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.