A Common Programme

B8HTaSICUAAeQyC.jpg-largeBy Mike Small & Justin Kenrick

Somewhere between ‘Things can only get better’ (D:Ream, 1997) and ‘We’re all in this together’ (nightmare, 2010) large sections of the population lost faith in the political process in Britain.

Something changed. It could have been the shallow smarmy heir-to-Blair continuity or the farce of the banking crisis or the war against the poor and spiralling unfettered inequality.

The grudging decision this week to include the Greens, the SNP and Plaid from the ‘leaders’ debates is the reversal of a decision that even political-media class couldn’t face. It’s a mark of how the independence referendum has had ramifications beyond our borders.

Something’s changed again.

As previously constructed the leaders debates offered a business-as-usual model based on a Westminster Old Boys Club view of the world. They excluded three of the most articulate women in UK politics and narrowed the terms of the political debate to the same programme of austerity that has been proven to fail for the people, but been spectacularly successful for the already extremely rich who have seen their wealth continue to soar.

So there’s a glint in the armoury of the British Way, a flicker of life in the dead hand. The Thatcherite orthodoxy that There Is No Alternative (TINA) now has has a challenge. This is the challenge that the Labour Party has failed to put to people.

Whilst having different political agendas and focus, the ‘minor parties’ have the basis for a shared policy agenda. These simple un-radical ideas have massive public support in Scotland, England and Wales. They represent common ground around social justice, environmental justice and the first steps towards a semblance of greater democracy.

It’s a volatile world.

All bets are off. Tonight as vile revelations unfold about the Tory established order and the secrets they’ve kept and Syriza changing European politics it’s  time to be bold and take the initiative.

Here’s a twelve-step programme that could put Plaid, SNP and Greens from side-players to game-makers in this years General Election.

How?

Interestingly the only thing they have to do is to offer what the majority of voters of all parties actually want. Here’s a programme that could unite millions of people and offer, for the first time in decades, a genuine alternative:

1. Bring the Railways back into public ownership
2. Shift investment from nuclear to renewable energy
3. Commit to halt Fracking in the UK
4. Bring the energy companies back into public ownership
5. Create a Living Wage and a programme to abolish food banks
6. Abolish the House of Lords and adopt proportional representation
7. Commit to public investment to end austerity economics
8. Welcome refugees and immigrants as an economic and social asset
9. Agree votes for 16/17 year olds
10. Cancel Trident
11. Publish the Chilcott Inquiry, and do not enter into illegal wars
12. No tuition fees in education

This was what the independence referendum was about: Insisting we need a government system that reflects the values of the people, rather than one that makes the realisation of their values impossible.

Unless the Greens, SNP and Plaid can build on the momentum that has been moving their way by explicitly setting out a clear and common Yes Alliance (Yes to society, No to austerity), it is hard to see us gaining a government system at the UK level that reflects the values of the people.
Why is it so hard at the UK level?

It isn’t because these policies aren’t popular; the extraordinary fact is that they are – as made evident again in this weeks UK-wide Panelbase poll. It is because the political and media and economic system is captured by what many, including Alistair Livingston, call the ‘deep state’. This is not about what party is elected; it is about who you have to be to be chosen. Whether chosen as a candidate by the Tory, LibDem and Labour parties, or chosen to be promoted at the BBC, ITV or Sky. It is not about which party is elected, but about who holds the centre of gravity in these institutions. And those who hold the centre of gravity, those who create the mindset that judges success and failure, are those educated in the private (‘public’) boarding schools, those who occupy a state of mind that has been taught to fear its own feelings, has been taught not to trust itself, and so can’t believe it is possible to trust the people to make decisions, and ultimately can’t believe democracy is either possible or desirable. As a result we have a very deep crisis of democracy in the UK.

Back in October 2013, Adam Ramsay noted that yet another poll had highlighted the popularity of what is called ‘radical’ policies across the UK. By 4 to 1 people said that they would be more likely to vote for a party with: “a plan to end the privatisation / contracting out of public services by default, and [to] take more public services into public ownership”

“46% of voters would be more likely to vote for a party promoting public ownership instead of outsourcing and privatisation. Only 11% would be less likely to do so, whilst 43% said it wouldn’t make a difference.” Adam added “Despite this, there is no major party in England with this policy.”

The question that people asked at the Radical Independence Convention in Glasgow in November was: if these policies are so popular in what sense are they radical? If they are not radical to the vast majority of the population, and the majority of voters in all the supposedly ‘mainstream’ parties (from Labour to LibDem to Tory to UKIP) want them, then WHO has the right to call them radical? Presumably those who benefit from reprivatizing an East Coast rail that has provided better service and better economic returns than any of the privatised rail companies? Time and again when people are asked what policies they want, they want the kind of policies we are told are ‘radical’.

For example, one of the strongest reasons why support for the LibDems rose in the 2000s was because both Labour and the Tories were pro-war, one of the strongest reasons why support for the LibDems fell was because they didn’t stick with their opposition to tuition fees, nor with their opposition to nuclear energy, but instead supported austerity economics that makes the wealthy richer and severely damages the economy by shrinking public spending.

So whilst here in Scotland it’s easy to think we’re up against a UK establishment where UKIP is presented as the only ‘realistic’ (illusory) ‘alternative’ to the austerity parties, in fact:

“. . . the generation who flooded central London with angry protests four years ago has now graduated, and is facing a general election. . . [This generation has] largely rejected – or, more tellingly, not even considered, the NGOs that the New Left of their parents generations built. They are interested in questioning power and the inter-relationships between problems, not just campaigning on one single issue after another. They don’t just want to sign petitions, they want to organise collectively to challenge those who rule them, and the Green Party has become a key path to do that through.” (Adam Ramsay, 15th January 2015, Open Democracy)

Peter McColl picks up on this in January 2015’s Scottish Left Review where he describes how the Green Party is transforming itself from a ‘we mustn’t upset anyone’ to a ‘we will transform the system’ party. He writes:

“We all know that it is our economic system that is wrecking people’s lives, and wrecking the planet. To create a fair society and a future for our planet, we must stop this system and replace it. Green politics must be about replacing capitalism with a system that doesn’t destroy lives and ecology in the pursuit of profit”

He goes on to say: “At a time where Labour and other parties have fudged their commitment to social ownership of vital industries, Greens will be making the case for nationalisation of the railway companies and rolling stock. We will act to prevent further privatisation of the NHS, and Royal Mail. And we will nationalise the utilities, allowing them to focus on providing good services, rather than making profits. We will oppose the TTIP with its compulsory privatisation clauses. We will promote renewables, defending the Scottish wave industry, not hugely destructive fracking. Greens will continue to make the case for the freedom of movement of people, and against the racist immigrant-bashing political culture that has become dominant in the UK.”

However, Peter goes on to point out that: “Of course the move to relevant politics has not been uncomplicated. A motion to adopt a policy of Free Public Transport faced bitter opposition at the 2014 conference. Despite the obvious advantages of tackling rural and urban transport inequalities and exclusion, creating good jobs and reducing pollution and carbon emissions, there was a reluctance to move transport out of the market, and into social provision.”

And this last point is perhaps the most crucial one: if prominent people in the radical (or should we call them sensible?) parties are able to support their party while, at the same time, being willing to be open about where they think their party falls short (rather than adopting a ‘my party right or wrong’ attitude) then there is a far greater chance that the public will trust people who have questions, and parties who allow them prominence, rather than parties who don’t.

One reason for the rise of the Greens may be that it is a generational shift (or a once in a century shift, if our comparison is the rise of the Labour Party at the start of the 20th century). This shift is evident in the 18 to 24 year old sub sample in yesterday’s UK-wide Yougov poll. Here you can see support shifting dramatically from Labour to the Greens, in the way Adam Ramsay describes above (http://bit.ly/1y66Ju4 ):

CONSERVATIVES 29%
LABOUR 28%
GREENS 27%
LIBDEMS 9%
UKIP 7%

Meanwhile in the Scotland sub sample, in a first past the post contest, many of the same people are going for the SNP rather than the Greens, but that could be very different in particular constituencies like Peter McColl’s Edinburgh East where voters may want to help prepare the ground for a potentially very strong showing for the Greens in the 2016 Holyrood elections.

In the subsample of Scottish voters the SNP are still surging ahead. Having given the establishment such a fright with the closeness of the referendum result, and with the empowerment generated by the Indyref campaign, people are showing a clear commitment to finishing the job, mostly by backing the SNP at Westminster:

SNP 49%
LABOUR 22%
CONSERVATIVES 13%
UKIP 7%
LIBDEMS 5%
GREENS 3%

However is there a way of finishing the job more completely? What if the Greens 9% and the SNP or Plaid’s 7% in today’s ICM poll combined into a 16% and rising on the basis of the platform outlined above? The psychological boost to those who think voting for them is a wasted vote could then take the minor/ radical/ sensible parties – those with the policies people actually want – into a position where the people actually get the policies they ask for.

When radical change happens it happens fast, and often it is the fruit of long, hard and seemingly fruitless work by those determined to see it happen, combined with responding to change and acting with integrity.

What were those 4 lessons we leant at school about when and why radical change happens? (1) Weak existing regime (2) Widespread discontent (3) Strong radical leadership, and (4) a Catalyst.

The first two are clear, the third is perfectly possible if the three parties choose to step up to the mark, and their doing that might in itself be the catalyst that is needed to bring us over the line, or at least, as with the Indyref in Scotland, show the clear direction of travel.
There is a clear and reasonable alternative, and we will get there. Soon.



Categories: Commentary

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40 replies

  1. Reblogged this on nickweechblog's Blog and commented:
    Interesting perspectives

  2. A simple Yes/No referendum was only able to ‘unite’ the people in a 40/50% (divisive, still) division; and you think unity can be achieved on 12 (admittedly important, but very contentious) topics you’ve brought up?

  3. . . . and here’s a great article by Paul Mason on what is happening in Greece. It has a similar theme – ‘Greece shows what can happen when the young revolt against corrupt elites’.

    Curiously he doesn’t mention what could happen in the UK this year if Nicola, Natalie and Leanne decide to make a common alliance: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/25/greece-shows-what-can-happen-when-young-revolt-against-corrupt-elites

  4. Scotland will deliver an SNP majority in May. England will deliver a Tory/Labour majority. Best option for the SNP majority is to declare Scotland’s independence, and let them (England) sort themselves out. England’s only ‘radical’ option at the moment is UKIP, not Greens.

    By the way, wave power is a proven waste of public money. And the state cannot run any business sensibly or efficiently. Adequate state regulation is all that is needed to ensure industries work effectively, including railways.

    • “And the state cannot run any business sensibly or efficiently.”

      How’s your bus service? Mines is consistently rated the best in the UK by its users. It’s reasonably cheap. It’s comfortable. There’s a consistent investment in improving the service. And it’s run for the benefit of the people in Edinburgh.

      It’s owned by the City Of Edinburgh Council (it owns 90% with small stakes for (iirc) Midlothian & East Lothian).

      So tell me, what’s your bus service like?

      You don’t buy your electricity from EDF by any chance do you? That will be the French nationalised power supplier.

      Are you getting a train at any point after April in Scotland? You’ll be getting a train run by the nationalised Dutch Railway operator.

      And of course, you also seem to be unaware of is that the East Coast rail franchise is currently de facto nationalised. It’s been producing a profit for the Treasury. That’s since its private owner National Express abandoned it having been unable to make it profitable. Why do you think the government was so keen to get it back into private hands as quickly as possible? It was because when people see public ownership performing better with services people use than the private companies used to run them, they start asking why that isn’t the norm. Thankfully for them they have an entire media which will barely mention it.

      • Jings, two ‘successful’ UK public sector businesses! Hardly surprising really given that both examples you cite enjoy virtual monopolies in their own markets/locations – and not exactly cheap to use. Also a good idea to take a close look at the accounts, by the way. And what of Lothian Buses main shareholder-led tram diversification?

    • Would love the SNP to declare UDI. Would love the British army’s response even more though. The absolute definition of treason given how the people have already voted against it.

      The fastest way to properly make the SNP an enemy of the state (officially)

    • Wave power is in the process of development and is very viable once the technology has developed. I would agree that the state cannot run business sensibly if you are referring to the British State. I worked in an industry no longer nationalised and listened to the senior management carve up promoted positions for their sons. None of them had any experience in anything apart from being managers. All were public school boys. Sound familiar? It’s not a road Scotland will take.

  5. First – I agree with the 12 points.
    Second – If you allow “business” to run our infrastructure then mail will not go to remote locations / ferries will be removed from service because they uneconomical / drinking water will be used to make someone wealthy / etc etc

    Is our measure of a strong society always going to be the artificial construct money.
    Will the money making enterprise War (or threat of War) always dominate?

    Less than 100 people have more money than half the population of the World. The system has swung too far towards a capitalist dominance.

    I know human nature will always make it difficult to achieve balance but is the current system really the best we can do?

  6. In a European wide sense, I’d say, points 7, anti-austerity and 8, supporting refugees/migrants, are the political battleground, and so far, at least, Scotland is steering her own path.

    Look at the coalition in Greece, Syriza join up with the IGP, they’re anti-austerity but also anti-immigration. In third place Golden Dawn, way out on the right. I’m all for comparisons when they’re relevant but would be good to get beyond rose-tinted outpourings of identification and solidarity which I’m seeing across media this morning. Scotland is not Greece.

    And I hope the Scottish registered voter turnout on May the 7th will far exceed the around 62.5% who turned out in Greece yesterday. The referendum turned around voter apathy and I hope that is another legacy of the campaign, by May 8th we’ll know.

  7. There is a them and us divide in Scotland. There are us who want a fairer more democratic society. Then there are them who don’t care about changing anything ,and are happy to just flatline their way through life. This was always the case. I think there are now more if us and that’s reflected in the potential SNP vote. Them’s time is coming to an end and they are terrified of change.

    • The political establishment and its cronies in the media have been substantially weakened by the referendum campaign. All the lies and scare-mongering which went into their campaign led to a Pyrrhic victory. Memories of that deceitful campaign by the unionists live on in the minds of the Scottish electorate.

  8. As the leading party in Scotland the SNP need to reach out to Greens etc and show a willingness to accept an alliance eg figuring out who stands best chance of winning in a Westminster seat and not standing in competition. SNP seem to expect this but are not (as far as I can tell) returning the favour. Many (all?) of your 12 steps are actually Scottish Green Party policies. If people believe in them then they should think about where their membership/votes should actually go.

  9. Points 2 and 3 are bonkers.

    Renewable energy is not cheap energy. Nor is wind energy reliable energy, particularly in winter at peak demand.

    Fracking is claimed to be unsafe but there is little reliable evidence of that. The stuff that activists put about is not reliable evidence.

    • Speaking of ‘bonkers’ and ‘reliable evidence’ here’s a quick question ‘electron’.

      How much is the current estimate for decommissioning Sellafield?

      Google is allowed in this quick-fire round, though later general knowledge rounds will be dependent solely on your own brainpower.

      • bella

        I did not endorse the use of nuclear energy. My criticism was of the endorsement of renewable energy. So, here is a quick question for you. How much does it cost to generate offshore wind energy? Can it be afforded in an independent Scotland? Why should fracking, properly regulated, not go ahead? By the way, I support independence for Scotland and cheap, reliable energy is a good thing.

      • And in elsewhere, over in southern France, the most expensive machine ever built is nearing completion. Makes the Large Hadron look old fashioned. The first experimental nuclear fusion reactor. If it works then all bets are off…., limitless clean and safe energy. (the UKAA are involved and part of the funding – as are 35 other countries…who says the world can’t work together. This is where a significant chunk of nuclear funding goes and is way more radical and visionary than other forms of power – problem with renewables has always been bass energy needs – e.g) running a hospital only when the wind has stopped blowing or when the waves aren’t big enough.) Also, the advances in nuclear technology since Sellafield are huge, same with all those dodgy old first generation reactors that have a tendancy to melt down.., Fukoshima, Chernoble, Doonray etc… modern small reactors no longer produce superfluous waste as the depleated urainium is used again in the reactor core. Arguably more enviro freindly than renewables – especially wind which has a devastating impact on local ecology.

      • bella, I don’t think electron is going to answer your question.

        So, off the top of my head, my recollection is that UK nuclear waste re-processing costs are currently around the £70bn mark. This will of course rise.

        Add that to the £17bn cost of the new plant at Hinckley (C) and the decommissioning of Hinckley (B) and the future costs of processing that waste. There are a handful of other nuclear plants that are nearing the end of their life over the next decade.

        Not to mention the unholy excrement of toxic waste still hanging around.

        I understand that Orkney alone may have enough wind power capability to power most of Scotland if only their was an undersea interconnector to the mainland grid. The same is true of the Hebrides. Orkney turbines are off much of the time because they are producing too much electricity.

        Scottish Government subsidies to date for renewable energy come in around £250m, a mere fraction of the cost we are spending on nuclear, but Westminster have withdrawn that power from Holyrood.

        • Yes the decommissioning process is going to costs hundreds of billions for this ‘unholy excrement’. The point about the energy debate is also that we are always contained within a discussion about output, how we are generating it. This is as a direct result of assuming that a) energy companies will be privately owned and b) our energy needs will be constantly rising. Changing both of these assumptions by public and community ownership where appropriate and an energy descent plan turns these assumptions on their heads. Using more and more energy only benefits private companies, if this is no longer a profit making incentive this dynamic is altered.

    • Renewable energy is cheap energy once the equipment etc is in place and Scotland can look to wave and tidal energy which are always reliable.

  10. Very fine piece. Hope its read by as many people as possible and they understand and act on it.

  11. @Scotbrit
    The definition of treason is betraying your own country. You know, just like the majority who committed treason by voting against their own country on 18. Sep.

  12. Johnny -Whatever way people try and rationalise their decision to vote no. The definition of treason is fairly clear :

    “A violation of allegiance to one’s sovereign or to one’s state.”
    “The betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.”

    As they say in court. I rest my case.

  13. @Theedame

    I empathise with what you write but I believe that it would be best to take a more pragmatic approach at this time. The Scottish Greens need time to build a sufficiently broad base to enable the election of Green MP’s at General Elections. Support the SNP at this point to rid Scotland of the dead hand of SLAB and the path will be cleared for the Greens to achieve a strong presence at Holyrood. That would be the basis for potential Green Party success at following GE’s.

  14. Great post and I like many would agree with it, I wish Scotland all the best a hope to see you take your place as an independent nation soon.

    But for us in Wales all is lost, the latest YouGov opinion polls tonight show Plaid Cymru’s support falling for the UK General Election and for next years Welsh Assembly elections with Labour dominant and Tory and UKIP support remaining strong.

    If Plaid Cymru can’t make headway when things are this volatile and with so many things in their favour I’m not sure they ever will. We Welsh don’t deserve independence if we vote for Labour lies forever.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/general-election-could-damp-squib-8521804

  15. Renewables:

    I think many people miss the point when looking at technology – it always gets better and cheaper as you use it.

    The horse was more reliable than the early car and few decent roads existed.
    Sail could out perform early steam ships.
    Prop planes were cheaper and more reliable than jets.
    Electrical generation, phones, computers etc etc

    The more investment, the more development then the greater the demand followed by lower costs.

    You then integrate renewables e.g. Surplus wind power at night pumps water up to hydroelectric dams.stored energy handles high peak loading.

    With “electrons” approach the first calculators costing more than a weeks wages would have lead to slide rules still dominating the market OR as the head of IBM stated in 1954 ” I do not see a market for more than 4 or 5 computers worldwide.

    ….you know what is even better. It’s good for the planet.

  16. I see Bella censored my post pointing out that the people mentioned by the Oxbridge educated author (Adam Ramsay and Peter Macoll) in the post are from very privilidged ‘public school’ backgrounds. Personally I don’t mind this, I’m no class warrior, although it seems the high levels of inequality are damaging to the whole. But it does make a mockery of the some of the so called ‘progressives’ in the indy ref (on both sides, but especially Yes side as the whole thing was about socila justice.) How you can write an article condemind he British establishment as unrepresentative and unmeritocratic while championing someone set to inherit half of perthshire is beyond me. This is the problem with the Green movement in general…It doesn’t propose change in any real practical (is growing a few cabbages and carrots really going to solve world hunger/ feed mega cities like Lagos?) and so has become the plaything of rich people (Zac Goldsmiths) as it gives vent to their personal angst…the political is personal and ‘the green thing’ contemporary greens, not Lovelock and the old guard who were visionary, is predominantly a way of expressing discontent without actually having to share the wealth.

    Would be interesting to know what Adam Ramsay’s views on land reform are. He could actually put his considerable money where his mouth is? I don’t know?

    This is pure unadulterated hypocrisy….

    ‘….And those who hold the centre of gravity, those who create the mindset that judges success and failure, are those educated in the private (‘public’) boarding schools, those who occupy a state of mind that has been taught to fear its own feelings, has been taught not to trust itself, and so can’t believe it is possible to trust the people to make decisions, and ultimately can’t believe democracy is either possible or desirable. As a result we have a very deep crisis of democracy in the UK…’

    • It’s bizzare really..I was speaking to an old school Thaterite the other day (I’m a bit of a leftie but we’re still mates) and we both agreed that the lack of social mobility is dreadful. I challenged him saying that Tories were to blame. He countered with the very reasonable argument that there were hardly any pulic schoolers, establishment figures in the Thatcher govt. Thatcher herself was for a lower middle class family and had to have elecution lessons to rid her of her North Lincolnshire accent to get into Cambridge. Then he compared John Major (Brixton, non university) to Tony Blair and the fact that New Labour was full of poshos. Annoying!

    • Your post wasn’t censored

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