Friday, 12 June 2015

I'm still a Marxist (tendency Groucho)

There is an unsubstantiated rumour swirling around the political salons of Old Northampton that I have somehow transmogrified into some sort of right wing old municipal grandee.
That I stand for the status quo, that I'm keen to aquire status as an elder statesman of municipal politics, perhaps sympathetic to the Liberal-Democrats,or worse....

Well time to make it clear, over the decades i have had dalliances with other ideologies.I was born as many know into what Americans call 'a red diaper baby'. I joined the Young Communist league at the age of 14 signed up in a Lyons Corner House by no less a Communist superstar that the late great Jimmy Reid!
Jimmy who later led the Upper Clyde Shipyard workers (remember the 'nae bevvying' speech)was at the time the National Secretary of the YCL.
My future was set to wonder under the red star of the east!
Four or five years later the young comrades expelled my under the rule 'actions harmful to the league'.I was expelled by the London District of the league,with only two defending me,and one of them was a Cypriot comrade with the magnificent name of 'Stalin'.
his parents were very loyal supporters of Uncle Joe.
I then began my political meanderings, a little time with the Revolutionary Socialist Students Association, a spell as the rank and file of the SCC(M-L)-in case you've forgotten us we were the Sussex Communist Caucus (Marxist-leninist)
There were only five or six of us, one has since become a senior lecturer in politics at a Midland university,another has become a prolific writer on South African affairs,one has gone back to highly lucrative journalism in the States,another may have gone back to his day job in the CIA.
I moved to Northampton.
Where we spent almost 40 years in a brief flirtation with the Labour Party.When we joined we only intended to give it a couple of years,but like an old cardigan,the Labour Party was comfortable and secure and sometimes even seemed on the cusp of doing something quite significant.
For much of my extended honeymoon with the Labour Party its great strength was at local level, and in the early years there seemed real possibilities that local government could provide the party with a platform to effect change.
Remember the conference where Kinnock called local government 'labour's batttered shield against injustice'.
I think that was before he vilified and excoriated the comrades in Liverpool for providing just such a shield.But then it was a Militant shield not a god fearing profoundly middle of the road social democratic shieldette!

I've ranted on far too regularly about the hollowing out of the party,although interestingly enough in a disgusting blairite love fest in the Times this week his Chief of Staff wryly observed that the Labour Party in Scotland has been 'hollowed out'
But amongst the great balls-ups of the Blairite ascendancy was the cackhanded reorganisation of local government.The vision was the American model with elected Mayors and grafted on the Westminster model of a powerful executive (cabinet) and select committees (scrutiny) to hold the executive and the Mayor to account.
It was a system of checks and balances that could have worked.
But it didn't, elected Mayors have proved a complete waste of energy and resouces, indeed if Boris Johnston is the answer then indeed it was a fucking stupid question.
Cabinets gave too much power to a small tightly knit group of politically motivated men and some women.Scrutiny from day one had no power,everything it did was after the event, and at best call in could only delay the inevitable.
The Lib-Dems in Northampton tried to put a motion calling for the return of the committee system, but as there are only two of them their efforts were doomed.
The tories like the Cabinet system, because it gives power to a small number of their group and the rest merely collect their dosh and sit quiet-not a lot to do!
The Labour Party on the otherhand sided with the tories-they argue that the old committee system was slow and 'Victorian', did not reflect the dynamic and thrusting politics of going out and 'listening to people' and allowed a small group of Labour members to call themselves 'shadow portfolio holders', although I think they meant 'shallow portfolio holders'
Whilst the committee system was slow and cumbersome it allowed many more elected members to participate in decision making and for instance a decision like the new bus station would pass through a number of committees, like Traffic,Finance,Planning and ending up with Policy-ample opportunity for many members,and members of the public,to examine plans.
Slow yes,but maybe more effective.Right now Northampton Borough Council has half a dozen Councillors who take decisions and almost 40 others who are mere bystanders.
Of course I keep making the mistake of suggesting that councillors have power-silly me, with the Cabinet system the real power resides where it always should-with the senior management team!

maybe all my years have made me too cynical,perhaps I'm a Marxist (tendency grouchy) !

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