On the same day as the elections for the Greater London Assembly, there'll be one for the Mayor of London too. But what is the Mayor but an elected Leader? And who needs a Leader? Only sheep do. Here is what we said in a leaflet we gave out during the referendum in May 1998 on whether or not London should have a directly elected Mayor. We wouldn't change a word of it today.
It is interesting to note what has happened to the professional politicians touted at the time, and mentioned in the leaflet, as possible candidates for the post. Labour leftwinger Tony Banks died a member of the House of Lords. Chris Patten is also now a noble Lord. But poor David Mellor is still a plain Mister and a DJ on Classic FM.
Who Needs a City Boss?
This referendum is a farce.
Full details of what is involved were only made public in March, so there has not been enough time for a proper debate.
There is no provision for equal time to be given to both the "yes" and the "no" sides. So the media will be free to give an unfair advantage to the government case for voting "yes", as they shamelessly did during the referendums in Scotland and Wales.
The question is rigged. If you want an elected assembly for London (as most people do since this is an elementary democratic measure) you can't vote for this without at the same time voting for an elected mayor who will have more power than the assembly. So you don't have the choice of saying "yes" to an elected assembly but "no" to an elected mayor.
This neo-Tory Labour government talks a lot about democracy and democratic reform but in practice resorts to the same underhand tactics to get its way as do governments everywhere. It has linked the two questions so as to be sure to get its dubious proposal for a London City Boss through on the back of popular support for the restoration of an elected London council. In any event, its various proposals for "constitutional reform" are a smokescreen to disguise the fact that it cannot deliver, and no longer wants to deliver, on social reforms aimed at shifting wealth and power from the privileged few to working people.
We in the Socialist Party are well aware that in the end whatever arrangements are adopted for local government in London won't make much difference. This is because such arrangements are to be implemented within the context of the profit system, whose economic mechanisms require all levels of government, however structured, to trim their spending so as not to endanger profit levels whatever people may want - or vote for.
Even so, an elected mayor is not a good idea. As the title of the government's Green Paper - New Leadership for London - proclaims, this is a proposal to elect a Leader for London. This Leader will not just have more power than the elected assembly but will be paid a fat cat salary (so as to remove, it is said, the temptation to be corrupt) and have the remit of managing London as if it were a capitalist enterprise. The whole proposal is a travesty of democracy.
Democracy means participating in the running of affairs, not following leaders.
The proposal for an elected mayor is a proposal to endorse what passes for democracy under capitalism: a choice not of alternative social systems or even policies but of rival leaders who are all packaging and no substance. Tony Banks, David Mellor, Chris Patten, who has the best smile? Who cares? But worse, it encourages people to think that some Leader can solve society's problems for them, whereas these problems can only be solved by people refusing to follow leaders and acting for themselves. The only kind of politics that is going to work is a do-it-yourself politics aimed at abolishing the profit-system.
Real democracy is not possible under capitalism where a minority own and control the means of production and are therefore more equal than the rest of us and where the mechanisms of the profit system work to frustrate what people vote for from being carried out. The only way everybody can participate and have a genuinely equal say in how things are run is in a classless society based on common ownership.
Such a socialist society will mean the end of production for profit and the coming of production geared directly to meeting people's needs. There will be no longer any barrier to ending problems like transport chaos, pollution and crumbling social services, which are unsolvable today because they arise out of the profit system. People will cooperate to carry out the necessary work of society and be able to take freely from the common store of wealth according to their needs. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs" will be the guiding principle.
That's what socialism is. Common ownership, democratic control, production for use and free access according to need.
Nothing to do with the failed state-capitalist dictatorships that collapsed some years ago now in Russia and Eastern Europe (nor with the Trotskyist Militant Tendency which has dishonestly and illegitimately been using our name of "Socialist Party").
Vote "No" if you want to, but we shall be showing our contempt for the false choice being offered by writing "SOCIALISM" across the ballot paper.