Sunday, April 29, 2012

The man in the blue turban

Yesterday was the last Saturday before the election. Unfortunately it rained all day so we didn't do our stall in Clapham High Street and our election meeting there had below average attendance (though there was still an interesting discussion). Some leaflets were distributed in nearby Larkhill ward (the ward we did best in last time).

We had received an invitation to a hustings at exactly the same time organised by the "British Organisation of People of Indian Sub-continental Origin" (BOPIO) in Tooting. Unfortunately Bill, our candidate for the area (Tooting is in Wandsworth) couldn't attend as he was out of London, but the organisers allowed us to be represented by his election agent. So I went. On my way I saw an SWP poster saying "Boot Out Tory Boris" and "Vote Ken Livingston for Mayor. Vote Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) Against Cuts for the Assembly." I took a photo of it for the record as another example of the SWP's policy of campaigning to vote Labour.

The meeting was introduced by BOPIO President, Sinna Mani. He told me before the meeting that he thought at first we were Militant but then realised who we were. He said he knew somebody whose father had been in the party. It turned out to be Baroness Joan Lestor. I told him that she'd been in the party too before defecting to Labour.

All the parties who sent speakers (Labour, Tory, Liberal, Green) sent someone "of Indian sub-continental origin" (however remote), the Tory (somebody from their list) wearing a magnificant blue turban but he sounded like any Young Tory. Also present was Siobhan Benita, the Independent candidate for Mayor and darling of the chattering classes. She revealed that her mother had also come from the Indian subcontinent. She came out with nonsense about things being better if they were run by an "independent" rather than representatives of a political party, as if that would make any difference to the way capitalism works.

Also present was a one-person list for the GLA, Rathy Alagaratnam, who also came out with the "independents" would be better nonsense. Surprisingly, the independent candidate for Merton & Wandsworth, Thamilini Kulendran, did not turn up.

Afterwards we were all photographed for the BOPIO website. The organiser said she would circulate their members with the views of the parties and candidates who had turned up. So our views should reach a wider audience than the 25 or so who were present.

Friday, April 27, 2012

An opinion poll

Someone's done an opinion poll on how people will/might vote in the GLA constituencies. Here's the results for the 2 we're contesting (for what they're worth). Apparently, what they did was present those they poll with a facsimile of the ballot paper and ask them to vote. The figures represent numbers answering not percentages.

Lambeth & Southwark

Labour 67
Tory 16
LD 11
Green 9
Ind/Other 0

Merton & Wandsworth

Tory 34
Labour 32
Ind/Other 8
LD 7
Green 7

We're included in Independent/Other. It would be nice to think that 8 out of the 100 questioned in Merton & Wandsworth said they'd vote for us but most if not all of these will be for the Independent Tamil candidate. And of course we won't get nul points in Lambeth & Southwark.

A curse?

Last week we reported that our Green Party opponent in Vauxhall in the general election last year had resigned from the Green Party. Now we learn that the Trotskyist group, Workers Power, which also stood against us has split. (Hadn't realised they regarded North Korea as a "workers state". How nutty can you get?)

Was it something we did or said?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

5.8 million know we're standing

At least if they read the booklet sent out earlier this week by the Greater London Returning Officer to all 5.8 million electors in London.

We feature on page 25 of the booklet which those outside London can download from here.

A rainy night in Norwood

Two of us went last night in the rain to a hustings in a cavernous church in Norwood (at the southern end of Lambeth on the borders with Southwark and Croydon and where Ken Livingstone comes from). A bit of a repeat of the one up the road in Herne Hill last week with the same candidates making the same speeches. As the audience was much older there weren't so many questions on cycle lanes (though this did come up), more about the South Circular Road which passes through Norwood (not surprising, since we were caught in a traffic jam getting there).

Danny did get a chance to talk about wider issues as there were questions on unemployment (you can't have capitalism without a reserve army of unemployed which expands and contracts with the business cycle and is currently expanding) and why people aren't interested in politics (because they are alienated from the system as they perceive it to be subject to impersonal economic forces they know they can't control). He also spoke about socialism and afterwards was approached by one person who said that it wouldn't work because of "human nature" and another who said it wouldn't work because people were greedy and selfish. Where have we heard that before?

This was the fourth hustings we've been to. They were all attended overwhelmingly by what sociologists would call "white middle class" people concerned about local amenities. So a difficult audience to put our case to. Still, they provide an opportunity to put our views across and to raise our political profile with our opponents.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A tale of two meetings

Well, last night we had a bit of fun, lefletting Wimbledon. Always nice to meet a new set of letter boxes.

We then went on to leaflet a hustings in Wimbledon. We hadn't been invited onto the platform. A nice posh lady explained they wanted to talk about "substantive issues" and there would have been too many on the platform if they'd invited everyone. Considering I've been to hustings with 11 candidates on the platform that covered substantive issues quite well, I don't think that's a partcularly good reason to restrict the range of debate. Of course, they are entitled to do this (so long as the cost of the meeting is shared between the candidates so promoted) but our old friend the difference between what one can/may do and what one should do raises its head. Anyway, we were cordially recieved, except by one Tory who came back out to return our leaflet, scrumpled up into a ball. That was us told, I'm sure. Pillock.

Our next meetings was in Colliers Wood, where we caught the end of a TUSC meetings. About 20 people present, almost all committed members of one sect or other. They have tried to form the loosest allianc possible, but still cannot agree even within that. I'm always amazed by this, I know we get called dreadful sectarians, but really what we are trying to do is organise around a bare minimum: 1) political action 2) a campaign directly for common ownership. TUSC cannot even unite around that much, the SWP spakers calling for an endless round of struggles to stop the thing and save the pittance. Their refrain was trade union bureaucrat treahcery; but my experince in my union is that there simply isn't a stomach for a fight among the rank and file, mass unemployment has got us in a death grip. That's why political actionis so important. As we always say, if we can't expect people to vote for socialism we can't expect them to strike for it; and even the unemplyed can vote.

Kudos is due, though, for organising th meeting, in what has been a dismal election campaign largely devoid of debate. Thanks to the comrades who came out last night.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Make Wandsworth be Bradford?

Here's the details of the hustings on Saturday 28 April from 4pm to 7pm in Tooting:

NAPS Samaj Hall, 26B Tooting High Street, London SW17 0RG (next to NatWest Bank)

The meeting has been organised by the British Organisation of People of Indian Sub-continental Origin (BOPIO) and is aimed mainly, but not exclusively, at people with connections with this part of the world.

Unfortunately our candidate for Merton & Wandsworth is not available and it also coincides with our own election meeting at 52 Clapham High Street, SW4 7UN at exactly the same time. The organisers have, however, agreed to accept him to be represented by someone else. So we will be there. Unfortunately too, the only Indian language that we have leaflets in is Bengali (Bangla) while most of those present are likely to come from South India and Northern Sri Lanka. But we'll take some along anyway in case there's anyone from Bangladesh or West Bengal there.

They have also invited the candidates for Mayor but it's doubtful that Ken or Boris will turn up, but who knows?

At the hustings last week in Putney we met the Independent candidate for Merton & Wandsworth, Thamilini Kulendran and he gave us a copy of his election address. His slogan is "MAKE MERTON AND WANDSWORTH BE ANOTHER BRADFORD !" Turning Merton and Wandsworth into a decaying ex-industrial mill town doesn't seem a vote-winner on the face of it, but he wants to emulate George Galloway, emphasing that he too is against the War in Afghanistan. His address says:
"Electing Kulendran wasn't about choosing the next government, but sending a powerful message to the government and main opposition parties. They have to stop supporting illegal, bloody, costly foreign wars and leaving the vulnerable British citizens who served for this country to starve. The public don't believe that they have atoned for their role in the invasion and illegal occupation of other people's countries. Downing Street should not drown of those countries in blood!
Please consider this and act to save this country!
Will you be able to give a green signal to Kulendran?
Thamilini Kulendran hails from Sri Lanka and a Tamil. He is totally against the war in other countries. If you feel you are also against the war, please support him."
As we are more interested in debating this sort of issue than cycle lanes and lollipop ladies we invited him to debate the way to get rid of war at our election meeting. But he's more likely to be at the Tooting meeting. Which will give us a chance to discuss the matter there.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What will happen in Wimbledon tomorrow?

The organisers of the "hustings" tomorrow night in Wimbledon have refused to invite us and two other candidates in Merton & Wandsworth to speak from the platform.

Here is the email we sent them:
I see from the announcement below that you are organising a hustings this coming Tuesday. We are also contesting the Merton & Wandsworth GLA constituency and, as it is a principle of democracy that all candidates standing in an election should have an equal chance to put their views to electors, we are assuming that you have no objection to our candidate also being on the platform at the hustings. Looking forward to your confirmation.
And here is the reply we got:
We have only invited candidates from the four largest parties (Conservative, Labour LibDem and Green) to speak at this event.
The organisers thought long and hard about who to invite, and felt in the end that it would be impractical to invite all the constituency candidates, let alone candidates from all the parties standing for the Assembly. We are keen to have some real discussion of the issues that the London Assembly, and decided that it would be impractical to invite more than 4 candidates. As a result, of course, the parties attending will have to count a share of the cost of the hustings towards their election expenses.
So I'm afraid that James Martin is not invited to speak from the platform on this occasion. Of course he will be welcome to attend the hustings and to bring literature. There will also be opportunities for informal discussion before and after the formal proceedings, from 7.30 on.
Yours sincerely,
Linda Murgatroyd
for Transition Towns Wimbledon and Tooting, Wimbledon Civic Forum and St Mark's Church, Wimbledon,
This is not going to stop us going to the meeting and insisting on being allowed to speak from the platform as hustings are supposed to be occasions when all the nominated candidates have a chance to present their views to the electorate.

Full report on Wednesday morning on what we did and what happened.

Another reply

Both our candidates have received emails from electors asking them to "to promise to do all they can to ensure London is a welcoming place for refugees and asylum seekers by supporting proposals that allow those who have fled persecution to play a full part in London life."

We have sent them the following reply:
Thank you for your email on this.

As a world socialist who stands for a world without borders in which the Earth's resources will have become the common heritage of all, naturally I am in favour of welcoming treatment of fellow workers fleeing oppression. After all, Karl Marx was in this position himself.

I enclose a copy of our election address.

Yours for world socialism
Meanwhile, we have received a reply from the organisers of the Wimbledon hustings tomorrow saying that we and 2 other candidates were deliberately not invited. Watch this space for developments.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More campaigning

Yesterday, Saturday, we had stalls in both Lambert & Southwark (Clapham High St) and Merton & Wandsworth (Tooting Broadway). In Tooting we met a member of the British Organisation of People of Indian Sub-Continental Origin who told us of a hustings in Tooting next Saturday at 4pm. This co-incides with our own election meeting at the same time on the same day but this shouldn't present a problem. We're not that thin on the ground.

Meanwhile we are trying to get an official invitation to a hustings in Wimbledon on Tuesday to which we our candidate has not been invited. It's at St Marks Church, St Marks Place, SW19 7ND starting at 7,30m, organised by the Wimbledon Civic Forum and Transition Town Wimbledon (and Tooting) Even if we don't get an invitation we will still be there to demand to be heard. We're not going to let them (or anyone else) get away with just inviting the candidates from "the main parties".

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).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hustings (plural)

Last night three of us went to Herne Hill to the hustings there organised by the local forum. We were surprised to find the church hall full with about 70-80 people. The main questions were about transport (logically since that's about all the Mayor and Assembly control). Here the main concern seemed to be cyclists with the candidates (except of course Danny and the UKIP man who wasn't there) lining up to promise to make cycling safer and bash motorists. Addressing an audience of motorists they would of course (except the Greens) probably take a different approach (Mayor Boris calls 4x4s "large family cars" and reduced the congestion charge on them besides freeing Kensington and Chelsea, where these "Chelsea tractors", proliferate, from the congestion zone altogether). Given the many problems facing people in London you'd have thought that there were more urgent concerns (unemployment, housing, benefit cuts), but apparently not, at least not in Herne Hill which has Tory councillors including the Tory GLA candidate.

The riots did come up, with all the candidates, including the Tory, criticising the police for stopping-and-searching black youth too much -- a different approach, we seem to remember, from what was said at the time. Danny was able to point out that the riots were obviously related to poverty and only took place in poverty-stricken parts of London. This was parish pump stuff and Danny did his best to introduce a broader perspective: capitalism and its profit priority, particularly acute in a crisis as at present, which prevents basic amenities being adequate and in fact means they're being cut back. Maybe the candidates and audience subconsciously recognised this (the LibDEm candidate did admit that money doesn't grow on trees) and that was why they only wanted to discuss cycle lanes and lollipop ladies.

There is another hustings this evening, in St Mary's Church in Putney, the church where the Putney Debates of 1647 took place between Cromwell and the Levellers. In fact the BBC are making a history film about them and will be there to ask the candidates what they think of the relevance of these debates to today. This should allow our candidate -- this time Bill, in Merton & Wandsworth -- to talk about something other than cycle lanes.

Last night we discovered (the Tory candidate told us) that there's an Election Question Time at 2pm in Brixton organised by the Lambeth Forum for Older People in association with Lambeth Pensioners Action Group to which only 4 of the 6 candidates have been invited. Danny can't make it but if he could he would gatecrash it. Pity really because we got a good reception from the LPAG at the general election in 2010 and the question of cycle lanes won't come up (more likely to be questions about cyclists cycling on the pavement and knocking pensioners down as they sail through red lights ...) This question of only inviting some of the candidates to hustings needs to be addressed. A case could be made for saying that the expenses of organising such hustings should be included in the election expenses of the candidates invited. Maybe we should make a test case of one. Anyway, we are going to leaflet it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unequal time

Just looking at the BBC's online election coverage is instructive. Here is the umbrella webpage and this is the candidates page. Would it have hurt the BBC to have at least hyperlinked party names? Or to give some sort of link through to a contact page of candidates (all that would be required would be one staffer to write/email asking for details and then updating the links). Looking at the hours of local radio output available on BBC London is noticeable that politics or current affairs are not listed as genres (they are, after all, not the same as news). Would it be impossible for BBC local radio to put out a couple of hours of broadcast dedicated to the election, which will take in over 7 million voters? If democracy is marginalised in the public space, then its not surprising that people feel uninvolved. It's bad enough that the mayoral race dominates, with its personality driven agenda, but that it's hogging the tiny slice of time given to coverage of elections means electors are denied a real chance to find out what range of options there are out there for them. In an election where there is no free mail out, which costs a thousand pounds just to contest, where each constituency is half a million strong, it would not be unreasonable to expect a public broadcaster to give more attention and effort. After all, our total airtime during the Euro elections was about 20 seconds of a quote taken out of context.

Democracy, if it is at all meaningful, is the right of minorities to have the opportunity to become majorities. The democratic structures in this country privilege established majorities and support an entrenched oligarchy.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Here's a list of the hustings where our candidate will be speaking:

Wednesday 18 April 6.45 for 7pm
Herne Hill Baptist Church
Half Moon Lane
SE24 9HU
Organised by Herne Hill Forum.

Thursday 19 April at 7.30pm
The Brewer Building,
St Mary's Church,
Putney Bridge, Putney High St,
SW15 1SN.
Organised by Putney Society.

Tuesday 24 April 7.15 for 7.30pm
Waterloo Action Centre
14 Baylis Rd
Organised by Lambeth Cyclists.

Wednesday 25 April 7pm
Parish of All Souls West Dulwich
Lovelace Rd
SE21 8JY
Organised by Norwood Forum
Details (not yet up).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Up the Junction

So, today I have been with a few comrades up in Clapham Junction leafletting. Me and on other set up a stall on the high street to leaflet passers by: we were lucky to make eye contact with most passers by, never mind give them a leaflet. There was little competition: a sandwich store, an Ahmadi muslim group and a nice lady from the Seventh Day Adventists. As is traditional, I proposed a leaflet swap.

Other comrades went and leafletted nearby streets, and the wonderfully name Winstanley estate; though apparently, contrary to its name, our comrades couldn't access it due to all the gates and locked doors. Apparently hard working members have been putting me to shame, and have already leafletted large chunks of Battersea: we're down to a few hundred leaflets.

Next week: Tooting, and doubtless another obvious post title. In the meanwhile, our invites to hustings are finally coming in, and I've been asked to one in Putney. Very exciting.

Friday, April 13, 2012

SLP letter

No, not Socialist Labour Party (neither Scargillite nor Deleonist) but the South London Press. Here 's what they published in today's edition under (their) title of "Capitalism is not the only way":
Simon Hughes uses his column as a local MP to publicise his party's candidates for Mayor and London Assembly ("Good cop for the top job", South London Press, April 6). Fair enough, but they are not the only candidates. The Socialist party is contesting both Lambeth & Southwark and Merton & Wandsworth. Mr. Hughes makes the usual empty promises (particularly empty is the one about bringing rents down) but we say no politician can make capitalism work in the interest of all.
Adam Buick, Election agent, The Socialist Party, Clapham High Street.
So, people in South London at least now know we are standing, even if not -- yet -- too much of what we are standing for. That will come in an edition nearer the election day of 3 May, i.e. on either 20 or 27 April.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Green sees the light

Long-term followers of this blog will recall that our Green Party opponent in Vauxhall in the 2010 general election was Joseph Healy.

The latest news is that he has just resigned from the Green Party, on precisely the issue that we raised on this blog at the time -- that any party that takes on responsibility for running the political side of capitalism will sooner or later have to act against the interests of the class of wage and salary workers and their dependents, as the Green Party had done in Ireland (see what we said here). And, as now the Green Party has apparently done in Brighton and which proved to be the last straw for him.

Hopefully, more and more Greens will realise that the Green Party is on the wrong track and that the only framework inside of which ecological and other problems can be solved is one where the Earth's resources have become the common heritage of all so that there can be production directly to satisfy people's needs instead of for profit.

Unequal time

Caught the end last night of a report on BBC London of a hustings meeting for the mayoral election organised by the London Evening Standard. As we've already stated, we are not interested in this election (we don't agree with the office of City Boss and there's no socialist standing anyway) but only 4 of the 7 candidates were on the platform.

One of the principles of democracy is that all candidates should have equal time to put over their point of view, but this is not happening in this particular election. Three candidates (UKIP, BNP and an Independent) were being excluded, and will be excluded from another planned hustings organised by a commercial TV station, despite the fact that they have overcome the considerable obstacles in the way of standing (raising a deposit of £10,000 and get 30 signatories in each borough or 330 in all).

No doubt they are being excluded because having 7 candidates would not have the same entertainment value, but elections are not supposed to be entertainment. Clearly, this election is not being run on fully democratic lines. They do things differently in France. There are 10 candidates standing in the first round of the presidential election on 22 April. Each of them are getting TV and radio broadcasts of exactly the same length.

Meanwhile back in Lambeth & Southwark we've received an invitation to a third hustings -- from Lambeth Cyclists on Tuesday 24 April. Not sure what we can say to them though, but it shows that, at constituency level, this election is being conducted more democratically.

Monday, April 09, 2012


The Socialist Party held its Conference over Easter. After the session ended on the Saturday some of the delegates retired to the Bread and Roses pub (owned by the Workers Beer Company) in Clapham Manor Street. They found that TUSC and the Labour Party had been there before and left election material (including a promise by Livingstone that if he hadn't cut fares by 7 October he'd resign). With the agreement of the manager, socialist election material was immediately added.

This Thursday our candidate for Lambeth and Southwark will be interviewed by the on-line London magazine, the Big Smoke. He has also received invitations to speak at hustings in Herne Hill (Wednesday 18 April) and Norwood (Wednesday 25 April).

Our candidate in Merton and Wandsworth has not yet received any such invitations, but we have learned a bit more about the mysterious Independent candidate there from her desperate appeals on the internet to translate her message into other languages. We might contact her to invite her to explain at our election meeting on Saturday 28 April.

We said in a previous posting that we probably wouldn't be doing much leafletting in the borough of Southwark. This has proved to be wrong as last week we did leaflet parts of Peckham. The number of "Vote Livingstone" posters we saw confirms that this is solid Labour territory.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

We don't do pledges

One of the things that happens when you contest an election is that campaigning groups ask their members to email candidates about the particular issue that concerns them. Our candidate in Lambeth and Southwark has received a number of emails from people concerned about the spread of HIV. They are being sent the following reply:
"Thank you for your email asking if I will pledge to make HIV a priority if elected.

As you can see from our election address (attached), we are contesting this election on the single issue of capitalism (class ownership and production for profit) or socialism (common ownership, democratic control, and production to directly meet people's needs).

Socialism is our priority and the only basis on which we want people to vote for us."
In other words, we don't make promises to support particular measures within capitalism however desirable as we don't want people to vote for us on that basis -- even if, should we be elected (unlikely at the moment), we might well vote for certain measures judged to further the cause of socialism or the interest of wage and salary workers and their dependants.

Having said this, there is one pledge that, according to our Rulebook, our candidates have to make:
"Candidates elected to a Political office shall be pledged to act on the instructions of their Branches locally, and by the Executive Committee nationally."
This, to ensure that any Socialist councillors or MPs remain mandated delegates, not leaders.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Shameless self promotion...

...well, I am a candidate. Anyway, The audio file of a debate I took part in last year is online, so you can go and listen to the socialist case on the question:

Should trade unionists support the Labour Party?

(There are many other audio files from across the years on our website, and well worth a listen if you want to hear the kinds of things we say).