Sally Keeble – Principles over Pounds

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This week we have heard how Sally Keeble turned down a nice little one thousand pound gift from ex-pm Tony Blair, though not the only one to turn down the money, we would be fooling ourselves if we thought this had anything to do with a principled stance of the ex-pm.

Sally Keeble was elected in 1997 alongside 101 women that were effectionally known as the Blair babes, and throughout Mr.Blairs government a staunch ally, as her voting record shows. She only voted against the Blair government a handful of times. You can find Sally’s voting record here: http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpn=Sally_Keeble&mpc=Northampton_North

Her Blairite credentials go even deeper than this, when she started throwing punches at the new PM Gordon Brown, sticking the knife into him only 18 months after he became PM. As we now know there was a legendary feud between Blair and Brown, so it doesn’t take genius to work out which side of the fence she sat on.

Sally voted for the war in Iraq, so it makes no sense for her turning the money down over that, so what other reasons does she have for saying no? Maybe, a political stunt in order to try and distance herself from a government she was in bed with.

It would be unfair of me to not say why Sally Keeble herself told us she turned down the money, it was because:“I actually believe that British Politics, and particularly at election time, should be funded very clearly by British money.”

Her refusal then serves two purposes, it is a rather obvious attempt to distance herself from brand Blair, and a more subtle attempt to appear nationalistic to try and poach some UKIP voters.

So there you have it according to Sally, British elections need to be fought with “British money”, we can assume she only wants British people being members of the Labour party in Northampton, not to mention the Trade Unions, hopefully she will vote against and fight against any donations from multinational corporations to the Labour party (like hell she will).

This is far from being some kind of grand gesture or some kind of principled stance, Tony Blair could keep his money because Sally already has his principles. Hopefully the people of Northampton won’t be fooled by this shameful and spineless ploy, Sally was at the time and still is a shameless Blairite.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://www.northampton-news-hp.co.uk/8203-Northampton-Labour-candidate-rejects-1-000/story-26138966-detail/story.html ]

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One member one vote – but please vote our way.

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Left Unity a party that was built with internal democracy in mind, with yearly elections a prominent feature of how we hold the party to account. We operate a one member, one vote system, where ideally members are free agents to choose who they want representing them.

How turned off I have been then to see key groups within LU (no groups are recognised as a subset of LU, so these operate within LU unofficially) releasing list after list of who their members should vote for. It makes a mockery of our democracy, and is completely alien to the principals LU is trying to further within the workers movement, and the wider community.

The kind of politics I’ve started to witness forming around and within Left Unity this past year, is exactly what I joined LU to get away from. It was a breath of fresh air away from the sectarian ramblings of madmen, cultist despots and thought police.

It will be a sad day for LU, for the left and also the masses of working people that have been alienated by the left if anyone of these outside factions assumes control through majority representation on the NC, as we already know they vote the same, free debate and thought within the party would be finished, and as a result the party would be finished also.

Vote however YOU want, vote for what YOU believe yourself, vote for what YOU believe in – I don’t know kind of left politics you’re trying to build or be part of, but I’ll tell you what we don’t want, uniformity of thought, uniformity of process, – centralised control over how we should act. We joined LU to get away from these failed past models of thought control, and alienation.

Down with this democratic deficit, this undemocratic beast we have nurtured within the party and allowed to grow unchallenged, enough with this shit! Normal people unaffiliated to any of these vultures, without some kind of sectarian loyalty to this brand of socialism or the next, are going to be left behind, they’re already being pushed out.

What is socialism? What is the workers movement, what does it mean to be involved with left politics? What does it mean to you to be a member of the working class? I don’t need to look to someone for the answer, I don’t need to report to someone for “suggestions” – neither do I need to think about it, because I feel it in my gut, it is in my heart.

Some of these positions are representative, and I find it extremely difficult to understand how someone can truly represent sections of the party, if they being forced (coerced/softpower) to vote in a way which has no direct link to the people they are representing.

This is a problem that Left Unity needs to face up to and address, otherwise democracy within the party is a mockery, a thinly veiled facade and LU will fall even quicker into the abyss of failure, a train wreck and a failed experiment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that to happen.

How angry we would of all been if the current EC or NC released a list telling people who they should vote for, what kind of party do we want to be involved with? Like the Grand Old Duke of York marching his men up and down the hill, how long are we going to be stuck doing the same things over and over again? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Lets face it the left has been a sinking ship for a long time now, with groups diminishing in size and capability, we can either bury our head in the sand and think everything is peachy fucking creamy, or we can look at ourselves, because we can spruce it up with fancy words and theories as to why the left is weakening, ultimately we are to blame for it, groups are to blame for it. We either change, adapt, advance and grow, or we are dead, and we have lost.

The most positive forces which have come to the fore in recent years haven’t come from the traditionally walked path, like the FocusE15 Mothers, there is a lot of hope and new ideas circulating not only in the UK but in the world, so lets end this stale politics of the past, it is time for a new kind of politics.

The path to unity is not paved with swords, the road to socialism is built upon the cooperation and friendship of the people.

Northampton Council Meeting of Contempt

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Northampton Borough Council has shown complete and utter contempt for the chamber, the position and most importantly the people of Northampton, as they spend their last full meeting before the elections patting themselves on the back and electioneering.

They seem to have forgotten the problems facing the administration, and will face up until the time of the election, they seem to have completely forgotten that their position is to represent the people that elected them.

I wish I could say this kind of behaviour shocked me, surprised me even but time and again they have ignored the concerns of residents, time and again they have ignored our views and warnings, and time and again they have put their own interests ahead of the people of Northampton.

Lets not forget how the Chron have played into the egoist fantasies of the council leader Mr.Mackintosh without a week going by when his face isn’t offending my computer screen. I could write endlessly listing the failures of this council, but everyone living in the town is already well aware of them.

They seem to be living in a different town to you and I, for among their many glowing achievements (which the council recognised) were the Northgate bus station, which has been a complete and utter disaster, causing untold amount of traffic delays, let alone the distress it has caused bus users and the general public.

Mary Markham even goes on to congratulate them all on how well they have done at combatting homelessness, even though figures released suggest homelessness has increased year on year during their control of the council.

The only shocking thing from the whole night is that the Labour group walked out in protest, finally an opposition – shame they are only four years too late. It would have been great if they had shown this kind of passion while we have had to put up this this lot.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://goo.gl/QR8kbq ]

Kindness doesn’t kill, cuts do!

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A campaign recently launched in Northampton called “Kill with Kindness” (yes that is its real name), has the aim of encouraging people not to be kind to homeless people.

It declares that homeless people are drunks and drug addicts and by giving them money you are therefore feeding their habits and killing them.

It declares that you should instead give your money to charity which has already been butchered in this county, maybe its time the council supported its services properly, so we didn’t have to prop them up!

This campaign is dehumanising, demonising and degrading and feeds into the myth that homeless people are to blame for their situation.

Not all homeless people are drunks, and not all of them are drug addicts and any campaign which starts off with this assumption is very insulting and damaging.

Instead of attacking the powerless, vulnerable and poor, they should run a campaign that tackles the root causes. Why not have a campaign called “help the homeless” or “home the homeless” – why run a campaign that sends the message that homeless are undeserving of kindness?

This campaign takes place within a backdrop of our county council butchering its services, meaning more adults are going to be vulnerable, and ultimately thrown on the scrapheap.

When are they going to tackle the underlying problems and come up with proper solutions to these problems? Homelessness, addiction – they take away our support network and then have the cheek to say we’re less than human (not worthy of kindness).

Social housing programs are few and far between not only in Northampton but the whole country, social enterprises and charities have had their funding cut and removed by local government, meaning less services and support for the homeless.

Homeless people are wait for it – people too. If a homeless person spends a couple of quid on alcohol, then who are we stop them? Would it be better if they drunk a bottle of wine a day?

What are the underlying causes of homelessness addiction? I don’t think the cause of these problems are created by the kindness of strangers, or by homeless people getting a few quid begging.

More than likely the causes of these problems relate to where they find themselves I.e on the streets, mental health related, there are a myriad of reasons why a homeless person may drink but one thing we can be certain of it definitely isn’t kindness that is killing them.

[each week I will pick a local news story and cover it with my own opinion, the news article this blog is in relation to can be found here: http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/local/shoppers-in-northampton-urged-not-to-give-money-to-beggars-in-the-town-centre-1-6600489%5D

Left Unity: Time to get simple

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As we know it Is election year and Left Unity will have about as much impact on the election as the bedroom tax on the deficit. Regardless of how much of an impact we are going to have however we need to be having a simple and clear message with which the people can relate to us with, UKIP have for example anti-EU and anti-immigration.

We need to have these simple messages with which to engage and strengthen our arguments:

  1. Anti-bankers, anti-corruption
  2. Anti-cuts, pro-hope

Forget the election, it is going to be a big waste of time on our part but we can and should begin campaigning around these issues. Not a week goes by where there is not another scandal within the banking sector and we should really be capitalising on that hate and inequality to begin hammering home our anti-capitalist message.

Left Unity Northampton tried to arrange for Left Unity to have a national day of action calling for bankers to face criminal charges. Our motion never got heard at the NC, and we have heard nothing back from it but this is the kind of thing LU needs to be campaigning on to begin whipping up support among the general population.

Anti-cuts and pro-hope should be linked together, our anti-cuts message should be more positive in its message in that we have to describe and explain in clear and concise terms what a possible society post-austerity can look like and what kind of country we can live in. There is another way, we just have to make it possible.

This way LU can begin building up an identity of one that fights inequality and injustice, while at the same time promoting a new society, a new way of doing things – it can be the vehicle and voice of change. At the moment there is no clear identity, which creates confusion – we need a long term marketing strategy.

One message is clearly positive, the other is a negative campaign we can however unite around both messages, the anti-banker thing is simple and easy for people to relate to while at the same time the positive message can give people hope. We are going to have to fight tooth and nail if we are going to achieve anything.

Left Unity nationally should begin this and it should be rolling out support to all branches in campaigning on these issues, while promoting the message on a wider scale. National call outs, national days of actions, posters, campaign materials and of course creative and inventive actions. We need to regain the initiative, make it fun, make it colourful and make it loud.

Left Unity is new, we are not an established brand, nobody knows what we are and who we stand for and this is what we need to change if we are to achieve our objectives, unify the left and create a social movement with which to change the country and hopefully the world.

Left Unity has a diverse array of people all with varying skill sets and we need to be educating and sharing those skills with branches and activists so we are a campaigning force, and a force for change within our communities. We need to support local branches where needed, promote the creative element of our members and get out on the streets

There are people with a shit load of experience and they need to be utilised so that we can all be effective, I carried a call out for volunteers we had nearly a hundred people wanting to volunteer for us, this was last year but nothing happened (was originally to help with web site/social media but LU employed somebody instead). If we had utilised those volunteers effectively, we would be in great place to campaign come the election and be promoting a better internal culture of cooperation and collectivism.

So what are we waiting for? It is ours for the taking, we need to get busy and get active – show the country and the people what is possible, what we are made of and what we want to achieve. Enough of being on the defensive reacting to this and that, it is time we go on the offensive take the fight to them and build up some momentum.

Blackhole In My Belly

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I’ve been forsaken in my hour of need
forsaken due to societies greed
I have nothing left to feed my family
My cupboard and fridge are all empty
The reality of living in poverty
Each day I am getting weaker
My clothes no longer fit as i get thinner
I turn on the tv and hear I am to blame
The doctor has the cheek to tell me I’m insane
Politicians try and say that everything is alright
I now struggle getting out of bed try as i might
I can’t give up the fight for my families sake
but I don’t know how much more I can take

I’m behind on my rent so the debt mans due
I’m getting hopeless now who do i turn to?
missed my signing on date as I was sick
now I have nothing not even mortar or brick
as I lie on the floor comforted only by the cold
life starts to fade I remember what I was told
We are all in this together its a big society
guess its easy to say that when you’re high and mighty
I get it thrown in my face each day and night
they always walk on by like i’m out of sight
soon i wil be just another faceless victim
one of the many let down by this system
my eyes start to close for the very last time
I question the fault of it all could it be mine?

Left Unity: Two steps forward, one step back.

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Left Unity’s internal elections are fast approaching, the yearly elections we have to stop the kind of cult worship, and long standing power-grabs that can and have existed in the past. I would encourage everyone to get actively involved, the more new people we can get standing for positions the better, but not only do we need to encourage those who are new to politics to get engaged, we need to support them – politics and especially the left can be quite a scary place.

While the officers have done some great things this past year, building a party is no easy task, there have been mistakes made, and there have been allegations thrown around. Words all too familiar to anyone that has been on the left for more than a day, undemocratic, Stalinist, conspiracies, you know how the list goes on and on.

I can’t help but think this is part of the internalised culture that exists within the left, a kind of internal paranoia, scepticism, and cynicism. Where every mistake is seen as an intentional act of power hungry megalomania, or when a certain decision doesn’t happen in the way we want it to, rather than the fault be within incompetence or political difference, it is calculated political manoeuvrings or subverting the will of the party.

I won’t be going into detail about each and every issue or allegation that has been hurled around this past year, instead I think all of us need to have a steadfast resolve in improving the parties infrastructure, to improving our internal democracy, transparency and accountability.

Some have abandoned Left Unity and wrote it off as a failure, which to me seems a bit short sighted when we haven’t even had our second election. The party is still being built, have we done everything right this past year? No. Are we a perfect organisation? No. The important thing is however, we can shape Left Unity, it is up to us what kind of party we are involved in.

Once the dust of the election settles there are definitely things that need to be looked at and improved, we need to look at how the party operates, how we communicate with one another, how we formulate policy and ultimately how we improve on the foundations and principles we were founded on.

The party system of old is dead, it doesn’t belong in the 21st century, it isn’t suited to the internet age, and we need to be looking at how the internal workings of Left Unity can be upgraded and incorporated so that every single member has the maximum amount of power.

The constitution was a start but that was it, a start, it wasn’t the end it was the beginning. We are not doing this in a vacuum, we can build on what has come before, we can look to how Syriza and how Podemos operate. I however don’t want to build a party like Podemos or like Syriza, I want to build a party like Left Unity, one that we can call our own.

So how do we do this? Left Unity needs to adopt direct democracy internally in the realms of decision making, I’ve already wrote a small piece on how we can improve conferences which will have a knock on effect. We need to be as open as we possibly can about as much as we can, we have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.

We really need to rip up the rule book of organisation, and try out radical new ways out engaging members, supporters and non-members alike. In the meantime however and of a matter of urgency we need to improve communication, when there is a lack of communication, people who make allegations have free reign on opinion, and in the age of the internet that means they can influence others, as information spreads so quickly now.

Members area of the websites needs to be improved to accommodate more information, as well as a way for members to interact with one another, at the moment the main area of communication across the whole of Left Unity nationally is an unofficial Facebook group, which had to get shut down once already, it is ridiculous.

Left Unity needs to step up to the plate and embrace the internet, just running with the website idea each member could have their own profile, there can be some form of internal message board where we can communicate with one another, there can be an official statement one for Left Unity to keep everyone up to date with what is going on, with disputes, problems, etc.

Mass Skype meetings? Email? Forums? Apps? Polls? There is literally an untold amount of ways we can communicate with one another and keep each other informed, there is no excuse in this day and age – we are not living in the dark ages.

The very structure of how Left Unity operates could easily fall into the trap of alienation of its core supporter by making them feel powerless and disengaged with the whole creative and informative process. Branches have a lot of power, but they are not being supported enough. How many effective and operational branches do we have? What steps are we taking to improve upon these?

The majority of the problems I alluded to earlier were directly caused because a lack of communication, so lets go back to the constitution and see how we can be more transparent, lets go back to the spirit of 45 and lets see what we can do to improve the party we founded, and that we are building here. The future is ours, we only need to grab it!