The General Election on 12 December

The Parliamentary Labour Party, with the abandonment of the pledge in the 2017 Labour Manifesto to implement Brexit, has significantly undermined the prospects of a Labour government implementing the other important pledges in that manifesto. These were to

  • Extend state aid to industry
  • Take the railways into monopoly public ownership
  • Reform VAT
  • Reform public procurement rules
  • Rebuild regional development policy
  • Negotiate fair trade agreements with dynamic and emerging economies beyond Europe.

These pledges were welcomed by the Communist Party at the time, and we have made clear subsequently that our support for Labour in the forthcoming election is dependent on the Labour Party not watering them down. It is, however, worth bearing in mind that none of these six pledges can be implemented if we remain in the EU. It will be interesting to see how Labour will try to square the circle in its new manifesto.

The prospect of a Tory government after 12 December does not, of course, bear thinking about. Johnson may enjoy playing the fool – his picture on the cover of City AM today giving the Benny Hill salute is no doubt intended to amuse and reassure, but he is a dangerous and slippery enemy of the working class who is clearly prepared to break any rule to secure his ends which include a trade deal with the USA that would make our current EU suzerainty appear benign. Nor can we expect another hung parliament to rein him in – both the Lib-Dems under Cameron and the Democratic Unionists under May demonstrated the ineffectuality of coalition government. Tory coalition partners quickly morph into Tories before they are dumped when no longer needed.

Fortunately, we are not quite back to the bad old days when the choice was between Tory Tories and Blairite Tories. Many Labour candidates in the coming election are worth supporting. Croydon South is solid Tory and Croydon North has a healthy Labour majority but with a right wing MP, Steve Reed, who voted to remove Corbyn. Croydon Central is a marginal constituency currently held by Sarah Jones for Labour. She’s not the most progressive of MPs but she seems to have realised that to get re-elected she needs to listen to her young, left-leaning supporters. Communists in Croydon will be tramping the streets for her. Let’s hope she doesn’t let us down when she gets re-elected.

 

The NHS and Democracy

A well-attended meeting at Ruskin House last night (13 September 2018) called by Croydon TUC was left in no doubt that there has been a covert strategy, intensified since 2010, to dismantle the NHS and feed it to US-based health corporations. Addressed by Dr Bob Gill, a Sidcup GP, and Sandra Ash of Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH), we learned that attempts to close St Helier were just the first step in the closure of acute and other facilities across South London (including Croydon University Hospital where a new Chief Executive, Matthew Kershaw, may have been brought in to achieve this) and across the country as part of a fattening up process. This was made possible by the Health and Social Care Act 2012  which freed the government from statutory responsibility for providing a universal NHS care and by continued under-funding that is intended, in part, to weaken public support for the NHS by generating more, high profile failures.

The meeting was attended by Joy Prince and Patsy Cummings, two of our most progressive Labour councillors in Croydon, but the absence of other Labour councillors and our two Croydon Labour MPs, Steve Reed and Sarah Jones, was criticised from the floor of the meeting. Are our local Labour politicians unaware that Croydon TUC holds open meetings every second Thursday of the month at Ruskin House and has done so for many years? Is their unfamiliarity with how the Labour Movement functions and the nature of the relationship between the trade unions and the Labour Party an excuse for their dismal absence? We think not.

Earlier this week Chris Williamson MP, the campaigning Labour MP and Corbyn supporter, addressed another public meeting at Ruskin House. Its aim was to call for more democracy in the Labour Party. This is an internal matter for that party and not a matter into which we wish to intrude, but we do very much agree with the basic principles that Mr Williamson was expounding:

  •  MPs and councillors are responsible to, and accountable to, the parties that select and nominate them (OK, Tories are an exception), not to an amorphous electorate that voted for them on the basis of their party affiliation; and
  • being an MP or councillor is not a job for life and should not be treated by those fortunate enough to be selected and elected as a career.

As communists, we would, however, go much further than Mr Williamson and seek to establish real democracy, not the present sham of voting every four or five years to determine which members of the ruling class are to administer their system in our name. A Corbyn administration would be very welcome and might just be able to halt the dismantling of the NHS (if the Parliamentary Labour Party allows it to), but we need real, direct democracy where our votes and our views have continuing significance between elections.