Anger against Blairite ‘traitors’ sweeps Portsmouth Momentum
“All is forgiven!” So claimed Christine Shawcroft, a Labour NEC member, when asked for her message to the 172 MPs who had declared ‘no confidence’ in Jeremy Corbyn. It was not the answer the 90 Momentum supporters packed into a standing-room-only meeting at Portsmouth‘s Rail Club had come to hear.
There was more to come. “When Jeremy wins again, our message will be that now is the time for the Parliamentary Labour Party to respect the members’ decision”, Shawcroft declared.
It fell to RMT transport union president Sean Hoyle, applauded back into his home town, to point out that it was either extreme political naivety or simple cowardice to think the Blairites would ever respect the membership when they had just disenfranchised 100,000 of its number.
“Make no mistake, there has been an organised attempt to get rid of Jeremy from day one”, Sean said. “You cannot negotiate with these people. Their interests are not the same as ours. It’s time for them to go”.
Sean outlined that while his union is not affiliated to Labour, the RMT has long supported Jeremy Corbyn and would continue to stand by him. Now, Sean told the audience, is the time to be bold; to use the campaign to defend Corbyn to move the centre of power away from MPs to the membership.
“And let us be honest”, Sean said, “why should we fear a split? I’d rather have a party with half a million members and 40 MPs who are loyal to those members, than a party led by 172 traitors. It’s time for the tail to stop wagging the dog”.
Like Christine Shawcroft’s, Sean’s speech was not what many of the audience had expected. Unlike Christine, Sean had clearly articulated their anger. When the applause ended the floodgates were opened to contributions from the floor which unanimously echoed his call.
The message from Portsmouth is clear. If Jeremy Corbyn‘s leadership is to achieve anything, the ‘left’ on the NEC, and indeed Corbyn himself, must abandon cautious pleas for ‘unity’ and go on the offensive against a right wing which can neither be persuaded nor contained.
Jeremy Corbyn must use his position to restore democracy to the Labour Party; to empower members to select and de-select their own MPs; to make sure all half a million members not only have a vote, but have genuine ownership over their own party.
Without that, the Labour Party’s machinery will always be a straitjacket to any left wing leader, while the membership will be relegated to a voiceless army of door knockers and leaflet stuffers.
After all, as a new Momentum member pointed out: “Defeating Owen Smith should be the easy round. If we’re timid now we don’t stand a hope against the Tories. We either fight now or we lose it all”.
Read more about the socialist campaign to defend Jeremy Corbyn at: www.socialistparty.org.uk/
TUSC Election Broadcast: 100 MP Candidates
On Friday 17th April, 5.55pm, TUSC will have it’s first national Party Political Broadcast. This will be followed by the 2015 Portsmouth TUSC election film, which will be released on social media.
Meanwhile, lets look back Sean Hoyle (Portsmouth South) in the successful 2014 broadcast. We’re standing even more candidates, but the ideas are just the same. There is an alternative to austerity and building it begins with you!
Follow the campaign at @TUSCPompey
Alienation and Austerity Lay Behind Portsmouth’s Jihadis
Nineteen year old Mehdi Hassan has become the latest young Muslim from Portsmouth to be killed in Syria. Part of the self-proclaimed ‘Al-Britaini Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys’, Hassan is one of six Portsmouth men known to have joined the salafist extremists of ISIS (also known as Islamic State).
Hassan is reported to have been killed in the Syrian border city of Kobani and the rest of his ‘brigade’ have faired little better. Four are dead, one is imprisoned and the final member is believed to remain trapped on Kobani’s besieged front lines.
The social media campaigns of ISIS promise its recruits a ‘five star jihad’, a beguiling blend of Call of Duty and evangelical belonging. Yet the reality is infinitely more cruel. Compared to the battle hardened veterans of Syria, Iraq or Yemen, ISIS consider their European recruits theologically illiterate and a military liability.
While a handful, including hostage murderer ‘Jihadi John’, are used as propaganda tools, the majority of Europeans find themselves thrown into suicidal battles, expendable fodder against the Kurdish peshmerga when the group wishes to protect its more seasoned fighters.
Naivety, evangelicalism and even a distorted orientalism made possible when radicalised young British Muslims project their adopted theology onto a ‘homeland’ they’ve never known, may partially explain Portsmouth’s jihadis. However, it is clear the root cause is a poisonous mix of austerity and alienation.
The city’s Charles Dickens ward, home to the majority of the group, is ravaged by unemployment, cuts and the bedroom tax. 57% of children are estimated to live in income-deprived families, while the average household income is £430 per week, far below the British average of £670.
The British security service’s own report highlights the impact of austerity on this community, noting the path to radicalisation begins with high youth unemployment, a reliance on cut public services and the ‘managed decline’ of the dockyard, responsible for over 900 job losses.
In this regard, the ‘Pompey Six’ are no different to the rest of their community, where disillusionment and political despondency run high. In May’s local elections the sitting MP, Mike Hancock, lost his council seat to UKIP on a turn out of only 24%.
The difference is that alienated by British austerity, the six men turned to social media, ensnaring themselves in an international trap of despondence and demagoguery which has targeted young Muslims from Portsmouth to Tunis.
While it is no doubt the bloodiest, Islamic State is just one manifestation of the hard line salafist ideology which is being exported by the wealthy Gulf States. Threatened by the Arab Spring revolutions, the absolute monarchies of Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have spread salafism as a weaponised theology of counter-revolution.
That this extremism can find purchase in a small minority of Portsmouth’s Muslims is because the ground has been pre-prepared by austerity, not as some would claim, a failure of multiculturalism.
Southsea’s Jami Mosque, where the six worshipped, has been the target of English Defence League (EDL) protests in recent years. However, such protests have been infrequent and extremely poorly attended,with the majority of far-right protesters being bussed in from further afield. Portsmouth does not have an organised far-right problem.
Nor is there an issue with community segregation. In the most densely populated British city outside of London there is no room for ghettos.
This community suffers its decline as one. If the problems of alienation, despair and radicalisation are to be tackled, our movement must cut across the extremist’s message, uniting the community in a common struggle against austerity and the social problems which blight our city.
Cuts Consensus: Labour Joins With UKIP to Back Tory Council in Portsmouth
Any allusions in the anti-establishment credentials of Portsmouth’s new UKIP Councillors were swiftly dashed after they joined forces with New Labour and the Conservatives to support the newly installed Tory minority council.
Last month’s election results left the Conservatives with 12 of the city’s 42 seats, while the Lib Dems were left with a reduced majority of 19. This meant the Tories were forced to rely on the support of the six UKIP and four Labour candidates, who readily provided it.
The new council is to be led by former HBOS banker Donna Jones, who so struggled to find any policy differences between her and her allies in the other establishment parties that her flagship election pledge was to attract car dealerships to sponsor public toilets closed by cuts.
While the election cost the Lib Dems control of the city, it was Labour who fared worst. They were defeated by UKIP in every ward, losing a Councillor in Paulsgrove, their only electoral stronghold in the city.
Labour continually refused to address the issue of austerity, instead choosing to focus their campaign on closing a local swimming complex, The Pyramids Centre, while attacking disgraced MP Mike Hancock.
Portsmouth Labour’s Trade Union Liaison Officer, and Socialist Appeal supporter, Sion Reynolds went so far as to call a position which opposed all cuts ‘imbecilic’, perhaps forgetting that it is the official position of Portsmouth Trades Council. Similarly, when challenged on cuts to education, Labour leader John Ferret described himself as ‘agnostic’ to free schools and academies, refusing to take a position.
The decision by Labour to unite with UKIP behind the Tories simply officialises what has long been true. The role of official opposition must now fall to the city’s trade unions and community anti-cuts groups.
Portsmouth Socialist Party, working with its allies in the RMT and other unions, challenged the cuts consensus by standing fourteen community candidates across every ward in the city. It is now vital that the campaign continues to unite all those who demand an alternative to austerity.
Follow Portsmouth TUSC at @TUSCPompey or contact us for more info at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pompey TUSC Break the Cuts Consensus at Leaders’ Debate
Cuts to education, zero hour contracts and the loss of over 900 dockyard jobs; these were just three of the issues about which local leaders from the big three parties showed themselves to be in complete consensus during a debate organised by The News. Representing the 14 community candidates, TUSC spokesman Ben Norman proved to be the only voice on the panel offering any alternative to austerity.
Over the last three years Portsmouth City Council has cut over £46m from public services, with cuts exceeding £12.4m to come after the election. As the two largest parties in the city, both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives vote through these cuts, accompanied by the inevitable ‘difficult decisions’ sound-bite for the media.
Rather than discussing the impact of this austerity offensive, Lib Dem Council Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Labour Councillor John Ferret and Donna Jones, leader of the Conservative Party council group, all chose to focus the discussion on personality politics. In contrast TUSC reiterated its opposition to all cuts and presented a clear fighting strategy based on the Militant Liverpool City Council of the 1980’s.
“The national archive now reveals that the Conservative government had a policy of ‘managed decline’ for Liverpool and we see echoes of this in Portsmouth today, with 900 jobs axed at the dockyard and the token appointment of a Portsmouth Minister,” said Ben.
TUSC call for the Council to use its reserves, estimated to stand at over £14 million in March 2014, along with profits from the Council-owned assets of the international ferry terminal. This will halt the cuts while the Council works with unions and community groups to draft a Needs Budget that invests in job creation and vital services.
“Such a fighting strategy won Liverpool City council over £60m from the Thatcher government. This was invested on 5,000 new houses, seven sports centres, new parks and six new nursery classes. 1,200 redundancies were cancelled while 1,000 new jobs were created,” said Ben. “If it worked on Merseyside then, there’s no reason why it won’t work in Portsmouth now.”
On the topic of education, John Ferret declared himself ‘agnostic’ on the issue of academies, while Donna Jones thought it wise to channel Nicola Murray, the hapless minster from the BBC’s The Thick of It, by calling for ‘disadvantaged people’ to be ‘aspired into education’. She failed to explain how aspiration alone can replace the cut Education Maintenance Allowance or pay rising tuition fees.
TUSC highlighted cuts to school education grants. Currently each school in the city is entitled to such a grant, yet amalgamations, such as the merger of Moorings Way, Meon Infants and Meon Juniors in Milton ward, mean that three schools now have to survive on the funding of one. TUSC also reiterated total support for NUT and NASUWT members fighting against Michael Gove’s reforms.
Labour’s John Ferret did not wait long before discussing his party’s current fixation, The Pyramid Center. The swimming and sports complex has been subsidized by the Council since it was saved from closure in 2008, but Labour demands its demolition, estimated to cost a further £1 million.
Ben explained how The Pyramids can be turned into a community asset as part of a Needs Budget strategy.
“This is another example of the managed decline of our city. Why can it not be used by local schools? How many newly amalgamated schools lack swimming pools and sporting facilities?” Ben asked. “This shows that a Council without vision, a Council without the will to fight, is a Council prepared to let community assets decay.”
“The truth is working people didn’t cause this economic crisis and yet we are all paying for it through cuts to jobs and vital public services,” said Ben. “Our message to voters is that the rich have four parties fighting for them, we need a party for working people. “The TUSC is another step towards that goal. There is an alternative to austerity, and building it starts with you.”
Watch and share the TUSC Portsmouth election broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBAFjyt7j6M