When Ed Miliband began to distance himself from the unions who gave him the leadership, I said that I hoped for a new party of the left that would represent the unions and that it would get my vote. This letter appeared in the Guardian on 31st March: ‘… At the forthcoming local council elections the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) co-founded by Bob Crow and, since 2012, backed by the RMT union, is organising the biggest left-of-Labour challenge in such (May) elections since the aftermath of the second world war. We already have 400 candidates in place, with more coming forward each day. Left Unity has been invited to participate in this election coalition, joining the anti-bedroom tax campaigners, trade union activists, and members of a number of different socialist organisations who will be standing under the TUSC umbrella in May. Possibly, together, we can reach the broadcasting authorities’ threshold for ‘fair coverage’ during the election period’ – Clive Heemskerk, TUSC national election agent.
I’ve become a member and am donating £10 per month.
It might be claimed against TUSC that it will split the Labour vote as the SDP did in the 1980’s, but I’m looking at the turnout figure of 61.6% for the 2010 general election. Very nearly 40% didn’t feel like voting and this is shaming when we think how many lives were lost in the campaign for universal suffrage. As I write, Afghanistanis are voting for the first time ever under the threat of being shot at by the Taliban. And there’s evidence that we don’t bother when it’s raining! Further, in 2010, 3.5 million adults weren’t registered to vote.
I’m finding it difficult to get the numbers but, out of that 40% + ‘not registered’, I reckon a sizeable majority would be left of centre sympathisers who won’t be voting for the bland Mr Miliband next year. A clue comes in recently published estimates of how 247,466 new black and minority ethnic voters will vote in 2015: they show an overwhelming majority for Labour.
Re UKIP it isn’t the realisation that its supporters are scapegoating that concerns me, it’s the savage suffering of so many of our people wrought by an uncaring establishment that gives rise to the scapegoating at a time when the gap between rich and poor is widening at a sickening pace. I learn only today that more than 40 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders have signed a letter calling on Cameron, Clegg, and Milibland to tackle the causes of food poverty, including low wages, rising food prices, and an inadequate welfare benefit safety net. For God’s sake Britain is now an Oxfam client! Welfare capitalism carries plausibility but the current coalition is strong on the capitalism but weak on the welfare.
As well as social fairness I hope TUSC will call for the renationalisation of gas, electricity, water, and the railways. Thatcher privatised gas in 1986 preaching that competition would keep prices down. The very opposite has occurred: the gas suppliers have become a self-serving price cartel and even Mr Milibland is proposing a temporary freeze on price increases. As for electricity – privatised during the ‘Nineties – according to the Guardian of 7th April ‘Energy regulator, Ofgem, said last month that it was referring the sector to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a review that could see the big six electricity suppliers forced to separate their power stations and supply businesses’. It further revealed that ‘43% of consumers do not trust energy companies to be clear and honest about their pricing, according to Ofgem’. Thatcher privatised water in 1989 and almost overnight we were so mistrustful of the quality of drinking water that a multi-million pound industry was born: bottled water … bottled water – not in the third world – but in an advanced economy that gets rained on sufficiently to cause severe flooding! And Major privatised the railways in 1993 producing an uncoordinated system that’s become a postcode lottery.
Further, I want to see a government that will give the NHS the funding it needs to provide an excellent service free at the point of use, and staffing levels that will reduce the stressful conditions and long hours currently being experienced by staff. I’d also welcome a massive programme of council house building and an authority to which Rachmanite landlords and ladies must apply if they want a rent rise. Further, outlaw zero hours.
In addition I’d expect an Equal Ops rep to sit in and have a vote on committees for constituency and cabinet selections, and employers to be fined heavily for paying less than the minimum wage, plus a reversal of the Thatcherite insistence on quantity over quality especially in health and education.
How do we pay for all this? Tax the rich with an 80% upper limit on incomes and bonuses and launch a massive campaign against tax evasion. Clamp down on tax havens. Plus an increase in VAT on luxury goods. And, if they run away, good riddance.
A thought as to why Milibland’s Labour Party can’t attract votes from those left of centre … a senior Tory M.P. was asked recently what Margaret Thatcher’s greatest legacy was. His reply? ‘New Labour.’
Finally …to each according to their need: from each according to their means. Let’s have a country where we look out for each other … where we’re all on the same side. Some of our best moments come in the afterglow of helping. But this natural, generous instinct can be contaminated by the sense of ‘us-them’. It breeds cynicism – the ‘they’re all out for number one so why should I be any different?’ mindset … from the thug robbing a pensioner to the expenses crook in Westminster. Let’s dream for a few moments … let’s dream big in memory of Tony Benn and Bob Crow … no more ‘us’ and ‘them’ – just ‘us’. And with the dream … let’s hope.