Tag Archives: Labour Party

Bradford: Anti-cuts lobby against poor-bashing budget

Bradford Socialist Party members were in attendance along with other activists at the lobby of the council on 23 February outside Bradford City Hall. Some Labour councillors came and talked to us as we attempted to persuade them to set a no-cuts budget.

Peter Robson, Bradford Socialist Party

This was a marked difference from 2016 when they were openly hostile towards us. But our attempts to offer an anti-austerity budget did not stop the Labour-run council making a further £40 million of cuts which, with the already millions that have decimated this city, is a legacy they should be ashamed of.

Not only will these cuts yet again attack the poorest, with the Edmund Street centre already closed as a refuge for the homeless. To add insult to injury, after the dirty work was done, they announced to the local press that they now want to rehouse 20% of people in care homes back into their own homes!

Clearly, some of these people are very ill and it would be unbelievable to send them home. And to what? With these cuts, there will be no carers left at this rate. We will continue to challenge these councillors.

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Hundreds Attend Corbyn Rally in Bradford

Jeremy Corbyn outdoor rally in Bradford

Jeremy Corbyn outdoor rally in Bradford

With rallies in Liverpool, London and other major cities running out of space, the organisers of Jeremy Corbyn’s labour leadership election rally in Bradford took the hint and opted for an outdoor rally.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire Organiser

Corbyn himself arrived to almost a rock star reception – to the tune of ‘The Final Countdown’, surrounded by paparrazi to a cheering crowd – except instead of a stadium, he was speaking to around 700 supporters on a cricket pitch.

Press photographers and cameramen buzz around Jeremy Corbyn as he walks to the stage

Press photographers and cameramen buzz around Jeremy Corbyn as he walks to the stage

Those gathered came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but the majority were those enthused by seeing a now prominent political figure that articulated their anti-austerity, pro-working class views, whether they were older activists disillusioned by New Labour or young people getting active for the first time.

Clearly with many of the reported 140,000 new members and 70,000 supporters signed up since the election been Corbyn supporters then it is possible Corbyn could win. But given the attempts to undermine his campaign by the right-wing majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party and others, alongside the media – there would be obstacles even after winning the leadership election as the make-up of the platform of the rally showed.

For example, the rally was hosted by newly elected Bradford East MP Imran Hussain. Whilst Hussain gave quite a fighting speech at the rally, he had previously been Deputy Leader of Bradford Council until his election, where the council has recently passed eye-watering levels of cuts.

If Corbyn’s words at the rally saying that we can’t just accept another five years are to be put into practise then as well as MP’s voting to defend jobs, services & welfare, it also means councils refusing to pass on Tory cuts like Bradford Council have. Given Imran Hussain also remains a councillor, then we hope him and other Corbyn supporting local councillors will be voting against further cuts budgets come next February.

Also speaking was Unison regional officer John Cafferty, someone many Unison activists would not consider left-wing. Yet the platform also saw a young student union officer speak reflecting the refreshing change that many would view the anti-austerity, anti-war platform that Corbyn is articulating.

Hundreds attended the Jeremy Corbyn rally in Bradford

Hundreds attended the Jeremy Corbyn rally in Bradford

Speaking to several young rally attendees afterwards, then a number admitted having been turned off from voting Labour in the general election as many of the views articulated by party’s leadership seemed like a watered down version of the Tories, several of them had instead voted Green. This viewpoint was echoed at the rally by the left-wing MP for Leeds East, Richard Burgon, commenting that “Many people said on the doorstep ‘I’m not voting Labour as you’re all the same'”

A number of those attending had signed up as Labour supporters to vote for Corbyn and see how things develop from there. On the platform a GMB speaker said of Corbyn “He’s the only hope for the Labour Party” whilst Imran Hussain commented “This opportunity (to elect a left-wing labour leader) will not present itself again in a generation”.

Yet the post-election anti-austerity mood, that the reception Corbyn is receiving reflects but also the big demos organised by Socialist Party members and others in cities such as Leeds and Sheffield, will not go away after this leadership contest. After the contest, Corbyn should call a conference of his supporters, but also of the trade unions which support a fighting anti-austerity programme (including those not affiliated to the party) to discuss where next to turn this mood & support into anti-austerity & socialist change.

(See also editorial from the Socialist on Corbyn’s campaign)

Bradford Labour-led council inflicting £82 million of cuts

On Wednesday 27th February there really wasn’t any debate about whether or not Bradford’s Labour councillors were going to refuse to do Pickles’ dirty work, the only real debate was centred on how and what was going to be cut. The main point of contention was Labour’s decision to increase council tax by 1.99%.

Again, Labour treated the people of Bradford to the usual words of regret over the cutting of the budget and the further job losses and cuts to frontline services that will be the inevitable result.

However, it was obvious from the budget that they put forward that mere words were as far as their opposition was going to stretch.

Councillor Green of the Labour group however made a startling comment that the people of Bradford couldn’t rely on central government to work in their best interests regardless of who was in power! Doesn’t seem like he has much faith in his own party; who could blame him?

Respect merely abstains

Those expecting a valiant and well thought out anti-cuts stance from the five Respect councillors were about to be sorely disappointed.

Only three turned up and only one spoke; councillor Karmani. His speech started off well, about how the rhetoric of cuts had become an almost universally accepted ideology amongst the mainstream parties despite the fact this stance is clearly not working and had only served to increase the deficit.

He pointed to Italy and said that the election results there showed that “most people see austerity as flawed.”

He stated that Respect was not going to accept the Tory amendment or the Labour austerity budget put forward and they were going to abstain on the passing of any austerity budget.

The chance was there to put forward calls to throw out the budget and set a needs-based budget like the Liverpool socialist-led Labour council did under Thatcher in the 1980s.

Sadly, Karmani basically made it clear he didn’t actually know what the solution was and just called for a watered-down austerity programme, appealing to try to find a ‘middle ground’.

He even resorted to the rhetoric of the cuts himself, stating that “unpopular choices have to be made”.

The damning of austerity on one hand but failing to be able to put forward an alternative plan on the other made them easy pickings for Labour and Conservative councillors who made them look inept.

Labour have 44 out of the 90 councillors in Bradford, so with the three Green councillors voting with them and half of the Lib Dems, they had a majority, but Respect should still have voted against rather than abstaining.

The Conservative amendment was defeated and the Labour Party budget pledging to cut £82 million out of the budget over the next three years was passed.

Matt Leek, Bradford Socialist Party

 

Bradford Protest Over Galloway’s Offensive Remarks About Rape

On Saturday, 1st September around 100 men and women gathered in Bradford city centre to protest over, Respect MP for Bradford West, George Galloway’s, ridiculous and offensive comments about rape.

In a recent podcast about the current allegations against Julian Assange, Galloway said that: “even if the allegations made by these two women… were 100% true… they don’t constitute rape.” He describes the allegations as no more than “bad sexual etiquette.” If you “go to bed” with someone then you are in “the sex game” with them and he says that you should not need “to be asked prior to each insertion”.

Galloway’s remarks, rightly, almost immediately sparked outrage across the country both outside and inside his party, Respect. Salma Yaqoob, leader of Respect said his remarks were “deeply disappointing and wrong.” Despite this condemnation from his own party Galloway has yet to apologise for his comments.

Due to this the activists involved in Bradford About Consent organised this protest in order to show Galloway the anger his words had sparked amongst his constituents, to try and put pressure on him to give a full apology as well as educate people about the realities of rape and sexual assault in this country.

The protestors also used this opportunity to argue against groups like the EDL using rape of woman to further their own agenda, rightly calling out attempts to frame rape and sexual assault as something emblematic of certain races or religions.

Unfortunately, despite this, the speakers tried to discourage any attempts to link these issues with the current political situation. This was partly due to early accusations that this was a Labour Party fronted protest leading to organisers to declare the protest had no political affiliation: outright banning any kind of political banners or placards.

The speakers also avoided commenting on Galloway’s ableist ‘window lickers’ tweet, despite a number of protestors showing up with placards about this; if these movements united fully they would have placed much, much more pressure on Galloway.

This led the protest to lack a clear forward direction to build upon its initial success and push forward the fight against sexual violence. Even if it does pressure Galloway into an apology, his comments are a drop in an ocean of rape apologism:  other politicians and even comedians, such as Jimmy Carr, have been in the news recently for similar comments or jokes. Galloway, or any of these other individuals, apologising would be a positive step as it would highlight how unacceptable such remarks are, but that alone will not end rape and sexual assault.

That will take a united movement with political direction: fighting the cuts, many of which are making women feel more at risk on the streets (such as turning street lights off to save money), and putting forward a political alternative to the parties making these cuts. We need a united campaign of women and men, trade unions and the working class actively fighting back against sexual violence and sexism in all its forms, as well as fighting for real change to the current system that is allowing sexism to flourish, for these issues to ever become a thing of the past.

Michael Johnson, Leeds City & Bradford Socialist Party

Occupy Westfield evicted, but fight must go on

YFJ joins Occupy Westfield activists protesting outside court

YFJ joins Occupy Westfield activists protesting outside court

Members of Leeds Youth Fight for Jobs joined a solidarity protest with the Occupy: Westfield group outside Bradford Crown Court on Tuesday 3rd July. The group have been occupying the area in the city centre where Westfield had started laying down foundations for a new shopping centre, more commonly known as ‘the Bradford hole’, and like the derelict Odeon building on the other side of town, is seen by many in town as a symbol of the city’d economic decline. The occupiers were in court as Westfield were seeking a possession order for the site.

Occupy Westfield had been established in May, shortly after the election of five Respect councillors in the local elections, and prior to that of George Galloway as Respect MP for Bradford West. Unemployment, stands at 6% in Bradford, higher then both the regional average of 4.9% and the UK average of 3.9%, whilst youth unemployment has increased alomst 30% in the last year, now at 11.1%, again higher than the UK average of 8.3%. For a town that has seen a decline in its economy and prospects of young people, Galloway’ election victory marked a political earthquake and the Westfield occupation is but the first major repercussion on the life of the town of this.

In 2003 Stannifer became the guarantor for a retail development project on the site, who were soon bought out by Chelsfield who in turn were quickly acquired by Australian shopping centre group, Westfield. It was Westfield who, in 2007, mothballed the development claiming they could not secure enough pre-lets and anchor tenants. The latest plans, supposedly close to completion around a year ago, would see a smaller shopping centre, but there doen’t even seem to be any real progress on even this scaled back development. Whilst Westfield can find £1,743m to invest in a shopping centre in Stratford near the Olympic site, they can’t come up with the lesser amount of £345m to invest in Bradford.

In response a group of young Bradfordians occupied the site, demanding that the site be developed immediately. Initially, official society attempted to ignore them, they did gain a meeting with the new leader of Bradford council, only for the council to tell them there was nothing they can do, the original contract didn’t include any provisions for penalty clauses etc.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Westfield seem to have little immediate interest in developing the site, let alone developing the site in a manner of providing facilities that would be a real boon to Bradford. Instead they have persued the occupiers, going through eviction proceedings no doubt with the hope of silencing their campaign. After Westfield were granted a possession order, the occupiers have decided to leave the site, but are camping on the ‘Urban Garden’ which surrounds the site and have vowed to continue the campaign.

The next step must be to demand that the land is removed from the control of Westfield and developed in a socially useful way for the people of Bradford. The council could compulsory purchase the land (the council estimates this would cost £80m), but we would argue that Westfield deserves no compensation given their failure to develop the land and the associated consequences of that (a 2007 report concluded that the failure to develop the site had stifled the cities economic development). A democratic plan for the site could be drawn up by local community groups, trade unions, the occupiers and others as to how the site could be developed.

No doubt the Labour leadership of the council, who have implemented cuts budgets the last two years will say there is no money for this. But this is only because they are refusing to fight the imposition of the Con-Dem cuts, instead of organising a mass campaign to demand the funding the city needs. In the 1980s, the group of 49 councillors on Liverpool City Council refused to implement Thatcher’s cuts and their mass campaign gained the funding to build new houses, leisure centres, nurseries as well as creating council apprenticeships and new parks amongst other things. If Liverpool could do that then, why can’t Bradford do this now?

Given the support that Respect councillors have offered the occupiers, and being elected on a platform of opposing cuts and being in favour of the regeneration of the city, they could be asked to table a motion to this effect at the next full council meeting. The occupiers and other could organise a mass lobby of councillors as they enter the meeting, and they could also use the opportunity to present a petition to this effect to the council. Such a course of action would clearly show which side the councillors were on – developing thecity to imporve the prospects of workers and youth or on the side of the profit-mongering multinationals.

Over 20,000 have signed the occupiers petition in support of them, and as we marched up from the occupation site to the courts we saw people applauding us and joining the protest. It is clear on whose side the ordinary working people of Bradford are on.

Iain Dalton, Youth Fight for Jobs – Yorkshire Organiser

George Galloway’s stunning Bradford victory shows the potential for anti-cuts election challenges

The following was carried as an editorial in the Socialist newspaper.

It was a week when New Labour was passively benefitting from multiple crises of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition – in particular Osborne’s budget for the rich, the ‘cash for Cameron’ scandal, and the queues at petrol stations.

But then came the earthquake of George Galloway’s astonishing byelection victory in Bradford West.

After a three week campaign Galloway received more votes than all the other parties on the ballot paper put together! With 18,341 votes, he beat the Labour Party candidate by more than 10,000.

Labour reeled in great shock as its share of the vote fell 20% on its 2010 figure, losing a seat it had comfortably won with a 5,000 majority just two years ago.

The Labour leaders – some of whom had visited Bradford during the election campaign – were so out of touch that they considered Labour victory secure even as the polling booths were closing. Yet Labour was in fact losing a constituency that it had held for 38 years.

The Tory vote also fell dramatically, by 10,000 votes, a 23% drop in share and the Lib-Dems did so badly that they lost their deposit.

This result was a major haemorrhaging of support for the main parties – a sharp rejection of their policies of austerity and support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Only four out of every ten votes were cast for them. This mood is not confined to Bradford; a recent YouGov national poll revealed sinking ratings for the leaders of all three main parties, to a negative degree described as “quite exceptional” by psephologist Mike Smithson in that he could not find any other period in modern history when all three leaders had such poor ratings simultaneously.

Galloway summed up his victory as being a result of “massive dissatisfaction with the political system… and the main political parties…

“If a backside could have three cheeks then they are the three cheeks of the same backside. They support the same things, the same wars, the same neoliberal policies to make the poor poorer for the crimes of the rich people”.

He also pointed to the problems in Bradford: “A rotten combination of complacency, incompetence, opportunism and rule by clique has presided over Bradford’s decline.

“It was going down even during the 13 years of New Labour government… now it is in danger of sinking under the sado-monetarist austerity of the Con-Dem coalition” (Guardian 31.3.12).

Bradford has a run-down city centre and a closed main library. It has the 12th worst unemployment rate in the UK – youth unemployment has tripled in three years – and its schools are near the bottom of the national league tables.

Voting for Galloway was seen as a way of protesting against these deprivations and of agreeing with his main campaign demands: against the “smashing up” of the NHS, the lack of NHS dentists, against tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA, and for his strong anti-war message.

It was a reaction to the false promises of the main political parties and their lack of solutions for the acute problems workers and young people face.

George Galloway was viewed by many as somebody who, in comparison, ‘tells the truth’ and ‘fights for justice’.

The way in which he vociferously stood up to US senators in 2005 over the Iraq war had left an impression.

The Labour candidate, Imran Hussain, was an Asian Muslim in a constituency in which around 38% of voters were from a similar background, but he was in a different camp to most of them.

He was the deputy leader of a council that has made massive cuts, including up to 1,000 job losses, and he supports Britain’s military presence in Afghanistan.

So indefensible were his policies that he refused to publicly debate with the other candidates during the election campaign.

For Galloway though, over one thousand people crammed into a hall to hear him outline the need for change in Bradford.

His Facebook page had over 82,000 followers and he urged people to use social media and to simply send text messages to everyone in their address lists urging them to use their vote for him on polling day.

Divisive politics?

The Socialist Party has in the past sometimes criticised Galloway and his Respect party for creating a too narrowly based appeal aimed specifically at Muslims – especially in Respect’s former stronghold of London’s Tower Hamlets where it once had 12 councillors plus Galloway as the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow after he overturned a 10,000 majority held by Labour’s Oona King.

In Bradford West, he did though place some emphasis on the need to represent “all” against austerity attacks and he made a forthright appeal for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, appealing to white working class families as well as Asian.

He lambasted the “village politics” of a Labour campaign that leant heavily on the Asian community networks, and the history of carving up of positions by the existing Muslim political leaders.

He also argued with effect against supporting the Labour candidate simply because he was local: “What’s it going to do for you, if you vote for a local man whose father came from the same village as your father 50 years ago…

“If I was a local politician I’d be embarrassed when I look around at the problems in this city to say vote for me I’m a local politician, because these local politicians are the problem not the solution”.

These comments fell on fertile ground in the Asian working class community, especially among the young.

Over half of British people of Asian origin are living in poverty and suffer from inordinate levels of unemployment.

This byelection result shows that they are now strongly questioning traditional support in their communities for Labour and are open to casting at least a protest vote against Labour’s cuts-making policies.

However, one of the shortcomings of Galloway’s campaigning is that he gives a confusing message about the Labour Party.

Despite condemning Labour’s austerity agenda and support for imperialist wars, he says that he is only outside of the Labour Party because the party expelled him. “I am real Labour, not New Labour” declared his leaflet.

So rather than giving a clear message, as the Socialist Party does, that a new mass workers’ party urgently needs to be built to give workers a political voice, he has adopted an ambiguous position.

Also, unfortunately Respect has failed as yet to build a solid and growing active membership base on a lasting basis.

It has suffered political difficulties as a result of not predominately taking a class-based approach and developing roots in the trade union movement.

It lost most of its elected positions in Tower Hamlets in part because it had a number of councillors who were not taking this standpoint, and it suffered a split in 2007 (separating from the SWP and others).

Prospects for the left

Notwithstanding the criticisms that can be made by socialists of Respect and Galloway, the Bradford West victory is extremely significant and indicates the electoral potential that is opening up for anti-cuts candidates standing against the main parties.

It is easier to win protest votes in a parliamentary byelection than in a general election, but huge disaffection with the three main parties now exists on a sustained basis and is widespread, as was shown when none of them achieved a majority in the last general election.

It was also shown in Scotland last year when the SNP won a majority in the Scottish parliament.

The Lib Dems have in the past been a recipient of protest votes against the Tories or Labour, but this is a different prospect now that the Lib Dems are in a brutal cuts-making government.

The Bradford West byelection also indicates, as the Socialist Party has been saying, that Labour councillors will not be viewed as being innocent after passing on government cuts.

This shows the growing potential for anti-cuts candidates at council level, with the May council elections fast approaching.

Respect has decided to challenge for council seats across Bradford in May, with great possibilities if it stands on the basis of firmly opposing all cuts in deeds as well as words.

There will be many other anti-cuts candidates across the country, including over 100 standing for council seats as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), at present being ignored by the mainstream media.

Much of the media is claiming that Bradford West is a one-off, arguing that there are ‘no other George Galloways’ – that he is the only figurehead to the left of the main parties.

This is deliberate distortion. Tony Mulhearn was a key leader of the fight of Liverpool City Council against the cuts of the Thatcher government in the 1980s and is now a TUSC challenger against the Labour leader of Liverpool council for the newly created position of mayor.

In Coventry, Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, a former socialist MP, is standing for relelection to the council in St Michael’s ward.

In London, Alex Gordon, the president of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union is head of the TUSC list for winning seats in the London Assembly.

The strongest possible campaigns are needed in the next few weeks to make sure that voters in areas with TUSC and other anti-cuts candidates know that they have the chance to strike another major blow against austerity politics, and also in favour of a socialist alternative.