real alternative to this government it can’t be done by being relying on the Labour Party being slightly less vilified than the Tories. Winning by default will not help the millions of unemployed young people, the millions of pensioners living in poverty or the millions of workers and their families struggling to make ends meet. We need a mass campaign for a real alternative in Croydon and the rest of Britain. If you would like to join the fight-back, get in touch with us via the tab at the top of this page.
Ben Stevenson, Croydon North Communist Party candidate , said today, “The shortage of school places in Croydon North has rightly become a significant issue in this by-election. The situation is only getting worse as the Tory-led coalition Government pushes New Labour’s education policies to their logical conclusion. I think it’s really disturbing that these divisive policies are felt particularly badly in Croydon North.”
The Communist Party has a long-standing involvement in the fight against privatisation and for decent education in Croydon. Research by the party has identified a number of real problems in the area. The proposed Free School in Norbury, in the old Age Concern UK building, is notably lacking in outdoor space for playtime or sport. It’s designed to take only 90 five-year-olds when it opens in September 2014. This is not a long-term solution to the acute shortage of primary school places in the north of Croydon. To compound problems, free schools do not have to employ qualified teachers – neither do mainstream schools and academies as a result of recent changes introduced by the Government.
Mr Stevenson said, “It’s deeply worrying to hear that a new grammar school is proposed by the Tories at the old CALAT site in South Norwood. This will have to be an annexe of an existing selective school in neighbouring Bromley or Sutton in order to get round the Tory party’s national commitment to not establish any new selective schools. Not only does this constitute a loss of democratic control and local accountability, it also represents a return to a form of educational apartheid which labels 4 out of 5 children as ‘failures’. This speaks volumes about the Government’s education priorities!”
Croydon Council’s ruling Tories’ recent decision to cut the £78,000 grant to the Croydon Supplementary Education Project – which provides Saturday and evening extra teaching for black children – is another real setback. There was no justification for doing this. It will have an immediate impact on the more vulnerable residents in Croydon North because BME groups are in the majority in six out of eight wards in the constituency.
Mr Stevenson concluded, “Communist Party education policy is based on four simple principles: the right of all children to non-selective and free comprehensive primary and secondary education; the right of every child to a qualified teacher; the right of all young people to free further and higher education; and the right of all people to free lifelong learning.
None of these rights apply in Britain today. And the marketisation and outright privatisation of our education system being driven forward by this deeply cynical, elitist Government is designed to destroy the relatively democratic structures we currently have.
Yet we could easily fund the investment needed in education if we implemented a more progressive tax system, including a wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent of households who own an estimated 44 per cent of Britain’s wealth, a 10 per cent ‘Tobin tax’ on City transactions and ended tax dodging by the super-rich and big business.”
Who on earth does Cameron thinks he’s kidding with his Cabinet ‘re-shuffle’?! Bourgeois commentators love to read significance into these events which, frankly, are of little or no consequence unless they signal a substantive shift in political direction. But with no change to the austerity drive, the economy in a downward spiral and the ongoing assault on the welfare state this is simply re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Even the bosses are starting to get worried about the lack of life in the economy – witness the recent statements by the CBI and the BCC. This feels like a good opportunity for Labour to raise its game and push for an early election!
By John Eden.
Yesterday I read on the “Inside Croydon” blog that the Council are setting up Twitter account so Croydonians can air their views to the Council, the “inside” blog welcomed the idea, but seemed sceptical of the motives, I don’t feel we have to get into speculation, I welcome any furtherance of the democratic process, how can it be detrimental to the interests of the people of Croydon, I am pretty sure that “inside Croydon” understand that.
On the leaflet the Communist Party in Croydon have been circulating over the recent weeks, against the building of a giant incinerator on Beddington lane, we wrote about the hypocrisy of the local Labour Councillors being against it in Croydon, but their colleagues on Merton Council supporting it, (the plan to build is a joint venture of four Councils Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Kingston).
Well the hypocrites are at it again, in a report in the “Croydon Advertiser” Friday August 24th page 7 entitled “Labour: “We will force firms to employ locals” Labour leader of the opposition Cllr Newman pledges to tackle the high unemployment in Croydon by forcing building Employers undertaking new work in the borough to take on 20% of the workers from Croydon, it would be welcome! but this is the same Councillor who as leader of the Council in 2006 closed down the Council run Local disabilities Factory (only days before the people of Croydon remove them from office in the local elections of May of that year) thus creating unemployment amongst already vunerable workers’, it is said only two of them have found employment so far, six years on. The factory had been opened by the then Conservative Council in 1961, when I challenge one of the Labour Councillors after their defeat, and said “closing it, contributed to their losing control of the council” the reply was, well the Conservative can restore it, but I replied ” you closed it and all the machinery as been removed”. No call me cynical but Cllr Newman remarks as more to do with electioneering.
By John Eden
Croydon Tory Council are supporting the building of an enormous Incinerator at Beddington Lane, when built it will be run by private contractors for profit. The contact will be worth £1billion, private profit and people’s health are incompatible. The site will be close to Croydon North, which is the largest mainland Parliamentary constituency in England, it is overwhelmingly working class, every local councillor, and there are twenty four are Labour. This is a part of Croydon the Tories can’t win and the Labour party can’t lose, that’s why it seems they are putting all their efforts into winning the three seats in the Waddon ward and one in the New Addington ward in the local elections in 2014, if Labour win three, they then will control of the Council, but by then the Incinerator will have been built. The time to fight is now! That’s why we support the “Stop the South London Incinerator Campaign”
Visit their website www.stoptheincinerator.co.uk read about the dangers of incineration and sign their online petition.