The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 25th May 2007
Dagenham people protest
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CRUDDAS FOR DEPUTY PM
by Daphne Liddle
UNION leaders who failed to support John McDonnell in his bid
for a chance to challenge Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour
Party have finally stopped shuffling their feet and whispering in
corners and declared their support for John Cruddas’ bid for the deputy
And Cruddas is definitely looking the most promising of the
handful of candidates that include Hilary Benn, renegade former union
leader Alan Johnson, Hazel Blears and Harriet Harman.
Cruddas has identified three main, linked issues to campaign on:
the shortage of affordable housing, large scale migration flows and the
increasing economic insecurity of the working class.
He is the long-standing MP for Dagenham in Essex, lives in his
constituency and has a good relationship with his local Labour Party
and the voters. He has worked tirelessly in local broad ant-fascist
campaigns which have succeeded in minimising the British National Party
vote in his part of the borough. Cruddas’s approach is to acknowledge
that the BNP in the past have made gains by concentrating on the issues
that Labour has neglected – especially housing. He said: “The lack of
affordable social housing units is the outstanding public policy
failure … For years in our constituency we’ve been arguing that if we
had 6,000 extra council units, we could deal with the pressures in
terms of housing and transfers.”
Some of his rivals have also just discovered that there is a
housing crisis in Britain now and that the working class are suffering
because of it. Education Secretary Alan Johnson, who seems to be moving
to the left in order to win support, is calling for councils to be
enabled to build homes again – a measure that has been ruled out by the
Governments of Thatcher, Major and Blair.
Hazel Blears wants cheap mortgages and more private
home-ownership – which would push house prices up even more – while
Benn is calling for a mix of rented and private homes to be built.
But the housing shortage has not come about by chance or neglect.
It is a policy to suit landowners and speculators that pushes up rents,
land values and house prices and has led to a boom in new private
landlordism. Brown’s economic policies have fuelled this process.
Cruddas blames the policy that forces council to pay millions
every year from council house rents into the central government’s
housing revenue account. He said: “If central government said the
council could retain this rent, we could purchase on the private market
buy-to-let properties at a rate of 100 a year, and then we could use
the rent money to reinvest and borrow against this stock. So it is not
a case of waiting for new build, it is a case of being creative now.”
He rightly condemned the recent remarks by Margaret Hodge, which
called for “native families” to be given priority over migrants in the
allocation of council housing. This shameful call is a sop to BNP
supporters. It divides the working class according to how long their
families have lived in Britain and sets one part of the community
against another while the shortage of housing is a deliberate ruling
class policy that is hurting “natives” and migrants. Cruddas pointed
out that the problem was “purely one of supply”.
Cruddas also addresses the issue of migration and accepts that
the figures are larger than the Government acknowledges. He blamed both
Tory and Labour leaders, saying: Both parties collude in ignoring what
is happening … if the population is growing faster than the state
finances public services, then you have got a problem.”
He called for an amnesty for illegal migrants “who have become
the cornerstone of our flexible labour market” and for the
£11,000 that each deportation costs to be invested in improving
services. He has also called for a moratorium on new private NHS
contracts, in line with the demands of the public sector unions that
are backing him.
Derek Simpson, general secretary of the Amicus section of the
newly merged union Unite, has said: “John Cruddas’ stated policies
mirror our members’ desire for better job security, decent pensions,
affordable housing and public services provided by the public sector.
“Jon is unlike any other candidate standing for the Deputy
Leadership - he alone is calling for a change of direction in order to
reconnect with the Labour Party’s core supporters.”
Unfortunately Simpson then added: “We have the pleasure of being
able to announce that our political committee have taken the decision
to support Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party and Jon Cruddas
as Deputy Leader.”
London Mayor Ken Livingstone is also backing Cruddas.
nonsense from Hodge
THOUGH THE LOCAL elections
were bad news for Labour we can console ourselves with the fact that
the neo-nazis failed to make the breakthrough they had been predicting.
The British National Party (BNP) had boasted that it would increase its
number of councillors from 49 to 100. It ended up with no net gains at
all. This was largely due to the consistent work of the broad
anti-racist campaign in the working class estates targeted by the
fascists in recent years.
But just when we thought the fascists had their backs against the wall,
Margaret Hodge, the worthless Labour MP for Barking, has given them a
new lease of life when she blamed immigrants for the housing crisis
last Sunday. This isn’t the first time that this Blairite junior
minister has played the racist card.
On the eve of the London borough elections in May 2006 Hodge claimed
that eight out of ten white working class voters in her constituency
would be tempted to vote for the BNP because “no one else is listening
to them” about concerns over housing, asylum seekers and jobs in
Barking and Dagenham. It was a publicity shot in the arm for the
fascists who won 12 seats in the borough.
Britain once was proud of its great council estates and its policy of
welcoming refugees seeking asylum. Hodge herself is the daughter of
Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who settled in London. Now she tells
us that immigrants should go to the back of the queue in the allocation
of council housing regardless of need.
To his credit, Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for neighbouring Dagenham has
condemned Hodge’s comments as “inflammatory”.
“We’re in danger of racialising arguments over housing allocation
rather than concentrating on the need for greater social housing
provision,” he said. Cruddas, unlike Hodge, has thrown his weight
behind the local anti-racist movement, and that alone makes him the
most credible candidate in the race for the deputy leadership of the
Barking and Dagenham is not the capital of the Fourth Reich and the
overwhelmingly working class population are not racists or admirers of
In the 1920s the London County Council built the largest council estate
in the world in Dagenham. It was a centre for the motor industry,
chemicals and small arms. But, like many other traditional working
class towns, it has suffered from decades of neglect under the Tory and
New Labour governments. The factories have closed. The giant
300-acre Ford plant, that once employed tens of thousands making cars,
has largely gone. What’s left just makes diesel engines and gear-boxes.
Barking and Dagenham has a relatively poor, ageing and elderly
population and income levels are among the lowest in the capital.
Last year Barking and Dagenham saw the largest rise in London for rates
of unemployment. Employment rates overall are below the European Union
threshold. Many residents are engaged in temporary, low-paid employment
outside the borough. All of this makes it fertile ground for the racist
lies peddled by the fascists who claim that immigrants and asylum
seekers are given favoured treatment for homes and jobs.
There is a housing problem in the borough as most of the stock was
sold-off during the “right to buy” frenzy of the Thatcher years, which
also saw the imposition of rules that restricted councils’ investment
in housing, preventing them from subsidising it from local taxes or
reinvesting the money from sales into new housing.
The solution is to lift all the restrictions on councils and allow them
to build new affordable and secure council homes for rent with
life-long secure tenancy; to allow the right of anyone who needs or
wants to rent public housing to do so without time limit or means
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