Friday, 29 April 2011

Excitement at fever pitch-Guildhall quietly snoozes

Thursday was the night of a thousand dreams.Or at least it promised that-according to the Chronicle & Echo .If you didn't get there on time it would be difficult to get a seat.
Such was the hype for the Great Borough Council debate
.As it turned out there were many empty seats and most of those that were occupied were either local election candidates or their party groupies.

It was a well ordered and quite disciplined meeting, even the noxious BNP were listened to in sullen silence.
Their spokesman was so poor that the audience really couldn't be bothered to heckle him.They were probably mostly asleep,lulled into a comatose position by the speakers from the three main parties.

The report in Thursday's paper was painfully accurate.The three main parties were dreadful. Of the three 'leaders' only David Palethorpe of the Tories came across as anything like a human being.
The other two were as wooden and lifeless as most of the furniture in the Great Hall.Brian Hoare,the Lib-Dem leader was as stimulating and inspiring as an accountant explaining how the tax mechanism in medieval Sudan worked.
Lee Mason, the Labour leader had the world at her feet.She had nothing to lose and everything to gain.She could have inspired that audience to see a bright new future ahead for Northampton.
Unfortunately she sounded like the other half of Hoare's exposition of tax laws in medieval Sudan!

It was left to the Independent's-Tony Clarke,Malcolm Mildren and the others to inject some life into the whited sepulchre that was the debate about Northampton's future.

In essence it would appear that the Tories are going to sell off the housing stock,bring traffic to bits of Abington Street and talk to the Saints and the Cobblers quite soon!
Brian Hoare is going to continue dishing up more of the same,bearing in mind that the Con-Dem cuts would get bigger and bigger, oh and one day(someday) a brave new Grosvenor Centre would rise,and he'd talk to people.
Lee Mason promised that she too would talk to people,whether it was the same people that the other two might speak to was not made exactly clear.
My question to the platform was a simple one.Given NBC with cabinet is a one party state and scrutiny committees are also run by them,the only way for oppositions to operate is using the call in process.
How often over the last four years had the opposition groups used call in?
Palethorpe thought his group had invoked call in 3 times over four years.Lee Mason thought that her group had done about the same.
Malcolm Mildren said that the Independents had used call in about 8 times in eighteen months!
The comparison was stark and simple,the Tories don't need to use call in,they are simply waiting for control to fall in their lap.The Labour Party with only five members needed to use the council mechanisms to demonstrate their alternative-they have failed miserably!
So it was the tiny Independent group who showed the real strength of opposition for the last four years.
That was why on the night they shone as the individuals willing to challenge the vested interests on behalf ofv the people.
That's why for once an iIndependent,a Green, an SOS or a Socialist and TU is worth casting.
There were one or two other independents,notably Liam Costello who given half a chance would make a difference.
The Lib-Dems are always boasting that local elections are two horse races,this time there is a full field and not being a 'big' party is no handicap.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Wales wedding-excitement overwhelms me!

A week to go before Mr and Mrs Wales big lad Bill gets hitched.I'm so excited about knowing what the lovely Kate (call me Catherine from now on peasant!) will be wearing!
Gosh will it be white? Or puce ? Or a little gold lame number?
Perhaps it will be a modified polo shirt with wee horses and polo mints embroidered on in cute sequin patterns?
What of his military uniforms will the Wales boy be wearing, and what medals?
And then his father, with his vast array of service uniforms.Will he be pondering now ? Will I be a Field Marshal on Friday? Or a Lord High Admiral ? Or maybe it's time I gave the Marshal of the Royal Air Force kit a bit of an airing!
Then the Lord High Everything will have to choose his medals and sashes and stars so that they will all be colour coordinated.
I expect he will discuss with his siblings what medals and stuff they are bedecking themselves with,so that they don't all turn up with the same honours on show.
It must take hours for the Windsor's to get their christmas tree finery sorted out.
No such problem for their Mum however, as Liz of Guelph gave them all their baubles anyway.
She'll just wear the odd clutch of diamonds,the odd row or ten of pearls and probably enough gold to pay off the national debt!
Every newspaper this Sunday carried page after page of detail about the wedding.Diagrams of whose sitting where in the Abbey and what second each of them will appear.
What I find particularly nauseating is the collection of 'other royals' who are turning up to rattle their jewellery,from a bunch of nasty Arab potentates who will then hurry home to murder some more of their people to a selection box of assorted former European monarchs who languish in splendid villas in Monaco living on stolen loot.

What also causes some anguish is that this bunch of deadbeats should engender such interest and respect from citizens worldwide.
I simply do not buy into the notion that the unelected sons and daughters of old German nobility should have any place in modern society.
The Germans themselves have got rid of the numpties,so why are we still supporting them?
Oh I forgot, they are symbols of our history and are above the cut and thrust of political life.They are pure and untainted and beloved and excuse me while I gag!
Andrew York ? His ex-wife?His dopey young brother? His haughty sister/ and then there is Charles...
I almost feel sorry for young Wales, it must be hard to be the son of a beautiful but empty headed breeding machine and an ugly,empty headed self important ignoramus.
But then we know who is paternal grandfather is......enough said!
The Royals own far too much of our country,they are after all the richest landowners in the country.
They offer nothing but arrogance and vacuity-it's time they were pensioned off like their European cousins, and invited to live using their own skills and abilities.
it would be inrteresting to seehow the Guelph family got on !

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

To AV or not AV?

Three or four weeks ago I was absolutely sure that I would vote No in the great AV debate.
I can sense readers eyes starting to glaze over,but persevere, things as they say might get better!

I was willing to vote No simply because this silly little £480 million piece of froth was Clegg's price to obtain his red box and smirk-seat next to Cameron.It seemed too easy a target to give the dreadful little fart another good kicking-why?
"Because he deserves it!"
He still deserves a good kicking,but in truth the electorate on May 5th will give him the destruction of his political base that will set them back several decades.with a bit of luck back to the days when the entire Parliamentary Liberal party could fit into one taxi.
But then doubts started to fidget around in my brain.After all had I not always believed in proportional representation even before I had ever heard of Lib-Dems and seen the yellow of their little eyes!
Clegg was right when he called AV a squalid little compromise and it is still at best a halfway house.But it is possibly better than what we have now.
What exists today is the power and hegemony of the marketing manager and the fat chequebook.Wev saw that graphically in Northampton South when an absolutely useless Labour candidate who was not arsed about the town still managed to come second!
People voted for the brand and what was worse the power and influence of the telephone campaigns and the party political broadcasts.
What was of course even worse Binners won!Hardly first past the post more first past the plonker!!
My favourite form of democracy was the once powerful mass meeting.How enjoyable it used to be to see Jackie Dash speak to thousands of London dockers and then call for a show of hands:
"Right Brothers-how do you want to vote?"
Some of course always whined on about mass meetings being intimidatory in nature,but I always saw them as demonstrations of worker's solidarity and an affirmation of the power of the collective.
I'm sure there were some who would rather slink away and side with the bosses-but such meetings stiffened their resolve-that's for sure.
The day of the mass meeting is long gone,we have to work with what we have,and that is a pretty poor mess of pottage.

AV has one virtue and only one.It appears to annoy the Tories far more than anyone else.Most people really don't give a monkeys but it would seem the Tories are going berserk.
My old Dad always taught me that if a Tory says something's wrong, then invariably it's right!
Mind you he also said that the only good Tory was a dead Tory,that may however be a bit extreme.
So starting from a position of wanting to kick Clegg I have changed my strategic thinking and now feel even this dreary little adjustment may cause the Tories more grief , so on that profound balancing of all the sophisticated arguments that are raging about for me it comes down to the simple question.
Who do I dislike most?
And this time there is the added bonus that the objectionable toss-pot Lord Reid of Authoritarianism is on the Tory side too!
Put me down as a YES.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Time for some new thinking

There is little real point in producing a local manifesto. That's why I'm surprised that the local Labour Party went to the trouble of getting their 12 page document printed at a proper printers,after all twelve pages is a lot of pages in which to say absolutely nothing!
It is no longer 'New Labour' , indeed it is not even the 'Labour Party' but in fact it is now the minimalist 'Northampton Labour'.
Is it possible that in four years it will become 'Northampton' or maybe just 'North' and deny any connection with any political party.
Probably the safest thing to do for a party that is now run from Attenborough in Nottingham- is that Lord Attenborough or just David?
And then the eye catching slogan 'Your voice in tough times'
If they are my voice in tough times then I think I'll stick to the Strepsils!
After all our voice in tough times couldn't even manage to put up a full slate of candidates, and threw away a number of seats in the North constituency that they should have won.
In tonight's Chron. Lee Mason, erstwhile head voice in tough times admits that at best the voice may only manage 15 seats- hardly a real voice-more a soft whisper behind closed doors.

In almost 40 years of membership with Northampton Labour Party there has never been such a poor effort to field sufficient candidates.The easy line at the moment is that "candidates failed to get their nominations in on time!"-Oh yeah!-That's why a Party has f*****g agents!
When I asked dear old Rawlings last week who his agent was back came the reply "Dick Barton"
As well as giving his age away John also revealed the state of the Party at the moment.
Perhaps the most ironic thing is that given the state of things at the moment it might have been expected that the biggest cock-ups would have appeared in the South constituency.
Yet it was in the North that the debacle spilled out-the CLP that was once under the iron rule of Sally Keeble and her minions.
Has the writ of Sal evaporated since she got her job with God in London?

A party that once had vision and ideas for both this town and the country has become a hollowed out vehicle for some ambitious retreads to get reunited with their allowances!
Consider the embarrassing manifesto. Six pledges;
1.To ensure front front line services are protected......and reliably delivered at an affordable cost.
that fair sets the pulses racing with excitement.
3.A strong working partnership with everyone who smiles nicely at us -and we will continue to support city status.
Not unitary you notice,although it does appear on page 9 almost as an afterthought.But they will keep the leader/cabinet model! Well goody-goody.
2.Coming in at two was the pledge to re-introduce neighbourhood wardens in their first budget.
Good pledge that, but they sort of spoil it on page 8 when they make a populist pledge:
"Northampton Labour will help to provide money to reintroduce neighbourhood wardens by freezing councillor allowances for two years."
That 'freeze' will produce somewhere around £9,000- about the cost of a neighbourhood warden's leg!
And what is worse the greedy bastards are only promising a two year freeze, so they will get a rise half way through the term.Even the bloody Tories have promised a four year freeze!

They then offered to speak to the Cobblers and Saints within 50 days,consult with everyone about the town centre and the only real pledge in the whole twelve pages is to "aim to half the number of homes not meeting the Decent Homes Standard"
A totally worthy pledge but one they know is dependent og government money and they know the likelihood of that coming will happen when hell freezes over.

What has happened to the Labour pa-r-t---y?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Everyone is innocent-OK!

It is difficult to take the political mainstream seriously any more.The two and a half main parties appear to want to outdo each other in pained innocence and hurt pride.How could anyone not take them seriously?How could anyone not believe that they care deeply,sincerely,lovingly?

I read the Jemina Khan interview with Nick Clegg in this weeks' New Statesman'. She is not a particularly good writer and she was bending over backwards to me generous to the smuck,yet he still managed to come across as a shallow smarmy lightweight.
Policies?-pshaw!! Principles?-pshaw!! Ideas-Your havin' a laugh!
Clegg has only one policy,to get into the Cabinet at whatever the cost,his principles evaporated when he got into Cabinet and if he ever had an idea that vanished in the first sniff of the Cameron smooch.
Even a simple question-did he ever play tennis with Cameron became a no-er yes- response.He reminded me of a guide we once had in Beijing-the delightful Louis who when asked a question would answer 'no,no,no,er-yes'.
Louis was however extremely frank and very charming and quite quickly forgot the party line.
I suppose Clegg has that in common with Louis.

What I find nauseating about Lib-Dems generally is that they pretend to be some sort of new politics,but are sadly just as two faced and cynical as the others.Any casual reading of any faded Focus leaflet will remind you of just how vicious they can be.
The gospel according to the Lib-Dems is that in Northampton for instance everything before they won NBC four years ago was rubbish and hopeless,everything that has happened since has been down to the wonderful Lib-Dems!
Even winning Britain in Bloom was not about the people who planted the flowers but about the magnificent leadership and inspiration of St Trini of Crake.
Nationally the Tories are the worst ideologically driven government for over 100 years, and they have the fig leaf of Clegg that allows them to get away with whatever they like.
They are systematically selling the NHS to the lowest bidders and taking Clegg along to pretend that if a few councillors get on the new boards then democracy will be served.
Ironic really when you think that after May there will be very few Lib-Dem councillors to choose from!

Locally the Tories are biding their time,quite wisely they are putting little in their manifesto and their current commitments barely amount to a hill of beans-wait till they win and see what will emerge!

Finally my old party.
Nationally Milliband appears to be offering very little of substance, with a coalition going nowhere fast other than the most comprehensive destruction of the NHS and the dismantling of education,social security and pensions it should be possible for the Labour Party to galvanise resistance.
Yet it was the TUC who so far has taken the lead and offered at least some alternative.Of course the Labour Party is hampered by the posiution that says the only difference between us and the Con-Dems is that they are cutting faster than we would do!
Hardly a ringing endorsement of an alternative programme.Not least because many economists are saying quite clearly that reduction of 'the deficit' is not a priority-indeed not even close to the top of a priority list.
We have lived with a national debt since Henry VIII raised the debt to buy boats to invade France.
To compare the UK with Ireland,Greece and Portugal is also misleading tosh, and suggests not an analysis that will challenge the status quo,but rather a lazy and uninspiring position designed to keep a couple of hundred MP's in full time employment.
Locally the Labour Party,faced with an open goal of a lousy administration and a tired Tory opposition have managed to screw up bigtime.
Over the past 40 odd years Labour always managed to field candidates even in the safest of Tory seats.To miss out on 14 seats,some of which were almost certain Labour gains is a dreadful state of affairs and perhaps accurately reflects the poor state of local Labour.
Over the next few weeks there will be many,or those that are left,Labour loyalist blow hards who will claim it was a tactical move and they are going to win control.
I tghink you know the response.
That leaves the future locally uncertain, the best hope we have of resistance to the national ineptitude is the election here in Northampton of a block of independent minded councillors who will stand up for their communities and put need before political ambition and party hackery.

Over the years the Labour Party used to produce local councillors who did just that.Sometimes they were not stunning performers in the Council Chamber and sometimes they were too quiet for their own good.But there was a time when Northampton produced fine brave Councillors like the late Ron Linsdell, a working class socialist who stood for all that was good and positive in the labour movement and was a fine local representative.
Ron was an independent minded socialist-the sort of man who now appears in the ranks of the independents, the SOS group,and the Green Party.
This May could be the rebirth of localism as a force for change.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The sadness of it all

Over the next few weeks I'll bump into some old friends trolling round the mean streets of Northampton.They will be delivering leaflets and maybe knocking on doors just like me!
The sadness is that a few will be members of a party that I gave almost forty years of my life to, working for in in the good times and the more frequent bad times.Even canvassing in the very bad times when mention of the Labour Party risked a mouthful of abuse-or worse!
I did not leave the Party, and in a sense it didn't leave me either, it was taken away from me by a small bunch of regional hacks with their own agenda and their willing local accomplices.
The sort of Labour Party members whom Lenin once described,but in a different context as "useful idiots".
But those in Northampton Labour Party who ensured that Tony,Peter and the rest who were either expelled or just walked away are that small band without ideals or principles who just wanted a tiny finger on power.
When Lee Barron stepped down as Castle Ward councillor and told the then group that he would be replaced 'by a big hitter' then the little green eyed monsters took over.
In a more tolerant age the party used to accommodate all sorts of people, we only got round to getting rid of the SDP when they formed an alternative party and stood seperately.
But over the years the party has allowed all sort of strange tghings, why even on May 5th there is a candidate standing who last time round crossed the council floor and even stood as a Lib-Dem candidate!
I'm not surprised that Johnny is standing in Delapre-the folk down there are used to candidates who stand for one party then switch when it suits them!
But at the last elections we did nothing wrong, faced with a sudden emergency we had a properly constituted ward meeting, with District Party and Constituency officers present and selected Tony Clarke quite legitimately-unlike the ward next door!
But no matter,the Labour Party in Northampton, which once fought the NEC to the point of suspension(oddly enough over the issue of the SDP) found it lacked the courage to fight and had lost the idea of solidarity.#
The rest is of course history!
Does this piece mean that I miss the Labour Party? Well I miss what once seemed like comradeship and a common ideology that drove me into the Party in the first place.
The labour Party however seems now to be a hollow shell.Bereft of ideas and unwilling to be brave in defence of the rights of the people.
How on earth can Miliband stand in front of a huge demonstration and tell them that there should be cuts-but slower ones than this dreadful government is making!
No there should not be cuts, even the Americans have realised that cutting back on infrastructure,jobs and education makes no sense!
When Brown tackled the banking collapse I had almost a hope that there was a glimmer of socialism lurking in there somewhere.
But then a paltry tax on the banks and no attempt to challenge the tax avoiders made his decisiveness as hollow as everything else!
When only 13 MP's vote against the muscle flexing that is Britain's response to the situation in Libya(and one of them is a f*****g Tory)that seems to me just how bad things have gotten.
Every cruise missile they unleash to eliminate one tank and 9 camels costs more than the youth service in Northamptonshire.

One of the candidates for SOS in Northamptonshire has a poster that suggests it's impossible to get a fag paper between the three main parties.
There was a time when that was not true-but today? Ritzla does come in three colours but it's the same fag paper!
Politics needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up.Just as the trade union movement was built factory by factory,mine by mine and the Labour Party was built local struggle by local struggle it's time to do it all over again!
So when I bump into my old comrades I will smile and wish them well, and wonder why if they have a socialist idea left between their ears they are still working for a discredited organisation.
Maybe they feel like those around the turn of the last century-oh about 1911 - who still campaigned for the Liberal Party as a new locally based workers' movement was developing around them.