Monthly Archives: June 2009

Who defended the RMT on the Greater London Assembly?

RTEmagicC_Val_on_the_Tube.jpgOn 10 June the Tories submitted a motion to a full meeting of the Greater London Assembly condemning the strike by the RMT then taking place.

Val shawcross, Labour member of the assembly for Lambeth and Southwark moved an amendment to this motion.

Not one which defended the strike, but one which criticised the Mayor, boris Johnson, for not being out there sufficiently and sharing the inconvience.

On the strike itself she was falling over herself to join the condemnation of it.

Even against a Tory mayor the Labour party cannot bring itself to back a strike. Strikes are bad, period. And those who still think that they might be useful to defend workers’ living standards, well they are should be treated like naughty children.

She compared favourably Ken Livingstone’s previous administration (still lauded by some as the acme of progressive politics) to Boris’s: “Ken Livingstone was always very clear to the unions, from early on, before there were any difficulties, that… he would never reward bad behaviour… offers were never improved after strike ballots begun”

So there you have it. Not only striking, just having a ballot is no longer acceptable to New Labour.

Just in case we may not have grasped their position on the strike she had to ram it home “We are extremely unhappy with this strike and we are extremely unhappy with the RMT”

This flow of denunciation was then joined by Caroline Pigeon, a Lib Dem assembly member and a councillor for Southwark’s Newington Ward.

Richard Barnbrook attacked the strike too, apparently “Crow has no allegiance to democracy”, which is rich coming from the BNP.

jonesj2So Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the the assembly, and a councillor in Southwark, had the floor clear to be the left opposition. And this is what she said:

“I do come from an Old Labour family, I don’t know that I have confessed that before, so I do have a slight sympathy for unions, because I think they have had a bad press since the days of Thatchr.

My dad was a union member all his life, a loyal union member, but he was never called out on strike, he was never tested in that way, because unions do obviously have a role, they are expected to protect the rights of workers to protect pay and conditions, for working people.

But what I have actually realised from reading all the stuff I’ve been able to on this on this particular strike, I just don’t know what happened. I just don’t know.
I’m sure TFL worked really hard to prevent the strike. I’m even sure the Mayor did his bit, I disagree with John [Biggs, Labour member for City and East] that the Mayor hasn’t shown any leadership, this strike has made the Mayor look good.

And I really resent that. You know, that shouldn’t have happened. You know massive disruption for millions of Londoners, huge costs to the economy, and to people who had to find other more expensive ways of getting into work, and in addition the Mayor looks good.

He’s out and about, he’s taking river transport, he’s cycling, and he’s being tough on the radio, it’s a disaster, an absolute disaster.

It was probably right to bring this motion, but you know, its tacky, a political move, I just can’t be bothered with this sort of political move. You’re not really taking into account the fact that Mayor over the last year probably has not done his bit. And so I’m going to abstain on this.

I think you are possibly right to bring the motion [addressed to the Tory members], but if you had worded it in a different way, I would have supported it wholeheartedly, but I’m not going to support it as it is.”

Jenny Jones abstained in the vote.

The video of the whole session of the Asembly is available at the GLA webcast page here.

The debate on the Tory motion condemning the strike starts at 1 hour 52. It makes interesting viewing and tells you a lot about how total the political consensus is now.

Val Shacross’s speech starts at 1 hour 27 mins.

Jenny Jones speech starts at 2 hours 4 mins in.


Filed under Uncategorized

Bob Crow speaks out about Europe (and says a number of other things)

DSCI0042From a two page interview with Bob Crow in Saturday’s The Guardian:

“Crow’s politics are fascinating. He is an internationalist who recently stood in the European elections on an anti-EU ticket as part of a trade union coalition. As far as he’s concerned, the EU is a capitalist conspiracy to bring wage rates down. Does that mean at heart he is a little Englander? Christ no, he says. He doesn’t care where his workers come from so long as they’re being paid a fair rate. “People think we’re wrapping ourselves up in the union jack, but I have got more in common with a Chinese labourer than I have with Sir Fred Goodwin. I’m anti-EU, but I’m pro-European. Real European support for me means when French dockers take action in Calais, we back it.”

To read the rest click here

Leave a comment

Filed under Bob Crow, interviews, No2EU, RMT

What do the Euro elections tell us?

The most striking event of the evening was the gaining of two seats by the BNP and the persistence of the UKIP.

The BNP increased its vote 808,200(6.3%) to 943,598. They also won tow MEPS. Nick Griffin in the North West and Andrew Brons.

This is a great success for the BNP.

It isn’t necessarily the breakthrough they wanted.

The collapse of Labour and the BNP

London the BNP vote increased to 86,000 from 76,000.

52,000 form 50,000 in the NE,

In the NW it actually dropped from 134,000 to 132,000 (8%, a 1.6 point rise on a lower turnout).

The Greens who positioned themselves as the way to stop the BNP increased their vote from 117,00 20 127,000, 5,000 votes behind the BNP.

The main reason that the BNP were able to win a seat though was not that the Greens failed to bridge the gap to the last seat but the extraordinary fall in turnout and the collapse of the Labour vote.

It is noticeable that in Yorkshire and Humberside the situation was not dissimilar.

Here turnout went down from a relatively respectable 42.6% turnout for a Euro election in 2004 with 1,573,000 voting to 32.3% or 1,226,000, a drop of 347,000 or 20%.

Once again the Tory vote dropped in absolute terms by 88,000 from 387,000 to 299,000, a 22% more or less in line with the decline in turnout.

Like wise UKIP dropped from 228,000 to 213,000 a 6.5% drop, a rise compared to the fall in turnout.

The Lib Dems were dropped 83,000, a 34% drop, well a head of the decline in turnout.

The Labour vote fell by 183,000 from 413,000 to 230,000, a massive 44% drop.

Rather than go to other parties again much of the Labour vote simply seems to have stayed at home, as does a large part of the other two parties votes. The smaller parties, UKIP, BNP and the Greens maintained there vote, which meant most of the people a who had previously, voted for them turned out and some who would have voted for other parties, or had stayed at home.

Clearly in the North West the most popular choice was abstention with the Labour parties voters staying at home in the greatest numbers. The BNP and Greens managed to mobilise their voters or win some new ones. But in absolute terms the e gains are modest. Especially when considering the number of voters rejecting the mainstream parties.

The turnout dropped by 400,000 from 2,115,000 to 165,000. The labour vote fell in absolute terms form 576,000, 423,000 a drop of 153,000 or a 26% decline.

The Tories managed to go up 1.5 points, but in absolute terms their vote declined form 509 to 403. The Lib Dems actually dropped 1.6 points to 14.3 from 335,000.

In the South East however a mere 1.4 point rise disguises a rise from 65,000 to 102,000. It might be worth noting that Labour in the south East lost a third of its vote, dropping from 301,000 to 192,000. The other big gainer there was the Greens lifting their vote form 173,000 to 571,000. The Tories went up to 812,000 from 176,000. UKIP up to 440,000 from 431.

In the West Midlands the BNP increased to 121,000 from 107,000.

The minor parties, the BNP included, have not made a great breakthrough, despite the opportunity presented to them by the scandals crisis and the recession.

The increases in the vote have generally been moderate, or they have actually seen their vote shrink.

The strength of these parties seems to be in large part negative. The strength is merely the electoral manifestation of the major parties weaknesses.

The BNP have made a breakthrough of a kind at these elections in getting Nick Griffin elected.

The most salient feature of the BNP’s vote, apart form its failure to grow in any major way is its resilience. Though still in terms of mainstream politics the BNP is still not playing in the major league. It is however starting to move out of the realms of protest vote party becoming a fixture on the political landscape with a widely known leader and profile. It can also put up a decent showing in other elections, something UKIP for instance is not able to do.

If UKIP is a seasonal, the BNP is starting to look like a hardy perennial.

The BNP seems to have established itself a fairly stable voting base, which is not just made up of hard-core racists, but it has not managed to establish itself as a semi-respectable part of the political landscape.

The gaining of two MEPs, and the position that this gives them can help this process.

The Greens

Much has been based on the idea in the NW for instance that the Greens are the best placed party to stop the BNP. A vote for the Green Party was posited as a vote to keep the BNP leader Nick Griffin out.

This may have succeeded (though it didn’t in this election). But can the Greens pose an alternative that can block the BNP in the longer term?

In three regions the Greens were cited as the way to stop the BNP. The Greens themselves have cited this as a reason that other to the left of Labour Parties should stand aside as a split in the ”progressive” vote would let the Nazis. The problem is that as long as the present system is used in Euro elections the this may always be the choice.

Like the BNP under New Labour ht Greens have not managed to grow greatly in terms of membership, but they have built up an electoral base for themselves.

To take an example of London:

2009 euros: 190,000 (11%)
2004 euros: 158,000 (6.4%)
2004 GLA: 138, (8%)
2000 GLA: 183,000 (11%)
1999 euros: 87,000 (8%)

Or in the NW:

2009 euros: 127,000 (8%)
2004 euros: 117,393 (6%)
1999 euros: 56,000 (6%)

In this time the BNP has continued to spread its influence, in Lancashire and in the suburbs of London.

The Green Party has not been any kind of block, it has not provided any kind of alternative pole of attraction in working class communities (though individual Green councillors have in a few places done this)

This has to be born in mind when thinking about stopping the BNP.

The BNP has established itself.

The BNP has an attraction to working class people as they peel away from generations of supporting labour.

The Greens are not capable of filling that vacuum and creating a pole of attraction in working class communities. Only a new party based on the most active sections of the working class and a section of the trade unions at least can do this.

The Left

It was not a good night for the left. A the moment when the political system is going through a crisis of legitimacy, at the same time as Labour government and New Labour disintegrate and the world economy is gripped by the greatest crisis of capitalism for 30 years, the left has found itself almost devoid of a serviceable electoral vehicle.

Respect was unable to stand. Its straightened circumstances since the spit meant that this was never going to be the case. Nor was the party able to through itself behind a single force.

The only other electoral forces of the left were the SLP and No2EU (this is not to include the Green Party at this point). It should be noted that NO2EU was a temporary electoral platform and the SLP had not previously stood nationally.

The SLP took 173,00 or 1.1% and NO2EU 153,000 (1%). The SSP took 10,000.

Together they took 294,000 votes in England and Wales and 42,000 in Scotland.

Considering the scale of the political and economic crisis it seems a paltry result. In many ways the left seems further away from a viable force to the left of Labour than it was ten years ago when the LSA contested the GLA elections.

In having the two parties of the left in England a temporary platform only created in the spring, and the SLP, one might have expected a complete car crash.

However many who will be quick to criticise the failure of the left should look at the statistics.

The 294,000 votes the SLP and NO2EU got in England d and Wales is actually more than Respect did in 2004 (252,000, on a higher turnout)).

In Scotland the situation is different. The 42,000 of the SLP, No2EU and SSP is less than the 61,000 received in 2004 and little different from the 39,000 received in 1999.

Of particular note was the collapse of the SSP, which lost 80% of its vote.

The fact that the left has no coherent long-term alternative party to build is a massive issue for the left. But many of those who may be pointing to the failure NO2EU to pull off some kind of miracle for instance should be reminded that the left of Labour vote received by Respect has not shrunk (despite the fall in turn out) and is still there. This could even be seen as surprising considering the difficulties the SA/Respect project has had.

The No2EU campaign managed to reach parts of the country that the SA and Respect were never able to.

In the NW the SLP and NO2EU got 50,000, double the 24,000 Respect got in 2004.

For instance in the North East the SLP and NO2EU got some 18,000 votes (10,000 and 8,000 respectively) double the 8,000 Respect got in 2004.

In the Yorkshire and Humberside Region No2EU got 35,000 as against Respect and the AGS’s joint tally of 44,000, but on a 10% lower turn out.

In he East Midlands turnout was 6% down but the SLP and NO2EU for 25,000, up on the Respects 24,000 in 2004.

Like wise in the East of England 27,000 for SLP/NO2EU as against 13,000 for Respect in 2004.

In the South east 37,000 for SLP/No2EU, almost three times the 13,000 Respect got in 2004.

The South West SLP/No2EU 18,000, Respect in 2004: 10,000.

In Wales SLP/No2EU 21,000, four times Respect’s 5,000 in 2004.

Even in the west Midlands NO2EU got 25,000, 5,000 more than Respect got in 2004.

Clearly SLP/NO2EU have been able to gather support amongst the working class outside of the big metropolitan centres of London and Birmingham in the way that no other left project has been able to.

The campaigns had undeniable weaknesses, bought this is a hidden strength that may well be ignored.

In Scotland the SSP’s vote collapsed. It got 10,000. Compared to the 61,000 votes it received, it has lost four out of five of those who had previously voted for it.

It was beaten by both the SLP. It was also beaten by the BNP (in Scotland!). It finished only 700 votes ahead of NO2EU.

This electoral disaster may well have wiped away any credibility the party may have had left after the vicissitudes of recent years.

The party had in fact decided not to stand in the elections due to lack of resources and an assessment of the situation. It later reversed this decision, mistaekenly so as it turned out.

It was a sectarian folly which Respect nearly repeated in London in trying to compete in an election that in reality it was not capable of doing so.

Could do better

The election has shown a number of things.

Onei s the intense alienation that a large part of the working class from Labour.

This particularly acutely effects the Labour Party but all the main parties suffer from it. The election showed no great enthusiasm for the Tories and there result, as the party likely to form the next government was quite poor.

There is a well of bitterness and anger in this country that can go many different ways. The resilience of the BNP vote gives it a base from which it can grow in future.

The resilience of the left of Labour vote, both in terms of the Greens (to the extent that it is a left of Labour vote) and No2EU/SLP shows that there is still the basis for a new party of the working class. This is all the more so when one considers how the left has managed to burn itself through so many different parties and formation in elections in the last twelve years.

The potential is there. The left needs to do better.

Leave a comment

Filed under Broad Parties