Socialists campaigning in Swindon
Socialists campaigning in Swindon

Scott Hunter, Swindon Socialist Party

While campaigning in Swindon, I’ve met several Labour councillors and parliamentary candidates. Every time, I get an intense feeling of déjà vu.

I was in a coffee shop having a political discussion with some young Socialist Party members when a man sitting at a nearby table introduced himself as Will Stone – current Labour councillor in Swindon and the parliamentary candidate for Swindon North: “I’m a socialist, too. We probably believe a lot of the same things. Why can’t we work together?”

Nearly these exact words were said to me last year by Jim Robbins who, since becoming leader of the newly Labour-controlled Swindon council last year, has implemented savage cuts and provoked three strikes of social workers employed by the council.

I raised nationalisation of the energy companies as a key issue. Stone replied: “Why would we want to nationalise the energy companies when we want to transition to green energy anyway?” How about the hundreds of billions in profits being made by the bosses and shareholders, while workers are struggling to heat and eat?

Stone was also unable to account for Labour’s recent retreat on its pledge for £28 billion in green investment, nor could he articulate just what form this ‘green transition’ would take. He gestured towards Starmer’s Great British Energy (announced and quickly forgotten in 2022), although admitted that such a company would not actually supply energy to anybody and would just be a clearing house for investment funds!

When I again raised the idea of nationalisation under democratic workers’ control, Stone could only say that it would be “too expensive”. Of course, he rejected out of hand the idea of nationalisation with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need. He could only reiterate: “We have to live in the real world.”

By the ‘real world’ he means a capitalist world. A world where it’s ‘realistic’ to expect workers to skip meals to feed their children, for nurses and social workers to rely on food banks, for prices to keep rising while pay stays the same. Under capitalism, the only sacred principle is private property and private wealth. That’s what Labour – and all the other capitalist parties – consider so ‘unrealistic’: taking the wealth off the bosses and putting it under democratic control of the workers!

What’s so unrealistic about nationalisation with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need? If the workers in the energy industry – or any other industry – didn’t turn up to work tomorrow then all the bosses’ profits would disappear.

This Labour parliamentary candidate ended our conversation by offering to come and speak to our branch, to “explain our policies”. I suggested instead a public debate in the run-up to local and general elections – a idea on which he was not so keen.

Stone also urged us to “wait for the manifesto” before we judge Labour’s policies. While I’d love to be surprised, I can’t help having eyes and ears – I’ve seen what Starmer’s Labour has been saying and I’m not impressed. Workers can’t wait another minute for fighting representatives in the councils and in parliament!

That’s why Socialist Party members are preparing to stand in the local and general elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).