Thursday, January 24, 2013

TUSC's take

Here, for the record, is TUSC's view of the result.

Insofar as it is legitimate to add together our vote and theirs as the total of people prepared to vote for the word "socialist", this would mean that of these nearly a third would choose the revolutionary option offered by us compared with two-thirds for the reformist option offered by them.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The post mortem

Three of us went to the count yesterday evening from 10.30 to midnight and, like everyone else there, were victims of the cuts, as the Returning Officer and Chief Executive explained that there was no money to provide for the usual tea and coffee and sandwiches, not even for the counters (a bit surprising UNISON put up with that).

Here's the official result from the Lambeth Council website (they round to the nearest whole figure).

This is the sort of vote that Labour used to get in the mining valleys of South Wales and the North East, as LibDem voters deserted to Labour rather than to the Greens (as the Greens had expected). The UKIP vote confirms once again that xenophobic parties do badly in this sort of area where people whose parents and grandparents came from different parts of the world have lived together and mixed for a couple of generations. "Fascism" is not the threat some people like to claim it to be. TUSC did not do as well as they had expected. Their campaign was based on trying to blame the cuts on the local council, but Labour were more successful in getting people to blame the government. But at least TUSC, as the combined forces of Militant and the SWP, will be satisfied that they avoided the indignity of being beaten by the SPGB, though they are still in the same league as us. Our vote corresponded to what members speculated it might be -- between 20 and 50.

But we didn't contest primarily to get votes, but to publicise the case for socialism and, from this point of view, can be quite satisfied. We leafletted the ward three times, given equal time on the Brixtblog (which reproduced the Big Smoke video interview), and had our views discussed seriously on various blogs:

Statement on Brixton blog (including Big Smoke video)

Hustings report

Candidates 30 seconds on unemployment

Urban 75

Vote UK discussion forum

We should be back again, here and in some other wards, in the local council elections. in May 2014. In the meantime, we will extend our four-monthly newsletter distributed from Larkhall and Ferndale wards to Brixton Hill.

The result

Result (announced an hour ago):

Lab 1593 (62.6%) +20.0%
Green 344 (13.5%) -3.4%
LD 274 (10.8%) -17.6%
Con 164 (6.5%) -5.6%
TUSC 72 (2.8%)
UKIP 63 (2.5%)
SPGB 34 (1.3%)

Turnout: 22.8%

Comments tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Leafletting all done

Yesterday 3 of us did a tour of the ward to distribute 900 or so leaflets to housing estates we hadn't done before.

For those who want to see the leaflet in glorious technicolour here it is

To see it bigger click here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An opponent's meeting

They must be disappointed. TUSC lined up an impressive top table: April Ashley, UNISON Executive Council member, Steve Hedley, RMT London Regional Organiser, Paul Holborow, of the SWP and a founder and leader of the Anti-Nazi League, and Steve Nally, one-time organiser of the Anti-Poll Tax Federation. All people more used to addressing mass meetings but faced last night with an audience of 12, 4 of whom we brought along. All the same it was an interesting and revealing meeting.

Holborow, for the SWP, said he'd been out leafletting in the ward for TUSC but he chose to criticise trade union leaders for being cowardly and high-paid and to say that Len McCluskey of UNITE was just a talker (apparently there's a disagreement amongst leftwingers as to whether or not to back his re-election, the SWP being against, Militant being for). Steve Hedley, who spoke next, took him to task for this, saying that it was not the case that the working class was eager for a general strike and was being held back by cowardly trade union leaders; the working class did not (yet) want this as, he pointedly remarked, the attendance at this meeting showed. He criticised other unions for still giving money to the Labour Party which acted against the working class. He said that the unions needed to resist the cuts but in the end there would have to be political action to get rid of capitalism and replace it by a socialist society. We nodded in agreement. Nally, the TUSC candidate, didn't go that far but merely described the human consequences of the cuts without offering any alternative beyond "no cuts".

In the discussion we said we agreed that socialism was the only way-out but that this was not what TUSC was advocating in this election whereas we were. This brought Hedley back on message. The Bolsheviks, he said, had not won power on the basis of advocating socialism but on the slogans of "Peace, Land and Bread". The SPGB, he said, agreed with the Mensheviks that the Bolsheviks should not have seized power but should have handed the keys of power back to the capitalists. He's probably more of a Stalinist than a Trotskyist (he actually looks like Bob Crow). Even so, he was the best speaker of the evening, making some valid points.

Apparently, they think they are going to get 200 or so votes which, according to Holborow, would be enough to have the Labour Council shaking in their boots. We doubt either.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What we said at the hustings

We were out again yesterday in the southern part of the ward. Our leafletter there reports that she saw Green canvassers going from door to door. Apparently they think they can win. We have received one reply to an ealier leaflet we distributed here (this particular part of the ward has been leafletted three times).

In the meantime the Brixtonblog has published a report of the hustings here.

Here's a couple of quotes from our candidate:
In times of recession public services are the first thing that gets cut. This is the nature of capitalism and it’s time to wake up. We’re in a society that doesn’t work in our interests. There’s nothing we can do about it unless we dump the capitalist system.”
Danny Lambert said the pub’s closure was one of many symptoms of capitalist economics. “If this pub can’t be run at a profit it’ll get closed down and something else will open that can,” he said. “People come a poor second to profit. Until we get shot of capitalism we’ll have this problem over and over again.”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Before the snow

Three of us did at stall in Brixton for an hour or so. We were outnumbered two to one as there were two other stalls (SWP and Militant) handing out "Vote for TUSC" leaflets. Then we went leafletting door-to-door to get as many of the manifestos as possible distributed before the snow threatened for Monday. We chose the Roupell Estate in the south of the ward, near the South Circular Road.

We met Labour canvassers delivering personally addressed "vote for me" letters for their candidate and a card saying "Your Labour candidate for Brixton Hill called on you today". We didn't see him and don't suppose he did, but that's the sort of thing politicians have to pretend to do to catch votes.

Halfway through we stopped for a coffee. A client in the cafe in Upper Tulse Hill recognised our candidate from a video on the internet and we had a long chat with him. He had his baby daughter with him, but we don't do kissing babies to gain votes -- that's for vote-catching politicians. He might vote for us anyway as he understood what we are advocating.

We distributed some 500, so only about 600 remain for distributing on Monday or Tuesday depending on the weather. That shouldn't take 3 or 4 of us more than an hour even if it is snowing. Then we're done.

Friday, January 11, 2013

30 seconds of fame

Here's the video of the candidates speaking for 30 seconds on unemployment:

When we call for equal time at elections for all candidates we didn't quite have in mind reducing this to what we usually get but increasing what we get to what the media grant to the candidates they designate as worth hearing.

But, fair dos, the Brixtonblog have scrupulously given equal time and space to all 7 candidates. The South London Press has also been even-handed : all the candidates have had zero time.

The hustings

About 70 people (including the local MP, Chuka Umanna) attended the hustings organised by the Brixtonblog last night. All 7 candidates were present and were given more or less equal time. The questions were not confined to purely local issues but also included the cuts.

A leaflet by Lambeth Save Our Services listed some of the cuts made by the local council (playgroups, library services, housing co-operatives, etc). The would-be Labour councillor justified these on the grounds that, given government policy, some cuts had to made and it was better that the local council choose where the cuts were to fall rather than (the only alternative) have the central government in the form of Tory Minister Eric Pickles come in and decide this. The Tory candidate said that the cuts were inevitable and that we had to grin and bear them. Our candidate said that, given that capitalism was in an economic crisis, cuts were inevitable but rather than grinning and bearing it we should work to get rid of capitalism. The Trotskyist candidate, who is standing on an anti-cuts platform, argued that they were not inevitable as the money was there in the City; this should be taxed and used to maintain services. The UKIP lady (the only way to describe her) argued that the money could be found by stopping the war in Afghanistan (I hadn't realised till then that UKIP was against both the Iraq and the Afghan wars) as well of course as withdrawing from the EU. The Green candidate was against the cuts too but didn't say where the money to stop them was to come from, though he did float the idea of raising council tax.

The main local issue was the closure of a local pub, the George IV, which is now boarded up and whose site Tesco wants for one of its supermarkets. The first question was from the person who used to run the pub. He pointed out that it had been running at a loss and that it could be re-opened as a community pub if the same amount of money could be raised as Tesco were prepared to pay for the site. This was a gift for our candidate who was able to make the point that this was how capitalism worked: if a business did not make a profit it went under and that land for sale went to the highest bidder. The Tory candidate made the same point. The Green man said he had launched the campaign to keep the building as a pub and community centre and had even invited the Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett, down the other day to support the campaign. In fact, in all his replies, the Green candidate presented himself as the defender of local businesses, thus confirming what we have said about the Green Party: that it is the party of petty (as opposed to big, corporate) capitalism.

The Tory candidate revealed, when he spoke immediately after Danny, that when he was a student he had been a Marxist anti-capitalist (I meant to ask him afterwards which group he had been in but forgot). In his answers the TUSC candidate demonstrated his reformism by saying, in answer to the various questions, that money should be spent on affordable housing, apprenticeships, community pubs, etc, etc. as if capitalism could be reformed to put "people before profit". He never once mentioned any alternative to capitalism (not even the state capitalism misnamed "socialism" his party is committed to on paper). UKIP got slapped down by everybody when they raised the question of immigration and "overpopulation" (apparently, under EU regulations, 30 million Rumanians and Bulgarians are coming to live in Britain next year).

Before the meeting, the candidates were filmed for 30 seconds answering a question about what to do about unemployment in the ward. Their answers will be shown on the Brixtblog today. As will various questions posed by email, to which the candidates were invited to respond. Naturally we will. Watch that space.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

UKIP's no brains

We started distributing the election manifestos yesterday and came across something from UKIP. Not published by their candidate but a back issue of UKIP London News from the time of the Olympics. It had an intriguing headline: THE DEPRESSION: ONLY UKIP CAN GET BRITAIN OUT IT. And what is their miracle solution?
"We are in sore need of an injection of NEW money which does not involve borrowing (...) There is such an action which could be taken -- tomorrow -- which would have the effect of saving Britain around £100 bn a year -- free money ! (...) This is an obvious 'no-brainer'."
In other words, finance government spending not by borrowing (and having to pay £ 100 bn a year in interest payments) but simply by printing the money. A bit like in Zimbabwe. This would of course cause runaway inflation and make the depression worse. The trouble is that the UKIP candidate doesn't have to do anything and can put forward any crazy policy (there are others) as UKIP is currently the media flavour of the month.

But at least UKIP is to be commended on raising a more important issue than where the candidates live, as in another, Labour leaflet we found. In it, apart from emphasising that he lived "right here in Brixton Hill" while the Tory and LibDem candidates didn't, the Labour candidate made the rather rash promise: "I'LL ALWAYS PUT PEOPLE FIRST".

Always? But as part of the Labour majority on the council he will, if elected, have to implement further cuts in council spending on services and amenities, as a result of the government's policy of putting profits first to try to get out of the depression. If he does chose to "put people first" by not voting for the cuts he'll be suspended and have to sit as an independent (the fate of one Lambeth Labour councillor who dared to do this). And of course, at national level when in office, Labour has always put Profit before People as any government of capitalism is forced to. That's the only way capitalism can work. It can't be reformed to "put people first". How many times has that been tried, and failed?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The candidates state their case

While we were out leafletting yesterday the local online newspaper, the Brixtonblog, put up statements from the other candidates. They are all there now except the UKIP one, including the one from our delegate/candidate together with a photo of him speaking from the Party's platform at Hyde Park and the video interview he did for the Big Smoke during the GLA elections in May.

In her statement the LibDem candidate states:
“Lambeth under Labour has cut funding for school crossing patrols, Brixton Library and home care services for vulnerable elderly people."
This is true but, as others have pointed out, this is because all councils have been forced to do this sort of thing by the central government which is a Tory-LibDem Coalition -- which, we add, has itself been forced to do this because they are administering capitalism in one of its economic crises. A Labour government or a Lib-Lab coalition would have had to do the same. It's the only policy a government can pursue when capitalism is in a crisis. That's the way the system works and the only way it can work.

Our election manifestos are due to arrive from the printers this morning. When they do we'll start delivering them door-to-door, at the hustings meeting tomorrow and at a stall we will be having in Brixton on Saturday. TUSC is organising a meeting on Monday evening. We'll be there too.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Leafletting and leaflets

Five of us went leafletting yesterday, 3 in the north and 2 in the south of the ward. Pending the arrival of the manifesto on Wednesday, we were distributing a general leaflet about Socialism and the Socialist Party. As a couple of thousand of these had already been distributed we must have distributed another thousand or so. So that's the ward leafletted twice.

As yesterday was rubbish collection day, we were able to recover leaflets issued by the other parties: Labour, Tories, Greens and TUSC (yes, we know, some of our leaflets are going to end up like this too).

Ok, this is a local election but the leaflets were pathetic. Labour's was about a "Back Our Bobbies campaign to keep police on the streets". The Tory's about the Council's licencing policy encouraging "booze-fuelled idiots". The Green man concentrated on stopping Tesco converting a closed pub into a supermarket. Only the TUSC leaflet raised wider issues.

The Tory leaflet criticised "the Loony-Left Council" (only a loony could describe New Labour as this) for taking out "a poster campaign claiming that the government was 'forcing' them to make cuts". As it happens, this is the case. But, according to the TUSC leaflet:
But Councillors have a choice! They don't have to make these cuts. In the 1980s, Lambeth and Liverpool Councils made a stand against Tory Thatcher's demands for cuts.
But neither Derek Hatton nor Ted Knight stopped the cuts, did they? Councillors could in theory do what TUSC asks them to do, but they would have to pay for it -- literally, by being surcharged. And the cuts would go through anyway.

As our manifesto points out, while the government has forced councils to make cuts it's because they have themselves been forced by the workings of capitalism to do this. That's the way capitalism works and a good reason to get rid of it. TUSC, however, think there is a solution within capitalism:
People before Profit. Make the bosses pay for their crisis. Tax the rich.
So, they envisage the continued existence of profit, bosses and the rich ! And think that this system can be reformed to work in the interest of the majority class of wage and salary workers and their dependants. This, despite the weight of evidence and experience which disproves this.

Meanwhile the Brixtonblog has started publishing the statements of the candidates. So far they've only done the Labour and Greens ones. Our turn should come towards the end of the week.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Our election manifesto

This was adopted yesterday and will be sent to the printers on Monday to be ready by Wednesday or Thursday:

Vote for yourself for a change?

Why, when the resources exist to provide a decent standard of living for everyone, are we going through “austerity”?

It’s because the present system is not geared to meeting our needs but to making profits for businesses and the rich people who own and control them. At the moment this capitalist system is in an economic crisis where profits have fallen The only way out for the system is to restore profits at our expense.

That’s why what our wages can buy has shrunk. It’s why benefits are being slashed. And it’s why Lambeth council has been cutting local services.

It’s not just Lambeth. It’s councils everywhere, whichever party is in control. Councils get most of their money from the government, but market forces have obliged the government to reduce this. National and local politicians are just running the system in the only way it can be – as a profit system where priority has to be given to profit-making over meeting our needs.

It’s the system that’s to blame, not those elected to run it. That’s why changing the politicians in charge makes no difference. As the saying goes, “changing governments changes nothing”. It will be like this as long as the profit system lasts. So there is no point in voting for parties that accept this system.

The alternative is to change to a new system based on satisfying our needs, where the places where wealth is produced will no longer be owned by profit-seeking businesses but will be owned and democratically controlled by us all. That’s what the Socialist Party stands for. We are contesting this by-election to raise this issue, and to give those of you who agree a chance to be counted.

You can do this by voting for the Socialist candidate, Danny Lambert.
And then get in touch to help bring an end to the system that can never be made to work in your interest.

Friday, January 04, 2013


A couple of interesting items in today's South London Press.

On page 8 there's a feature article entitled "Lack of job opportunities sees dole queue lengthen". According to this,
Over the past four years the number of people claiming Jobseeker's allowance in Coldharbour ward has almost doubled from 661 to 1,078. The numbers have also risen in Ferndale ward with 406 unemployed people four years ago compared to 594 today. In Brixton Hill there are considerably more people out of work, from 384 four years ago to 611 today.
By coincidence (or not) these were the three wards where, relatively speaking, we did best in the GLA elections in May.

On page 18 Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has a column headed "Bright pupils let down by the coalition". It is illustrated by a photo of a students' demonstration against the cuts in which can be clearly seen someone selling ... Socialist Worker. I don't suppose he's too pleased but, then, the SWP probably voted for him at the last General Election.

In the meantime Lambeth Council has put up the list of candidates for Brixton Hill together with their photos.

Tomorrow the Executive Committee will be adopting the election manifesto. On Monday we'll be leafletting the ward again. Meet at 52 Clapham High Street at 12 noon.