Monday, 26 April 2010

Tales of two TUSCs

Maybe I'm seem kind of a masochist but I actually quite enjoy canvassing in elections. I know some people refer to canvassers as 'human spam' but in this election-by-xfactor era, a bit of 'contact time' on the doorstep can redress the much-derided spin and keeps politics real.

I divided my time this weekend: In my own constituency TUSC are standing an SWP-endorsed candidate,  as the only SP member in the village, I'm in the position of  an amicable minority in  the local campaign there. I'm also venturing across the river to help out in the SP-led TUSC campaign where we also have two sitting  SP councillors up for re-election on May 6th.

There are differences in the campaigns but not necessarily the ones you'd first imagine:

Here in Tottenham the emphasis is on mobilising a protest vote against a prominent and up-coming Labour MP who arrogantly assumes that local demographics guarantee him an automatic shoe-in, whilst happily voting solidly for all those measures that fuck-over an area like this. In response the most common attitude is an embittered abstention-ism but there are also signs of support from a significant minority.

Down in Lewisham, with the added dimension of having well-respected Left councillors in office for some years it is not quite so much of a vacuum. At a national level it may be the same rather abstract task of capturing a mood of protest and making a small beginning. But at local level we can point to the clear example of ourselves as a party, in fact the only party, who consistently vote against local cuts. And this has an effect - for what it's worth the only 'definites' that I encountered on the doorstep were SP/TUSC ones - with a few Greens in the more middle class streets.

But what is most telling is the similarity between the two campaigns  - and a feel good factor about being able to put TUSC forward as a national alternative. Of course there are differences; if I was to be picky I would say that the comrades from the SWP seem unsurprisingly to be less experienced in elections - and when campaigning they can come across a bit 'shrill and shouty'.  And I don't know if it is collective amnesia, or a conscious decision to ignore the elephant in the corner, but there seems to be consensus not to mention  the whole Socialist Alliance / Respect thing. But they do have some good local activists and have drawn others around them, and whatever the ideological  and strategic divisions at national level, locally for too long we have existed in mutually enforced parallel worlds.

It has been predicted that after the election TUSC will fracture along the fault lines of its constituent parts. Past experience would suggest that this is quite possible but personally I hope that unity, albeit fragile, can be maintained.


Anonymous said...

I don't think that it is question of 'unity being maintained' in the sense of the exiting forces in TUSC hanging on in together but of going on to build something bigger and better.

The important thing is that TUSC has laid down a marker for the future....

Journeyman said...

Absolutely - no question of any existing organisations suddenly liquidating themselves in some sort of Left love-in.

But TUSC could demonstrate that co-operation (a better word perhaps than unity)is possible. And it is conceivable that after the election at least the shell of the coalition is maintained as a vehicle for local alliances.

Anonymous said...

Contact time on the doorstep is always good and it is very instructive to see Gordon Brwon dealing with the now famous Rochdale bigot, Gillian Duffy.

Duffy's body language was aggressive but she was actually putting question after question to Brown and he was answering them well and she was satisfied with the answers. Afterwards (but before she knew she had been called a bigot) she said she would be voting Labour.

Her final question was offensive but easy to answer. She asked, 'Where do all these East Europeans flock from?' In Brown's shoes I would have been unable to resist the temptation to answer, 'Oh, you know, Poland, Slovakia, places like that.' But then I can be a bit of a liability as a canvasser!

The point he did not make was that young east Europeans come to this country to work. They contribute to the economy and make a net contribution through taxes and thereby make it easier for the government to pay Duffy a higher pension and pay off the national debt - these being her other concerns. Many will go back to the home countries and many will stay here making a positive contribution to the age profile of our country and many other contributions.

In doing so they make it more difficult for young British people to find work. We still have a layer of British youth who are not educated, motivated and incentivised to join the economy. But Brown could say that introducing the minimum wage and investing in education and training is the way his party has sought to tackle that problem.

Brown knows this answer but did not articulate it because pandering to bigots has been party policy for some time now. So instead he walks off, thinks his exchange was a disaster (when in fact at that point he had secured Duffy's vote), blames one of his minions (so he is a bully) and then vents his frustration at Duffy's bigotry.

Because, Brown was right. Duffy is a bigot. Only bigotry can make her look at East European immigration as a problem when in fact it is something that materially helps her position.

Having made all these mistakes, he then made his biggest one of the lot. He went and apologised to the bigot. He said she wasn't a bigot. Alan Johnson came on the radio and said she wasn't a bigot and said she had legitimate concerns etc. etc. New Labour's failure to stand up to racism will prove to be their longest lasting legacy.