Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who needs a City Boss?

A leaflet from the BackBoris campaign came through the door today, a reminder that there is also an election in London on 3 May for Mayor. We don't care about this election as directly-elected mayors are not compatible with a genuine democracy. As we said in our leaflet for the referendum held in 1998 on whether or not there should be an elected mayor of London:

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.

This is still our position and the message we would put over to workers in those places outside London - Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield - which will be holding a referendum on 3 May on whether or not to introduce elected City Bosses in their cities too.

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