Sunday, March 17, 2019

A local issue?

In 2005, the Socialist Party put up a candidate, Brian Gardner, to contest the Livingston by-election called after the death of Robin Cook. 

One of the hustings he attended was a question and answer public meeting hosted by the Save Fire Cover campaign of the Fire Brigade Union. When questioned Brian made no promises explaining, in the extremely unlikely scenario of him being elected, he could not fulfil any promises made. 

Instead, Brian pointed out in his answers that all these so-called “local” issues such as hospitals, schools and housing are pressing issues everywhere and importantly these are not really local issues, at all. It’s just that many people (and all of our opponents) think the solution is usually a local one, so there is no point looking elsewhere for the answer. Unhappy with the plans for the local hospital? Well, don’t worry whoever gets elected will have a word with the local Health Board and try and clarify the situation. Concerned about lack of fire cover because of closed fire stations? Don’t worry, one of the politicians will make sure you are consulted about it. 

In fact the problem underpinning most of the supposed “local” issues is usually much broader. It’s not just specific local problems (like poor consultation or ill thought through proposals). The whole issue of provision of essential services such as health care and schools is dictated by the level of resources allocated. And whether it is in Livingston or Llannelli, the same picture emerges: local services are extremely stretched and public sector workers are under pressure to work harder, for less money and now for longer with the retirement ages raised.

Our opponents are forever making all sorts of promises to the voters. They'll defend the NHS. They'll pay a “living wage”? In so doing we’d say they are fighting over the crumbs from the rich man’s plate, rather than upsetting the whole table. The Socialist Party’s view is that this is the merciless logic of the market system. The capitalist class don’t want to pay any more than they have to. Or anything more than the bare minimum. The reason? – ultimately, these costs come off the profits of UK Ltd.

Now in 2019, where are we? Did the elected politicians fix the problem of neighbourhood fire safety?
Livingston, a town of 50,000, has effectively only one fire appliance. A house fire in Livingston two weeks ago saw appliances from Bathgate and Edinburgh called to assist the Livingston appliance.

As Brian explained to the voters at the time. A vote for the Socialist Party is a statement that you don’t want to live this way and that you think another world is possible and you possess the confidence that humans can live and work co-operatively without the pressure of the wages system, or the rationing system of money.

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Further comments from our candidate in 2005 about the downgrading of fire cover in Livingston.

Fire Cover at Craigshill station
A local community group the, Fire Reform Action Group, held an election hustings on Thursday night.
The local authority appears to be proposing a cut in the number of tenders available for weekend periods. This is likely to result in an increase in time for tenders to travel from other stations during busy periods. This is also despite an increase in fires in the area in the last year, and a projection that the population will continue to grow in the near to medium-term.
The Socialist Party’s view is that this is clearly a cost-cutting measure. it’s a blatant example of the merciless logic of the market system. The Fire Service is not a profit centre (in its early days of course it was - your house would burn to the ground if your payments weren’t up to date), but it is a cost to the capitalist state. It’s a cost that the state is prepared to pay on behalf of its paymasters (the UK capitalist class) - after all stopping a property from being burnt to the ground is usually a cheaper option than re-building it outright. (And the owning clas don’t want to have to do it themselves - after all, can you imagine Brian Soutar or the Duke of Buccleuch wanting to get their hands dirty).
But the capitalist class don’t want to pay any more than they have to; they don’t want a fire service that will be able to do anything more than the bare minimum. The reason ? - ultimately these costs come off the profits...
As an example of the insane logic of the market system, last year West Lothian Council received £10,000 to help householders identify fire hazards in their home and to fit smoke alarms. In contrast every retail outlet in the Almondvale shopping centre has had smoke alarms, fire detectors and sprinkler systems in place for years. The message could hardly be clearer: the profit system would rather protect a rack of clothes in Top Shop, than a family home.
So, good luck to the organisers of last nights hustings, the Fire Reform Action Group of Livingston. They appear to have managed to avoid being taken over by the usual underhand and deadhand Leninist tactics of the SSP, and are a genuine grassroots community group. I wont be signing your petition: not because I don’t think the issue is important, but rather because I simply don’t think that petitions work..."