From the UK to the USA – have we forgotten who we are fighting for?

I have seen a lot on social media attributing the recent US Presidential Election result to racism, sexism, and homophobia and thought I would throw my two pence into the ring. So here it is.

In my opinion saying the election result this week was about race, gender, or sexuality trivialises a much larger root problem. Ultimately I would argue that the recent election which saw Donald Trump named as the 45th President of the USA was an expression of frustration on a colossal scale. Like the UK Brexit vote back in June the result stemmed from a place of social alienation, feelings of disillusionment, and neglect. It highlighted traditional working class voters in deindustrialised areas, and modern working class voters turning around and screaming into the social, political and economic echo chamber – ‘WE’RE STILL HERE!’

When industry began to dissipate, we were on the cusp of a cultural and technocratic revolution which saw younger generations, typically in metropolitan areas taking the reins and dictating the direction of our economic and social structure. The emergence of a new middle class who are (in my opinion) socially liberal and economically conservative has caused the traditional and modern working classes to be marginalised and overlooked during the course of a thirty-year period.

What I mean by this is that with a perceived diminishing base in the working class, politicians of all creeds have chased the votes by legislating to benefit this new emergent social caste. Turning their backs on entire communities, often in rural areas. In recent years’ politicians have consistently undermined and patronised the concerns of what they believed to be a dying vote.

The terrifying thing is that whilst the relatively new middle class liberals manipulate the national agenda, the working classes are being left in isolated communities propagating their unrest with every new generation in both the UK and the US. They are not diminishing, and I would suggest that the demographic turnout of both the UK EU referendum and the more recent US Election is indicative of the fact that people have had enough, feeling unrepresented and forgotten.

The sad state of affairs is that because of all the above, the gap is widening and people who were once the core support of the left are being pushed into obscurity and into the arms of alternatives. Not because they believe in what that person/party is saying; many in fact still self-identify as Labour, but they feel the only way to get attention is to smash the status quo.

I’m working class, and Labour through and through. I am an active Trade Unionist, Campaign Organiser, and now CLP Chair. However, controversially I voted to leave the EU – and whilst I think it is a global tragedy that Trump has been elected, unfortunately I can see the logic that put him there.

I hope these events are an eye opener for the Labour movement, and that our members don’t just flippantly cast off the people who voted in the UK and USA. I see the UK referendum and the US election as cries for help from a forgotten class, living in forgotten communities. The very people the Labour Party and Democrats were established to represent.

Andrew Achilleos – Chair and Campaign Organiser for Dagenham & Rainham Labour Party

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Time to stop sneering and start re engaging: A fairer vision for Barking and Dagenham post Brexit

If the saying, “A week is a long time in politics” is true, the last few months then have seen seismic change rarely seen over years.  The people of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham voted convincingly to leave the European Union – 62.8%.

However, following this exercise of their democratic right, the analysis and reflection on their motives has been nothing short of shocking. The conversation in many places in traditional forums and on social media has taken a sneering, nose holding tone. It seems some want the will of the people as long as they vote the way “they think” they should.  By “they” I mean the Establishment. Who am I including?  Not just the media but disappointingly some MPs too,  anyone who didn’t vote to stay are derided as less “knowing” and intellectual as those that did.

Barking and Dagenham Council were recently featured in a housing programme on the BBC. (October 2016) The BBC filmed in the Borough for nine months. I, having worked for an MP for nine years, and a Councillor for six years, did not feel it truly represented the problems of housing in the Borough and the complex issues that are faced. The biggest omission of all however, was that it barely touched on the issue of Council housing.

The cuts to the Borough’s budget by 2020 will be a staggering 153 million. The impact cannot be underestimated. The cuts are ideological and are set to dismantle communities and to ultimately dismantle the welfare state as we know it. That is not unexpected from right wing Tory Governments is it?  The programme featured phrases such as “no aspiration in the working class”. The working people of the Borough are depicted as “grasping”, “moany”, and desperate. Nothing is further from the truth in my experience and it represents weak journalism. Like the language post Brexit, the needs of those who felt “left behind” by the established political elite are devalued with lazy stereotypes.

If a person goes to work, pays their taxes, pays their council tax, is a home to call their own out of the question? Are we saying to the residents yes please, be our refuse collectors, caretakers, Mid-day assistants, nurses and carers but if you want a home be prepared to place a huge deposit of £20,000- £25,000 on a private flat, pay a rent from a £1000.00 a month or take part in a “part buy” part rent property. And when they can’t afford it are we saying don’t look to a Labour Council to help?

Council housing is the realistic, achievable and obvious answer. I don’t mean being offered a percentage to buy again. I am talking about social housing at a real social rent and please let’s move away from the tag “affordable”. 80% rent is not affordable to people on a working wage, unless you are lucky to have a very well paid job and perhaps a dual income.

As a Borough we advocate slogans of “One Borough” and “No-one left behind”. These slogans sound great in a presentation or seminar. If they are mere rhetoric though, they are valueless They can only be used if we can truly as a Labour Council put our hands on our hearts and say we have concrete polices to ensure no one is left behind.

To reiterate and I make no apology for doing so, build more Council flats and homes and offer them as a working people’s option. The rent is less then private Landlords, the council keep the properties and the rent is affordable for the people in the Borough who work and don’t received the highest wages.

Let’s get a rent cap campaign running. The Borough will come behind it. We are not here to build property portfolios for Landlords but to serve our residents. The rents are so high, working families have to claim housing benefit to live and many seek out Foodbanks as the rent takes a huge proportion of their salary. At the moment until a Labour Government arrives at No 10 the community will suffer, but the community needs to see the Direction of a Labour Council.

There isn’t a person I have met in the Borough that doesn’t aspire to a better life for themselves or their families. That isn’t just a prerogative of the affluent or well-paid is it? Language is a very important part of political discourse and we need to be aware how we deliver it. It is too easy to write off communities in negative language and not engage with their lives, fears and hopes. Without this engagement and a programme of council housing, people will be forced out of the borough. With this gentrification will come a shift in ideology moving the Borough’s leadership away from any hope for social mobility and equality? A changed demographic will not deliver a fairer society. We need not to lose sight of socialist principles and a vision where truly – No one is left behind.

Simply put – build more council housing in Barking and Dagenham.

Margaret Mullane is a Councillor for Village Ward in Dagenham, Office Manager of Jon Cruddas MP, and the CLP Secretary of Dagenham & Rainham Labour Party; also a member of Unite and the GMB Union

A breakdown of different macroeconomic approaches

At first glance, the strong belief in cutting the so-called deficit (saving more than a country spends to you and I) sounds like common sense, at least that is what the Conservatives have strongly argued in recent history. But let’s shake the assumption that saving rather than spending is best for a country. Then we will ask, “If the state doesn’t spend, then who does?”

Politicians, academics and importantly the everyday people who make up this country have argued that countries are unlike households. Modern and inclusive societies should not simply balance the books. Instead states should invest for the long run. Strong investments should be made in industry, infrastructure, and essential services such as the NHS. In the short, medium and long term this type of investment provides quality jobs, and economic returns from increased capacity. Public works provide people from all walks of life and all social and economic groups with affordable access to essential, life improving services.

The Conservatives take a ‘neoliberal’ approach towards economics. This means the state reduces its involvement in industry, and private companies begin to take on roles the state did previously. Take the privatisation of the railways for example. A little known fact is, when a country sells its possessions or assets, the value of the goods and services (known as GDP) of the country falls, and debt often increases relatively in comparison to GDP. This is why many countries and policy makers around the world are anti-cuts/austerity. To follow a more socialist, traditionally Labour party approach (broadly known as Keynesian theory) that sees state investment in the essential things we all and should have equal access to, would result in an increased GDP. This is due to an increase in the value of assets, which can reduce the size of national debt relative to GDP. National debt relative to GDP is an important economic measurement commonly known as debt to GDP. What fails to be said by party politics and the media is that there is more than ‘logical’ or ‘common sense’ way to reduce national debt.

So, if a country does follow a ‘neoliberal’ approach to the economy, who provides the essential, everyday things we need, such as healthcare, affordable transportation, housing, education and so on. Well, imagine a market in which all the people at the stalls are shouting at you and telling you their apples are the best and cheapest. That is one-way neoliberal market economies work. Lots of suppliers try to sell you what you need for the best price. In the long run, the sellers with the most expensive products go out of business, leaving only the most affordable sellers. At first this does not sound awful. However, corners can be and usually are cut in order to keep costs down, resulting in a poor quality product for you and I.  Individuals retain any profits, which inhibits the spread of wealth, especially when these companies avoid and evade taxes. Ironically, many companies avoid tax while receiving Conservative subsidies. Alternatively, and commonly the so called market, may only have one seller, who can charge however much they want, leaving you and I with no choice. A further scenario is that a system appears in which the affordable options are the poorest quality and the most expensive are the highest quality.

This is no surprise when it comes to luxury goods, however healthcare, affordable housing and a decent education should never be considered luxuries. The Labour party believes access to high quality essential services should be equal, in order to create a level playing field from which all members of society have the potential to move upwards if they so wish, rather than a society in which the disadvantaged are prevented from upward mobility as a result of differential or stratified access to the essential services from which lives can be improved.

Noel Moka – Young Labour Party member in Whalebone Ward