I'm voting against the Tory toffs, and for socialists
BORIS AND CHUMS. With futures assured, the Bullindon Club could enjoy a smashing time. London's mayor to be is Bottom Right (no puns intended). Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne were also members, and though there is some doubt whether Education Minister Michael Gove was rich enough to make it, the man he has appointed to cut schools' spending, Sebastian James, was a member of the Club.
WHEN I've finished this posting I'll be off to vote in the election for London mayor and the Greater London Assembly. If I'd had any doubts about voting for Ken Livingstone - not that there's much choice - they have been laid to rest by the escalating campaign against him in the London Evening Standard, on top of the keen backing for Boris Johnson from Prime Minister David Cameron of course.
Boris may play the clown to give ordinary Londoners a false sense of security, but he does not fool around when showing his class loyalty, whether its condemning UK Uncut for occupying Fortnums (the sacrilege!) in their campaign against rich tax dodgers, or insisting the Chancellor must look after the City boys and bankers - you can thank him for the "granny tax". Cameron, condenmed even by some of his Tories for being out of touch, and up to his eyes in the scandal around Murdoch, needs a Johnson win to restore morale and uphold his government.
We might have expected the Standard to maintain its vendetta against Ken if it was still running in tandem with the Daily Mail and owned by the Rothermeres. On 21 January 2009 the Russian business oligarch and former agent Alexander Lebedev and son Evgeny Lebedev, now the paper's chairman, agreed to purchase 75.1% of the paper for £1, since when they have turned it into a freesheet (at least in central London and on the tube), but evidently haven't made much change to its Tory politics. It supported Cameron in the general election and now it is supporting Boris Johnson.
That Ken Livingstone's former economic adviser John Ross, an expert on Russia, thought it a good thing so much Russian money was coming into the City of London, is just one of political life's little ironies. That Lord Desai, the former LSE "Marxist" elevated to the peerage by Labour, is supporting the Standard campaign against Ken is another, which I trust my friends in the Labour Party will sort out as soon as they get the chance.
Meanwhile, though I have no choice but to vote for Labour's Ken Livingstone as mayor, and to vote for the Labour candidate in my constituency for the GLA, it is another matter when it comes to the London-wide assembly vote which is done by party list, and on the orange ballot paper I beleive.
Here there's a slate of candidates from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition standing, with the slogan TUSC against CUTS, which is maybe easier to remember and say than the mouthful of a name. I've got my criticisms against this outfit, which seems to have emerged to a large extent from the same groups that rendered the Socialist Alliance ineffective when it could have mounted a real challenge to New Labour. Not yet a party, but still an uneasy coalition, it is tending to graft its politics on to the anti-cuts movement, in which members are active, rather than let them evolve from within. In Southampton I see the leader of council workers in struggle against the Tory council has appealed to people not to split the Labour vote.
Nevertheless my criticisms of the TUSC partners pale to insignificance when placed against the need to speak out against Labour councils which are carrying out the cuts, closing libraries and other services as in Brent, or telling poor people they had better move out of London if they can't afford the rents, as we have seen Newham doing, effectively lining up with Tory boroughs like Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham.
We must also be honest in recognising that the troubles we're having with local hospitals closing the A&E and seeking mergers that will make people travel further for service, began with New Labour in government bringing in the Tory idea of Private Finance Initiative well ahead of Mr. Lansley and his NHS reform. And then there are the academies, taking education away from elected local government; and of course the Tory anti-union laws which New Labour kept intact and the Con Dem government now wants to reinforce, making it harder for us to fight back and defend rights at work.
So we should not feel obliged to keep our mouths shut about Labour just to fight the Con Dem government, it only leaves the Tories and Lib Dems smirking as though we have admitted they are right, makes us seem half-hearted and hypocritical in our opposition, and leaves working people confused or uncertain, wondering if we really are "all the same". Besides if we don't want the far Right to exploit demoralisation and people fighting each other for jobs and homes, we have to raise the socialist banner and show there is a better way. "Another world is possible" (to borrow a phrase one of the few socialists left in the parliamentary Labour Party has used).*
To get a genuine fighting socialist voice in the GLA would be great, but even raising the Red Flag in this election campaign is good, particularly because the people whose names I recognise on the TUSC are people I've marched with, stood on picket lines with, and one occasion invaded a rail depot with so we could demonstrate as a crowd outside a disciplinary hearing being held at night. And yes the cleaner being picked on because she had joined the union got to keep her job!
Among the people on the TUSC list are Mick Dooley, whom I first met on a Workers Memorial Day march with the Construction Safety Campaign and who organised the day school on asbestos in which trade unionists and healthcare professionals took part at Barts Hospital. Notwithstanding his troubles with the UCATT leadership Mick also played an active part in supporting the rank and file electricians who took on and defeated big construction giants trying to deskill and drive down wages in their industry. (By coincidence while we were demonstrating outside the bosses' Park Lane beano one night who turned up but Ken Livingstone who had been invited to address the diners inside, but was persuaded to have a word with the workers outside first!)
When Steve Hedley of the RMT asked supporters to join a picket outside Laings to demand they talk with the union and stop trying to get a cleaners' steward deported, I was hoping we would not have to stay there too long. We didn't. After less than an hour of picketing their central London offices the embarassed management asked Steve and his colleagues in to talk, and the issue was apparently resolved.
A couple of years ago I blogged about Sian Griffiths, the London firefighter who was invited to Buckingham Palace to be awarded a medal one day, then escorted off fire brigade premises a day or two later, suspended for allegedly "harassing" someone during the strike which the Tories provoked. Well I am glad to see Sian got her job back and seemed in good spirit when I chanced to meet her at Willesden trades hall, around the corner from Pound Lane fire station, the other week. Sian was there meeting supporters because she is another candidate on the TUSC list.
SIAN GRIFFITHS got a medal and she will get my vote.
These are not career politicians or mere party hacks, they are frontline fighters for workers' rights and services in London, and for all its faults the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition can be proud to have them on its list. They will get my vote.