Friday, April 20, 2012

The Putney Debate

Last night, our Wandsworth & Merton hustings in St. Mary's church Putney, scene of the historic Putney debates during the English revolution.

It was a fairly standard affair, the candidates were nice and chatty to each other before hand, and the chairing was a bit disorganised (people these days are generally out of the practise). A bit too much time/deference was given to the incubent Tory and his Labour challenger, perhaps partly explained by the fact that, as usual, most of the audience were partisans who lobbed brickbats at each of those sides.

We'd been informed that the debate was being filmed by documentary makers doing a series on the history of England. We decided I should cunningly use the quote from Colonel Rich previously mentioned here, to perhaps maximise our chances of getting onto the screen later (plus it is such a good line).

Of course, l'espirit d'escalier dominated the evening, I should have kicked comments about people keeping warm by wearing jumpers rather than turning the heating into touch. The risk for the elderly of getting respiratory illness remains if the air is cold. Every year tens of thousands of excess winter deaths can be accounted to the cold.

Elsewhere, it was hard to crow bar our case in to some of the debates. On cycling I noted that if we could feed clothe and house every man woman and child on Earth for two days work a week each (which we can) then our roads could be much less busy, and we could spread out a bit and make our communities the focus of our lives rather than living for business. Bit of a stretch, but at least I got to make the point. I also noted that our roads are socialist, we own them in common and have free access.

On the other candidates, Thamilini Kulendran turned up: his case seemed to be that he is independent (and he's a bit anti-war). I suspect, looking at his leaflet, his main purpose is to promote the Tamil case. Either that, or he had a thousand pounds going spare he fancied wasting. The UKIP candidate was hopeless, and he stuck to his talking point that UKIP are third in the polls. "Vote for me, I'm third". The Green was a real puritan (he was the one who brought up wearing jumpers instead of heating, with which the Tory agreed).


Anonymous said...

"I also noted that our roads are socialist, we own them in common and have free access"

What on earth are you talking about? You might have "free access" to "our roads" if you're a cyclist but they're no-go areas in a car if you haven't paid your road tax, got insurance or enough money for the fuel.

Londonsocialist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Londonsocialist said...

At the hustings in Herne Hill on Wednesday the Green Party candidate there wanted to restrict access even more by imposing road pricing. What next under capitalism. Air pricing?

Bill said...

Anon, the road tax and insurance are a tax on the vehicle, not a charge for the road; and, yes, currently you have to pay for a vehicle and its working parts if you want to use one (you have to pay for the bike as well). You don't have to pay to walk on the road, and if you captured and tamed a wild horse you could ride it on the highway without paying. The roads (apart from congestion charge areas) are a commons.

perspicacious said...

So let me get this right in your reply to Anon. We own the roads in the same way as we used to own the railways when they were nationalised and still own some of the banks. Interesting.

Bill said...


no, because we didn't not have free access to the railways or the banks, they were not a commons: they were a state run business. The railways were owned by British Rail, uultimately run at a profit to pay off the bonds issued to nationalise them.

Socialism and nationalisation are not the same thing. The key is the commodity relation: roads can be accessed without a commodity transaction.

Anonymous said...

Bill said:"Socialism and nationalisation are not the same thing."

Yeah, I think we understand that, but does your candidate when he said at the Putney meeting "I also noted that our roads are socialist, we own them in common and have free access"

Oh really? Since when could we have islands of "socialism" within a capitalist economy? Or have I got the wrong Socialist Party?

Bill also said:"The key is the commodity relation: roads can be accessed without a commodity transaction."

Not true if you're a motorist and if there was a cost-effective way of taxing walking or cycling on the road, or even riding wild horses for that matter, then you can be fairly certain it would be done.

Bill said...

Morning Anon,

Motorists do not pay to use the roads by mile, the road tax on the car applies if you travel one mile or a thousand. Its as ridiculous as saying since I have to pay for food to give me energy to walk on the road there is a commodity relation.

Roads are no more an 'Island of socialism' than the air is, but both are owned and accessed in common without commodity transaction.

Likewise it would be just as true to say that relations within a familly resemble socialism without saying that famillies are 'Islands of socialism'

I think it is useful to find elements of socialistic tendencies within present society, just as there wre elements of capitalistic society in feudalism.

Anonymous said...

Just try exercising this so-called free access to "our roads" if you're a motorist without having valid road tax and insurance whether to drive or to merely park a vehicle on the 'public highway'. If you do not possess either of these "commodity transactions" you risk a hefty fine or far worse.

You're clearly not a motorist; I wouldn't mind betting you're one of these darned cyclists who think THEY own the roads.

Bill said...


as I said, you don't pay per mile with your road tax. You pay the same tax on a thousand miles as you do on one. You don't buy road time, or (for the most part) pay tolls. Road tax/insurance is not a commodity transaction, but a charge on the vehicle.

Likewise, a telly licence is not a charge on watching television, but on the set (compare with subscription channels).

And yes, I do use the roads in ways without paying. And I listen to radio, without paying for a telly licence...