Sunday, May 03, 2015

Prince's Ward by-election hustings 30 April 2015

The Prince's Ward by-election Hustings took place on Thursday 30 April 2015 in St Anselm's Church, Kennington Cross. Prince's Ward is in the north of Lambeth borough, comprising mainly Vauxhall and Kennington. The most interesting thing about council by-elections and their hustings is seeing capitalism in a microcosm and its effects on people at the local level in Lambeth with regards to housing, libraries and schools. There was a small demo outside the hustings before it began – local community activists carrying a 'Hands Off Durning Library' banner.

Around 50 people turned out for the hustings and all 6 candidates were there: Danny Lambert, the Socialist Party candidate, Kingsley Abrams (Left Unity-TUSC), Labour, Lib-Dems, Green and Tory. Danny stood (all the other candidates sat down for their speeches/answers as they had nothing to be excited about to stand up) and gave his 2 minutes opening which was a concise exposition of the Socialist case.

The Green Party had some support at the hustings but their candidate was weak. The point of the Greens seems to be what Caroline Lucas said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as a group that puts political pressure on Labour from the left. There was no support for the Lib-Dems and I can't recall a single thing he said. The Tory candidate was personable and probably right when he said 'I'm the only candidate here who can beat Labour' but he had no support there.

The Labour candidate is a shoe-in to win Prince's Ward, she had lots of support there. But what a candidate! Mealy-mouthed, charmless, professional Blairite career politician in the making, a product of the Vauxhall Labour Party Machine. I thought of Danny's observation 'anyone who wants to be a politician is the last person you'd want'. The Vauxhall Labour MP Kate Hoey was in the audience.

Local Lambeth issues dominated the hustings - 'estate regeneration' or really the housing crisis in particular Knights Walk, threatened closure of Durning Library, the need for expansion of the Archbishop Sumner School. Lambeth Labour Council got in the neck from 4 of the candidates, the Labour could not stick the boot too much! Even Danny had to agree that Lambeth Council data is not to be trusted. Another local issue that has recently developed is the future of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern future which has been bought by a property developer. The LGBT community and continuing existence of the RVT supported by all candidates, although Danny pointed out the inevitability of things like this happening when we live in an economic system where profit comes before people's needs.

If I was one of the community activists at the hustings then my vote would go to Kingsley Abrams of Left Unity-TUSC. He had some support at the hustings, and was a very capable speaker. He should be, as he is a professional local politician, many years experience as a Merton Labour councillor and Lambeth Labour councillor. His refrain was 'I will never vote for cuts' but he sometimes spoke of himself in the third person using his forename! 'Kingsley will never vote for cuts!' He never once mentioned the word 'socialism' although even Steve Nally, Trotskyite TUSC candidate at other hustings doesn't either. Abrams is also LU– TUSC parliamentary candidate in Southwark against Lib Dem Simon Hughes. Abrams is unusual in that he is not a Trotskyite and is standing for TUSC. He is Labour left. He praised the so-called 'independence' of Vauxhall Labour MP Kate Hoey who was in attendance for part of the hustings. I spoke with Simon Hardy (Vauxhall Left Unity candidate) in Brixton last Saturday, and he said LU were there to push Labour to the 'left'. So that is the point of Left Unity.

Abrams 'pledges' were music to the ears of the local activists involved in the Knights Walk, Durning Library, Archbishop Sumner School campaigns. He got passionate (although he did not stand up!) talking about 'regeneration' means 'social cleansing', it is a a disgrace, he proposed rent caps, scrapping the right to buy, scrapping the bedroom tax (the only time it was mentioned – probably because of its unpopularity even a Labour government will scrap it if elected on 7 May)

Our socialist Iranian comrade pointed out to the hustings there were 1 million empty homes, and that 'housing should be held in common'. On a question of working with local faith communities, Danny had the best answer when he spoke about the 'human community', although I feared he was going to do Marx on religion but really that was me wanting to do a socialist exposition on 'religion' along the lines of Feuerbach and Marx !

The hustings switched then to a quasi-Anglican caring capitalism feel when the Vicar's curate made a statement on the plight of Carers in the borough who are paid below minimum wage, are on zero hours contracts, and not paid travel expenses for travelling between clients. Abrams again gave his support as a trade unionist for UNITE, and representing TUSC and Left Unity, proposing £10 minimum wage, and the scrapping of zero hours contracts. I gasped inwardly when the Labour candidate said the minimum wage of £9.15 was a 'reasonable wage' ! although nobody at the hustings felt that the Labour candidate had just revealed her contempt for working people.

Danny pointed out that the Curate had nicely put into words an indictment of capitalism.

5 of the candidates want a more 'caring', 'compassionate capitalism', believe capitalism can be reformed to be better although Danny pointed out several times that capitalism cannot be made to work in the interests of working people.

To round off a peculiar hustings the Tory candidate had the best line right at the end of the hustings when he said 'Finally, what is the use of words. Let us be seen together in Action' which clinched the finale, and was taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses.


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