Will the ‘left’ throw the baby out with the bathwater?


By Councillor Jim Grundy

To friends and comrades: the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition is standing a candidate in Hucknall for the Nottinghamshire County Council elections on 2nd May.  I cannot tell you – do I need to? – how thoroughly depressing I find this to be.

Some people will never be content with the Labour Party as a party of the Left – and that is their prerogative.  Some within Labour can often appear to be somewhat less than ‘left-friendly’ but within Hucknall – where we have no county councillors (for the moment) but all nine district councillors – what are they opposing?

Hucknall’s Labour councillors have taken leading roles in ensuring that the District Council adopted the Living Wage.  Hucknall’s Labour councillors supported the moves to freeze, not only Council Tax but Council housing rents too.  We haven’t passed on the cuts to Council Tax Benefit and are currently developing a package to protect those affected by the Bedroom Tax.  We’ve also ensured that all low-paid council and Ashfield Homes’ employees received £250 when the Government vetoed a pay rise.  No other council can claim to have done more.  None.  I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

Services, such as the call monitoring service, one that the most vulnerable rely upon in an emergency, have been supported, filling the gap left by the Tory-run (for the moment) County Council’s cuts to the budget.  We are about to begin the construction of the first council houses in Ashfield for over 30 years, with more planned.

All of that, it seems, is not good enough.  We’ve worked – and continue to work – with local Trade Union representatives.  But we now find ourselves opposed by people we might have hoped would’ve supported the measures we’ve put in place to support those most affected by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition.

We won’t change course.  But, it seems, some will never abandon their position of opposing Labour whatever it does, wherever they find it.  One day they might discover the Tory Party and others on the Right but it seems, they’re far happier… much more comfortable attacking the evils of Labour without ever, even for a nanosecond, thinking they would have to do anything other than utter some empty rhetoric that they will never have to back up with action in the real world.

It is referred to in political circles as sectarianism.  I am sure that those trying to come to terms with what the Tories are doing to them, have other expressions that best describe it.  But, whilst they might claim my complaint is merely seeking to shut down criticism of the Labour Party – for they can have no other critique, rarely dealing with ‘real people’ – the reality is that they are self-indulgent, self-serving individuals who positively revel in ordinary people’s misery if they believe it serves as a recruiting agent for their own purposes.  That, I think, is shameful.  But, obviously, I will be proven wrong… triumphantly so… when that mass workers’ party otherwise known as the Socialist Party takes centre stage.

I have many friends on the Left and I value their friendship more than I can tell.  A lot of them would never dream of voting for, let alone joining Labour.  Few of them, though, would spend time attacking a Labour council with our recent track record.  They’d rather back what we were doing, whilst arguing… arguing very strongly, that there was still much more to do… but they would think it much more profitable to spend their time attacking Tories and Lib Dems rather than seeking to undermine what we’re trying to do locally.  But some people are not and never will be my/our friends.  Good luck to them and when they’ve proved that their red flag is a much purer shade of red than mine, they can go home, safe in the knowledge that they never have to actually do anything beyond writing a slogan to oppose what the Tories are doing.  I don’t doubt their slogans are better than ours.  But I do wonder how much they help those about to be hit by the Bedroom Tax.  I have to try to do something in the here and now for such people and not go back to Nottingham, smug in my political theorising and safe in the knowledge that I’ll never have to do anything in the real world to alter what is taking place to real people in the here and now, rather than the glorious future that is to come.

If that sounds horribly negative and angry, well, it is.  Except I and my fellow Labour councillors in Hucknall are taking action to help those on the receiving end of what is happening, and not simply proving to a very narrow section of society just how morally superior we are to everyone else.  We’ll carry on, working hard to ensure that real people receive real help now.  There is a difference.  And ‘real’ people can spot it a million miles off.

Yes, I am pissed off at finding ourselves opposed by people who, even if they will never be our friends, should at the very least recognise who is on the same side.  We might choose a different path and others will argue about the veracity of that too but there is a bigger prize to be won than a test of political theory.  Honest.

Related posts by Jim Grundy

This Ghastly Bedroom Tax spreads Fear… #bedroomtax

The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All?

How can pay rise be unfair when mega-rich get tax cut?

The Unnatural Death of Affordable Housing

Planning to Blame Immigrants? Get Your Facts Straight & Get Rid of Your Prejudices, Nick Boles

Arguments that every Liberal Democrat would do well to hear

The Challenge of Success for Opponents of Austerity


Previous published here:

by Darrell Goodliffe

The Challenge of Success for Opponents of Austerity

Last Thursday, Labour won a decisive election victory (despite Ken’s narrow defeat) and now we have a new Socialist President of France in Francois Hollande. Meanwhile, in Greece, the radical leftist Party, Syriza, has swept aside PASOK to become the second-largest Party in the Greek Parliament. PASOK took capitulation to the austerity agenda to its logical conclusion by co-habiting with New Democracy and today they played the electoral price, losing a whopping 30% at the polls.

Clearly, the people of Europe are unimpressed with the austerity agenda. However, the alternative is poorly formed; in Britain we are more than aware of that. Labour is not promising a particularly radical alternative. In fact, all it is doing is proposing to slow the pace and try to bolt on some growth along the way. The difference, as we all know, is rather in the emphasis than the effective substance at this point in time. It is set within the framework of the system being more effectively and/or sensibly managed. The danger of this is that the far-right are the ones best placed to offer a vision of a radical ‘new society’ response to one aspect of the system ie, globalisation through calling for a new nationalism.

Both the French and Greek elections benefitted from high turnouts compared to Labour’s triumph on Thursday. We have to add the caveat that this will be partially because both of these elections were either national-presidential or national-parliamentary respectively and therefore likely to benefit from higher turnouts than local elections. However, it can also be no accident that Hollande has backed his radical rhetoric with a few radically pitched politics, like his supertax, and Syriza’s opposition to austerity is far more clearly defined than Labour’s. It’s actual positive proposals though seem to lack alot of defintion to me and it is the same  It is not political rocket science to work out why boldness is rewarded with bigger turnouts, even those voters who do not agree with what is on offer are more motivated to turn out because both supporters and voters feel like their vote actually makes a difference so the act of voting is actually worthwhile.

This week now presents the anti-austerity left with a clear challenge and it is a similar one, albeit set in certain different contexts and that challenge is to present a coherent alternative which can solidfy the opposition to austerity around a vision of the different world we can build from the ashes of the old. In many respects, Labour still probably has the furthest to go in that regard however, Hollande certainly has yet to full break from the neo-liberal consensus though he is clearly straining at the leash and will most likely forced to snap it by the markets who wont even tolerate his only midly abrasive proposals.

The electorate is crying out for a sharply defined alternative and left should beware because if we don’t provide it, then others will.

Athens News: Syriza winning over Anti austerity voters

France 24: Hollande Ousts Sarkozy in French presidential Vote

Fight Future Fascism, Together Think Left on dangers from the Far right: