Friday, January 11, 2013

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.

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