No, I don’t expect to win

Torfaen is ultra- safe for Labour. Our next MP will be Nick Thomas-Symonds. acorn to oak

So why am I contesting? Frankly I would not have stood if Nick were like (say) Paul Flynn (in Newport West) or Jeremy Corbyn (Islington) and likely to campaign to reverse Tory spending cuts and oppose nuclear weapons.

I also would not be standing if either the Green Party or Plaid Cymru candidates were visible in Torfaen and campaigning against austerity and Trident renewal. But both, for personal reasons, have relied on TV appearances by their excellent leaders, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood.

So, rather than sit at home fretting, I decided to stand. Otherwise I would have not been able to write these posts arguing for more progressive policies. I have nothing against Nick personally. He is a loyal and capable Labour member and, if Labour decided to reverse Tory spending cuts and plans to renew Trident, he would be equally convincing in arguing for my preferred alternative policies. But unlike Paul Flynn and Jeremy Corbyn and other left Labour MPs, it’s not in his nature to argue for anything other than official party policy.

The point of voting for John Cox on May 7th is to tell the Labour Party to reject austerity and Trident renewal and to make a clean break with Tory policies (a clear “red line” – to quote our former First Minister).

That’s what I would be doing if (by a miracle) I were to be elected. So every vote cast for John Cox will message our new MP to respond to these demands. Far from being wasted (as adding one more vote to Nick’s huge majority will be), a good vote for John Cox (Socialist Labour) will send a very clear message to Labour to oppose austerity and Trident renewal.

PS If you wish to read more of my views on these topics, hit the Tag for Trident or Austerity or whatever and scroll down.

Why Socialist Labour?

Emblem_79I’ve been getting a lot of stick about my posts commending the Labour Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party – and incredulity that I represent the Socialist Labour Party – though not a member.

Let me explain.

Whilst I do agree with most aspirations of the Green and Socialist Labour Parties and Plaid Cymru, I have not joined any party – because, were I to do so, it would imply that I disagreed with the others.

In practice, for the past quarter of a century I have worked with like-minded individuals of all parties – although, in 1992, I did contest in Torfaen as a joint candidate of the Green Party and Plaid Cymru (and I might well have done so again in 2015 had I been asked).

I had no plan to be a candidate this time round until, a few weeks ago, Torfaen Labour Party selected its candidate – a ‘safe hands’ choice who is not likely ever to oppose party policy. About the same time, I learnt that (for personal reasons) neither the Green Party nor the Plaid Cymru candidate would be active in Torfaen during the election. At that point I began to think about standing.

Initially I thought to stand as an independent “against austerity and Trident renewal”. But once I learnt that the “Socialist Labour Party” would back me, I thought this a better option (“Socialist Labour” is a fair description of my views). Moreover, those members of the “Socialist Labour Party” that I know all seem closer to the spirit of the post-war Labour Party than most of its current members.

The 40+ posts of this blog detail many of my political views. To appreciate all my politics you need to read all of these posts. But here’s a brief summary of relevance to why I am standing:

  • I believe the 1945-51 Labour government did well to nationalise Britain’s basic industries, create the NHS and provide free education for everyone. This was not socialism but it laid the foundations for a more just society.
  • The Tories have been destroying these foundations ever since 1951. They believe the function of economic activity is to profit the owners of capital. To them, peoples’ health and wellbeing, housing and education are little more than opportunities for rich people to get richer.
  • The millionaire-owned mass media have been relentless in promoting Tory ideology since 1951 and, in response, Labour has moved so far that they are now more right-wing on most issues than Edward Heath’s Tory government. Nonetheless Labour remains the better option because, during this same period, the Tories have moved even further to the right.
  • Meanwhile, most people have become generally more enlightened in respect to the environment, race relations, gays, religion, etc. and, in consequence, most people are noticeably more leftwards-looking than Labour.
  • Labour’s rightwards drift is the underlying reason for the growing support for alternative parties of the left – all of whom have more in common with the post-war Labour Party than Labour’s present leadership.
  • The Green Party, Plaid Cymru and various small socialist parties are the modern-day equivalent of the disparate socialist, nationalist and green-minded groups that founded the Labour Party over a century ago. That’s why I support them.
  • The Labour Party, whilst still preferable to the Tories, needs to face challenges from the left. Many members of the Labour Party agree.
  • That’s where I come in.

Green is OK too

Climate not tridentI support all green aspirations and, if you don’t vote for John Cox, I would be happy for you to vote for the Green Party.

My reservations about the Green Party are strategic. Without compulsion I don’t think multinationals will agree to help alleviate climate change and pollution.

The ethos of capitalism is to make quick money and, through their power and influence and control of the mass media, the richest 1% are able to thwart any half-hearted green proposals. To achieve green aspirations, we have to mount a fundamental challenge to their ability to exploit people as well as the environment.

One aspect of the European Union is that it curbs unethical behaviour – which is why big business has bankrolled UKIP and why the millionaire-owned media promotes UKIP policies. But the EU only imposes puny restrictions – just imagine the reaction if they imposed measures to prevent climate change and halt all pollution.

To see the human race through to the next century, governments not only have to take over the “commanding heights of the economy” (Nye Bevan) but also impose effective curbs on capitalist enterprises. Despite this need to impose draconian measures, the Green Party itself remains unwilling to become a socialist party.

The Green Party is thin on the ground in Torfaen and few electors will have received even a leaflet. But if you’re not yet ready to vote socialist but impressed by the Green Party speakers on TV, do go ahead and vote green.

Plaid Cymru is OK

Plaid Cymru symbol Apart from on one specific issue, I haven’t criticised Plaid Cymru in my posts and, if you’re not going to vote for John Cox, I will be quite happy for you to vote Plaid Cymru.

Plaid’s policies for ending austerity and not renewing Trident accord with mine and they also have equally sensible policies on nationalisation and most green issues. My only serious criticism, which I have voiced already in this blog, is their opportunist blurring of their conference policy against nuclear power in the hope that this will win them votes in Ynys Mon and Arfon.

The stumbling block for many voters is “independence” – their long-term objective. I have an open mind on this but it is not an immediate issue and will remain an irrelevance until such time as at least 40% of the Welsh electorate support it.

In the meantime, supporters and opponents of “independence” alike should support Wales having parity with Scotland in respect to finance and government. The current arrangements amount to gross discrimination against Wales (which, let it be said, is the surest way to stimulate separatist ideas whilst Scotland forges ahead with a far better settlement).

Plaid Cymru plays a positive and progressive role in Welsh political life and in the anti-nuclear and anti-austerity alliance with the Green Party and SNP. I would be very comfortable if it wins a respectable vote on 7th May – although I think voting for John Cox would send a far clearer signal to Labour about where they are failing.

[Tomorrow – Green is OK too]

Labour is better

John CoxMany of my posts are critical of Labour – for having similar or even identical policies to the Tories. Despite these criticisms, I still believe a Labour government would be infinitely preferable to a continuation of Tory rule.

For the record, here are some Labour policies that (if you’re not ready to vote for John Cox or the Socialist Labour Party) are good reasons for voting Labour:

Repealing the Bedroom Tax, Imposing new rent controls, Raising the minimum wage (preferably to at least the “living” wage), Improved child care, Extra apprenticeships, Ending NomDom tax evasion, Scrapping the House of Lords, Ending the badger cull, Extending marine protection zones – and many more.

If I lived in a constituency where the contest is between Labour and any of the Tory and quasi-Tory parties, I would unhesitatingly vote Labour – despite Labour’s addiction to nuclear weapons and their refusal to reverse Tory spending cuts.

Fortunately, there is zero possibility of a Tory/LibDem/UKIP victory in Torfaen – so electors can vote for even better policies.  

Political parties and policies

This post is for those who care about party labels. Personally I find them more of a hindrance than a help to serious political discussion.

My first post noted that I am “not currently a member of a political party but agree with most policies of the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Socialist Labour Party and those socialists that remain in the old Labour Party”.

At this election I am a non-party candidate for the Socialist Labour Party: previously I have been a non-party joint candidate of the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. I see no conflict in this.

All three parties believe the austerity policies of the Westminster parties are morally wrong and ineffective as a financial ‘strategy’ and all agree that the £100 billion renewal of Trident should not proceed. If elected (I know it’s a long shot), I would work with the Plaid Cymru/Green/SNP anti-austerity anti-Trident bloc.

I am driven by socialist, environmental and democratic concerns and I see these as complementary. I think it a pity when parties focus on a narrow set of issues and view others as enemies.

Concerning the environment

Historically, environmental concerns were central to the motivation of 19th Century socialists (such as Engels and William Morris). During the 20th Century, in part due to and replicating the (understandable but misguided) priorities of the Soviet Union, green issues became secondary to mainstream socialist thinking.

This, historically, is why people motivated by green issues began to create parties detached from the socialist tradition – and why socialists tended to look on greens as an apolitical and an unwelcome addition to the political scene.

But, by the end of the 21st century, rampant capitalism had obliged greens to move towards socialist thinking just as the growing environmental crisis obliged socialists to reincorporate environmental concerns into their litany of the ills of capitalism. Today there is no excuse for parties to campaign exclusively for either.

National identity

Something similar happened in respect to socialism and nationalism. Most early 19th Century socialists favoured home rule for Ireland and Scotland (rarely Wales) because their socialism was locally-based (William Morris again). This ‘bottom up’ socialism has decisions taken by those most directly affected.

‘Top down’ socialism is a 20th Century phenomenon, influenced by Labour and Socialist parties in government in Western Europe and by the Soviet Union. Socialist parties in Britain (and all over Europe) tended to be hostile to ‘separatism’ because, they say, it divides the “working classes”.

For their part, the early nationalists of Britain (certainly in Wales) tended to ignore the threat to national identity from globalisation. With or without the EU, multinational conglomerates dominate the economies of Britain and France, making genuine Welsh or Scottish independence impossible.

One of the saddest spectacles of recent years has been ‘nationalists’ going cap in hand to multinational companies to persuade them to invest. There can be no separate distinctive development of any nation unless steps also are taken to make nations independent of multinational corporations.

Socialism

The essence of socialism is that people – not unelected multinational companies – control what happens. This may take many forms – the most ‘top down’ version being the Soviet Union and the most ‘bottom up’ being Tito’s Yugoslavia. Many other countries have elected ‘socialist’ governments in name and so there is no single authoritative model to copy.

The 1945-51 Labour government, despite the parlous state of the British economy after the war and the 1930s depression, nationalised all our basic industries (electricity, gas, coal, water, railways, etc.), created our National Health Service and made all education free. These achievements rescued Britain economically and led to the ‘never-had-it-so-good’ 50’s and 60’s.

This was a top-down version of socialism that uneasily coexisted with all the power of big business in Britain left intact, continuation of the British empire and an alliance with the now all-powerful US government against colonial liberation movements and the Soviet Union. The rearmament programme, instituted in 1950 at the insistence of the USA, undermined the progressive policies of the Labour government and the Tories got back into power.

Politics since 1951 has been step by step back from the actions of the 1945-51 government with, under Tony Blair, Labour becoming as right-wing as the Tories were in the 1950s. All the nationalised industries of 1945-51 (and the Royal Mail) have become profit-making enterprises, often still receiving public subsidies, and they are now no longer public services.

The Socialist Labour Party seeks to revive the spirit of 1945 and, although I believe it can be weak on environmental and national issues, I agree with 95% of its manifesto. My posts have been presenting snippets of their policies (and mine) in my own words and has linked these to contemporary events.

Shock horror – 100 fat cats want another Conservative government.

Today, April Fool’s Day, was headlined by a letter from 100 big business leaders who all agree that Conservative economic policy is good for big business (true) and argue that this means it’s also good for everyone (really?).

Their first proposition is undeniable – several of the signatories have annual incomes from £5-10 million and at least one, was paid over £15 million. They claim that higher taxes on the rich would make it harder for business to prosper and that that’s bad for everyone.

However, there’s no evidence that the so-called ‘trickle down’ theory (vast incomes at the top leads to increased income all round) is true. On the contrary, vast income at the top closely correlates with depressed incomes at the bottom.

Less self-serving business people than these 100 have argued that the culture of executive greed – and the public contempt that it engenders – threatens the long-term sustainability of capitalism. That’s far more credible than this April Fools’ joke.

By the way ….. An analysis by the Independent shows that one in five of the businesspeople who signed a letter supporting Tory economic policy were given honours by David Cameron in the last few years, while one third have donated money to the Conservative party.
Among the 103 signatories of the letter, published on the front page of the Daily Telegraph this morning, are four Conservative members of the House of Lords – all ennobled by David Cameron. The Prime Minister also doled out 18 MBEs, OBEs, CBEs and knighthoods to signatories of the letter over the last parliament.