Tuesday, 25 March 2008

At long bloody last!!

Big apologies are in order for the lack of blogging in recent weeks (months?). Without trying to sound like too much of a whinger, I have not been well recently. I've had various ailments, underpinned by a chill that never really went away, combined with extreme tiredness. Give me somewhere to lie down and I could win a medal at the 2012 Olympic Games for the demonstration sport of Crashing Out Bigtime. I've felt really washed out all too often. It's not like I've been not being looking after myself or been eating poorly either (I've consumed plenty of fruit, veg, muesli, brown bread, lots of fruit juice and water). I think the long grind of winter has a lot to do with it. Combine that with the fact that we didn't really have a proper summer last year (all I remember much of is a couple of weeks in Vancouver and the August Bank Holiday weekend being good) and it's all got me down.

I think as well I've suffered some existential angst about blogging. Unless you are an unthinking clone of The Party Line, if you are a "political" blogger I think you will be prone to wondering at some point whether what you do is of any use or worth. I think it's the same with political commentators in the so-called Mainstream Media too, and the politically active as well, unless you are a fanatic, ideologue or careerist on the make. Sometimes it is good to doubt yourself. I think that's what happened to me a bit.

Anyway...without any further ado. A bit of a run through about what I've been thinking and even what I've been doing.

The Big One?

Is this the final denouement of global capitalism? Call me an ageing cynical sell-out, but I've lived through several periods when it seemed The End was on the cards and the system kept going. However, the least that can be said is that it looks like the latest "British economic miracle" is looking decidedly dodgy. I'm unsure how much this will affect the "neo-liberal" consensus (which is not particularly new or really that liberal)in Westminster. Although I've read and heard economics commentators talk about something that could be as bad as the 1929 Wall Street Crash and its aftermath, in those days there were positive, reasonably worked-out alternatives to casino capitalism being offered worldwide: Keynesian economics and Five Year Plans. Now what is there? To assume that an economic downturn will automatically lead to political radicalisation here or elsewhere in the West is naive beyond belief. In fact, I fear the people who will gain politically in a new slump are the RoRos: the Racially Or Religiously Obsessed.

Rejoining the Greens

I think the need for a positive alternative that isn't all RoRo in the face of economic uncertainty is one big reason why I've rejoined the Greens (well I've sent my cheque off, so I hope my membership etc is in the post!). I joined them back in early 2006, but various personal stuff got in the way of participating fully, and so I dropped out. There was also political stuff too stopping me being a Green. Those who've been reading my blog for a while or have perused through my posts over the last few years may have come across my hope that an English Mutualist Party or a worthwhile Democratic Socialist Party that I could join and support would appear by the time of the next General Election.

I now realise the Greens are going to be the closest approximation to my hope this side of the next General Election and quite possibly a long time afterwards too! It seems that if mutualist, co-operative bottom-up economics which is neither Labourist or Leninist in inspiration is to have a home in English politics it seems the Greens is the best place to nurture it. As for the Democratic Socialism...

Back in September I joined a (Lib Dem-inspired, if my memory is correct) group on Facebook whose name was something along the lines of "Gordon Brown, call a General Election now!" I wanted a General Election last Autumn and a solid Labour majority as I thought it would flush out a lot on the British Left. It would force a major re-alignment, with the Labour Left (At Long F**kin' Last) realising there was no point staying there and the Left outside Labour getting a second chance to build a modest but viable alternative to Labour, along the lines of the Socialist Alliance circa 2000(RIP). I also saw the Greens playing an important role in such a realignment along with other Left-field groups I have time for, including the IWCA and Socialist Party (anyone who can build local pockets of support in working class areas and elect councillors on the back of that deserves serious respect).

Well, we didn't have a General Election, but we did see a certain re-alignment. That is, the SWP and George Galloway wings of Respect went to war with each other. Now we have the SWP's "Left List" (which will get nowhere in the forthcoming London Elections, before the SWP retreats back to its natural home: selling "Socialist Worker" outside student unions) and George's "Respect Renewal" (which will do nothing outside of areas with large Muslim areas). There is a lot of bad blood flowing from this and I can't see Humpty Dumpty getting back together for a long time, if at all. The Labour Left are still there, a triumph of hope over experience. So I've going to stick with the Greens, as the re-alignment will come some point after the next General Election, or we will all hang separately.

Before then...

The London Elections

Pretty obviously I'll vote Green on the constituency and list votes for the GLA and Sian Berry (above) as first choice for Mayor. I plan to spend some of April delivering GP leaflets and literature to the populace.

As for my second choice...I will probably grit my teeth and vote for Ken Livingstone. I voted for Ken in 2000 (when I was in the London Socialist Alliance) but didn't in 2004 (Laura Reid of the IWCA was my number 1, Darren Johnson of the Greens number 2). This time round I was going to leave my second choice blank, but Boris Bloody Johnson as Mayor? I'd rather have Steve Norris, the Tory Mayoral candidate in 00 and 04, as Mayor as at least he had some basic competence. Same with Ken: he ran the GLC from 81 to 86, and has run London for the last 8 years without the place falling apart. Johnson could not run a bath (except as a publicity stunt) to save his life. His life is one big publicity stunt to be frank. If you think Ken embarrasses London, wait until Boris is running the show...

I had thought of having Brian Paddick, the Lib Dem candidate, as my second choice, but I decided that he's too good for them, after their ridiculous behaviour vis a vis...

The European Union

The Lisbon Treaty is basically the same as the EU Constitution which we were promised a referendum on a few years back and which the Dutch and French voted down in 2005. (Please visit the Democracy Movement's website for more details about the Treaty and other EU stuff.) However, we're not to get a referendum, short of a political earthquake. This is in spite of overwhelming public support for such a referendum. No wonder people cannot be bothered to vote any more if their elected representatives ignore their own manifesto pledges!

There were votes in the Commons on a referendum but the Lib Dem official line was to abstain. There was that walk-out of Lib Dem MPs as their new (latest?) leader Nick Clegg (former MEP) demanded a straight Yes or No vote to staying in the EU. This reminds me of Trotskyites demanding a referendum on a "United Socialist States of Europe" and refusing to take a stance on any other vote. I think the Lib Dems will pay heavily for this at the next General Election, particularly in naturally Conservative seats they hold with narrow majorities (particularly in the South West). Purely on narrow electoral grounds it was stupid, as even the most mindlessly pro-EU Lib Dem voters tend to want votes on everything. How this move was supposed to attract Tory voters to the Lib Dems is beyond me. Of course, with "My EU right or wrong" types like Cleggy, the EU should be protected from public scorn.

However, after that anti-Lib Dem rant (and the Government hardly covered themselves in glory. As for the Tories, if you think David Cameron will pull the UK out of the EU, you've got another thing coming) at least Clegg says he would rather go to jail than carry an ID card (although it does somehow remind me of trade union leaders back in the 80s saying they'd rather go to jail than obey the Tories' employment laws- none did!).

ID Cards

After all the thefts and losses of personal details by Government and other official bodies in recent months, and the general consensus that the cost of implementing ID cards will be much more than first estimated by the Government (quelle surprise!), you'd think the Government would want to get shut of the idea ASAP. However, this waste of tax-payers' money will, it seems, be implemented come hell or high water. It seems that it will be foreign nationals and students who will be forced to get ID cards first. I wish I could trust the Tories and Lib Dems when they say they would junk ID card if they took office. Otherwise it will be have to be mass civil disobedience. If you are angry, or merely quietly concerned, about this move towards a police state, please visit No2ID's website. I just wish events by Camden NO2ID group and my free time coincided more!

England Again.

I am trying to write a piece about "What England Means To Me". 800 words or so. The problem is there is potentially so much to say...so that's my excuse Gareth! (who runs the Little Man in a Tocque blog, and who asked me to write this too long ago...)

Anyway, I hope that's made up a bit for lost time. I won't be so tardy from now on!