Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Why I shall vote to leave the EU

I don't particularly have any feeling for being part of a nation state or of patriotism. My objection to the EU is on grounds of democracy. The EU project is a political one designed to bring about a European superstate with an entrenched neo-liberal economy that cannot be altered through the democratic process. To facilitate this, we have the unelected EU commission who are completely adverse to any expression of democratic will by the people of Europe. The Trade Commissioner negotiating the current secretive trade deal with the US, can state without any shame that she takes no mandate from the people of Europe in these talks.

Now the referendum is imminent there is no longer any discussion of what Cameron negiotated. So we cannot tell how strong the safeguards, for the UK for not being part of closer EU integration, actually are. The future of the single currrency is in doubt without closer integration and harmonisation of taxes between member states. Is the UK's position in the slow lane of EU integration, and non-participation in the Euro, really tenable in the longer term? The ultimate truth of the concessions given to Cameron is that the EU cannot be reformed.

There has been much talk of worker's rights, and that British workers stand to lose annual leave and other rights. This in some way reflects the defeatist mindset of the TUC and Trade Union leaderships that they cannot stand up to demand the retention of these rights. Events in Spain, Greece and Ireland have shown that the era of "Social Europe" is well and truly passed. In those countries, as part of the bailouts to shore up the single currency, collective bargaining with trade unions was suspended. Furthermore, in its attempts to raise European productivity, the EU is promoting zero-hours contracts, casualisation and poverty pay.

I am concerned that there may be economic turbulence and job losses after a vote to leave the EU. However, both are recurring features of the global capitalist system. You only have to look at the UK steel industry to see this. I believe that the UK can build new trading relationships with Europe and the rest of the world. I note that the Dutch and Czechs are now starting to demand their own referendums on EU membership.

One of the the Remain campaign taunts is that the Leave campaign cannot give a description of what "Brexit" will look like. But their argument can be turned on its head, what will the further development of the Superstate mean for the people of Europe? The single currency which underpins the whole EU concept, is a political project rather than an economic one. Will the single currency require the permanent operation of austerity policies to sustain itself?

There is a clear choice in the referendum, do you trust a system that is run by unaccountable bureaucrats an which cannot be democratically reformed or to have the chance to build a different country in which the will of the people must be heard?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Should the number of Southend Councillors be cut?

Today's Echo newspaper is reporting that the Leader of Southend Council is suggesting that savings of £250,000 can be made by reducing the number of councillors to just 2 per ward.

I have sent the following letter to the Echo in response:


In my view Cllr Ron Woodley is offering a superficial way for Southend Borough Council to save money by proposing a reduction in the number of elected councillors.

He seems to have overlooked that following the formation of the Unitary Authority, additional Councillors were required to deal with the functions and responsibilities devolved from Essex County Council.

The suggestion that each Ward within the Borough would have only two councillors would raise serious questions about the workload they would be required to undertake. There is the strong likelihood that those councillors would then need to be full-time and salaried. I doubt that that people of Southend are willing to accept employed councillors. Would the payment of salaries lead to budgetary savings?

A move to just two councillors, raises issues with the period of office served and the frequency of elections. A few years ago, the Conservatives were unable to form a consensus for a move to 4-yearly “all up” elections. The result of Cllrs Woodley’s proposals, based on a councillor serving a 4 year period of office would lead to 2 years in which elections are held, followed by 2 years with no elections. I believe any reduction in the frequency of elections diminishes the democratic accountability of the Council to voters in Southend.

I believe there may be a case for a small reduction in the number of Wards within the Borough and a subsequent reduction in the number of councillors. However, the redrawing of Ward boundaries will be an expensive process that offers no short-term savings.

The reality is that democracy has a price tag and that accountability of elected Councillors
cannot be sacrificed in exchange for short-term budget cuts.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Southchurch Tories - A changing of the guard?


I am grateful to my blogging colleague Matthew Dent for the news that the Conservative Party in Southchurch will be fielding a new candidate in the 2016 Borough Council elections rather than veteran Councillor David Garston.

Having served as a Southchurch Ward councillor since 1970 (although I do believe he was defeated by the Independents in the Noughties), I would hope that the Tories will arrange for him to receive an OBE or a similar gong for his services to local politics.

I believe this may well be a gift to the Independents. In 2014, the Independents won the council seat in Southchurch Ward when the Conservatives ran a new candidate in the elections. As last year's Independent candidate, Keith Sharman, has announced that he will be standing again, in my view he has a very good chance of winning.

As the Independents are currently the largest grouping within the administration on the Borough Council, I think it is worth examining how they hold themselves accountable to their electorate. I did read in the Echo newspaper, earlier this week, that the Leader of the Council Ron Woodley will be attending a series of meetings to consult on the future direction of the Borough. My political antennae started to twitched, when the article reported that attendance at these meetings will be by invitation only. My initial suspicion is that the invitees will be drawn from local residents associations, from whom many of the current Independent councillors sprung forth. This caused me to look up the word tendentious in my dictionary, and its meaning is "calculated to promote a particular cause or viewpoint".

I suppose that as Councillor Woodley doesn't have a diverse group of people behind him, or dare one say a political party, he is forced to embark upon these meetings. However, simply consulting a narrow range of vested interests hardly makes for good politics and even worse policy-making. For instance, will a residents association offer any constructive advice on the crisis of homelessness within the Borough?

It is my dearest hope that following the conclusion of the leadership election, a reinvigorated Labour Party will be able to sweep away both the Independents and Tories, in Southchurch Ward and throughout the Borough of Southend.





Thursday, 13 August 2015

Vote Jeremy Corbyn!

  


Labour has lost its electoral base in Scotland and stands to lose up to 50 seats in boundary changes before the general election in 2020. Against this background any Party Leader is going to face a massive uphill struggle to beat the Tories.

I don't believe that the New Labour approach of trying to appeal to middle-class, floating voters in marginal constituencies can succeed. This is the reason Ed Miliband failed to win. It is now time to move away from policies based on the views of "focus groups" and news management (spin).

I believe the policies advocated by Jeremy Corbyn can reach out to those disaffected from our political process. The Labour core voter, so long taken for granted by the Party's establishment, will be reconnected by a shift to progressive policies.

You don't have to agree with every single political position Corbyn holds, or every statement he has made in the past. His opponents attempt to deride his attitudes to foreign policy, but then they do not put any alternatives forward in response.

Despite the interventions from the relics of the party's past and the fear mongering by the other candidates, it is time for all those who want Labour to be a moral crusade once more to support Jeremy Corbyn. Vote for hope over fear and cynicism!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The 2016 Council Elections have begun ....

A few weeks ago, the prospective Independent candidate distributed leaflets announcing his intention to run again for Southchurch Ward in 2016. He wishes to build upon the work he started this year.

To be fair to Mr Sharman, he was disadvantaged by the council and general elections being held on the same day. The heightened political atmosphere benefits the national political parties. Why would you vote differently in the general election to the council election? The Independents did lose seats to the Tories in other wards, notably the Shoeburyness Ward, for this reason.

I suspect that Mr Sharman rates his chances of being elected in Southchurch in 2016. I hear rumours of in-fighting within the Southchurch Conservatives, which are likely to hamper the re-election of the veteran Councillor David Garston.

Despite being an "independent", Mr Sharman is actually representing the current administration on the Borough Council and nails his colours to their mast. His leaflet contains the obligatory photo of him with Council Leader Ron Woodley.

I am forced to ask how much longer the self-proclaimed "independents" can maintain that they are not a group with common cause or in other words "a party"? Surely participating in the administration, and the grubby business of Civic Centre politics, denies them the assumed virtue of not being "politicians".



Friday, 12 December 2014

UKIP - Poujadistes or Fascists?



Up to now, I taken the view that to talk about UKIP in public or on social media gives them an oxygen of publicity that they don't deserve. As we come closer to the 2015 General Election, with the real possibility of them winning 10-15 MPs in Parliament, it is perhaps time to lift the stone, shine a light into the politics of UKIP and see what comes crawling out.

In the last few years, UKIP have been able to make an entry into the mainstream domestic political scene. They have received considerable success in recent European elections, and have MEPs in each Region. Following the local elections, UKIP now have 5 councillors on Southend Borough Council which puts them on level pegging with the Liberal Democrats. At an early stage the Tories ruled out working in an administration with UKIP, this perhaps shows their toxicity when the main party of the democratic right cannot or will not work with them.

In recent months, two Tory defectors - Carswell and Reckless - were elected as MPs in by-elections. There is now a general acceptance on the part of the media that UKIP are part of the "political establishment" with their Leader, Farage, and seemingly accorded equal status as Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. However, their entry onto a national political stage has been accompanied by seemingly never ending reports of homophobic, racist and sexist outbursts by members of their Party. It is incredible that UKIP can shrug these incidents off or play them down as mere eccentric behaviour on the part of the activists.

In a time of austerity, and history shows, parties espousing right-wing populism gain support for their simplistic messages of blaming immigrants or the political establishment. A case in point, was in France in the 1950s where the party led by Pierre Poujade UCDA (or Poujadistes) (1) gained support by opposing taxes and price controls. As time went on their platform included both xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Like UKIP their rhetoric was against the political classes and the establishment. It can be argued that such right-wing populism does act as a gateway to fascism, Jean-Marie Le Pen started out as a UCDA member of parliament before becoming the leader of the fascist National Front. Farage's recently reported comment about being delayed on a motorway due to the number of immigrants in the UK is more in keeping with Le Pen than "Top Gear" humour.

This week UKIP appears to have got into hot water over the selection of a parliamentary candidate in the South Basildon constituency. I fail to find any sympathy for Natasha Bolter, and her allegations against the UKIP General Secretary. Her party hopping notwithstanding, she seems to be a "Walter Mitty" character whom Oxford University have no record of being a student there (2). Even more damning is the involvement of the disgraced former Tory MP Neil Hamilton. Given UKIP's anti-political stance and condemnation of the antics of MPs, it is astonishing that an individual who was at the centre of the sleaze scandal that brought down John Major's Government can be a prominent member of their party. It seems the UKIP leadership leaked details of Hamilton's expenses to scupper his attempt at being selected.

It is now the time to seriously challenge UKIP and their policies, particularly as the media are relatively soft on them as to where they stand politically. The question we need to ask is, are they a fascist wolf in the sheep's clothing of right-wing populism?

1. Wikipedia
2. Huffington Post

Monday, 5 May 2014

State of independence?

The Borough Council election for the Southchurch Ward, on 22nd May, would seem to be a two-horse race between the Tories and the Independent candidate.

The independent candidate, Derek Kenyon, was the first to issue campaign literature. Of course there is there is the obligatory photograph of Southend's very own Man Who Would Be King - Councillor Ron Woodley. Interestingly, Mr Kenyon is a former Council official who is now retired. As he was an officer from 2000 until retirement, he has worked solely under Conservative adminisatrations, so I wonder how far he supports the Tories' "way of doing things".

There was a time when elected Councillors saw the Officers as "the fourth party" on the Council, and sought to hold them accountable for their actions. More recently the Councillors and Officers have wanted to be seen as being on the same team. I would hesitate to describe Mr Kenyon as a gamekeeper turned poacher, as there is still a chance he stills sees himself as the former.

The Conservatives are fielding a first-time candidate, Sue Abrahams, so they may be feeling nervous about holding the seat against the Independents. This is very much the case in many Wards across the Borough. If the independents out-poll the Tories, they could then seek partners fom other parties to form an administration. I wouldn't rule out them forming an administration with the Tories, despite their seemingly anti-Tory rhetoric. Councillor Woodley may well emerge as the king-maker or even the King himself.