The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 25th May 2007

Dagenham people  protest against fascists

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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 leadership.

 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.


More racist 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 Labour Party.

Barking and Dagenham is not the capital of the Fourth Reich and the overwhelmingly working class population are not racists or admirers of Adolf Hitler.

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 testing.

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