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Labour: the party is over!
The left in the Labour Party argued that the recent national executive committee (NEC) election was very important – that members should not leave, so that they get a vote.
In the event, ultra-Blairite Luke Akehurst topped the poll. The ‘left’ won five seats.
According to the ballot result, the Labour Party has 495,961 members on paper – slightly down from the height of the Corbyn era. Many members have cancelled their standing orders over the past months, but they are only removed from the membership lists after they have reached six months arrears.
A truer indication of the real membership number is the number who voted in the NEC election – 129,549 members. This is less than half the 293,093 who voted in the NEC by-election at the beginning of the year, and a small fraction of the half million who voted in the leadership election of 2016.
This shows that the hundreds of thousands who flocked to the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership are disengaging and leaving.
Among the youth, the collapse in membership and engagement is even greater. Corbyn embodied the hope of the youth for a better future. Tens of thousands turned out to hear him, and mobilised to campaign for him in 2017. But only 8,159 voted for the NEC youth rep on the NEC. In the Corbynista stronghold of London, only 1,660 voted.
If Corbyn and his supporters set up a new party, they could quickly assemble a large membership. Unfortunately, Corbyn has basically given up, and the so-called Socialist Campaign Group (which has not organised any campaigns for decades) have kept their heads down and have limited themselves to mild pleas for Starmer to readmit Corbyn.
But a new party is needed. Those who want to help build it should come along to Socialism2020 next weekend.
Amnon Cohen, North London
Vaccines for all?
Undoubtedly, many people will have been happy to hear of the news that a 90% effective vaccine against Covid-19 could be on the way, with the possibility of protecting the estimated one-fifth of people around the world at severe risk from the virus. And along with that, the possibility of a return to a more normal existence.
But in its leading article welcoming the vaccine, the Economist gave us yet another example of how capitalism’s contradictions hold back the meeting of human need.
Undoubtedly, a new vaccine is likely to be in short supply. Pfizer, one of the partners in this particular vaccine, has stated it could produce 50 million doses in 2020 and 1.3 billion in 2021, which means even those at severe risk couldn’t be immunised by the end of next year. Undoubtedly then, the wealthier imperialist powers will attempt to use their wealth and power to secure as great a share of supplies for themselves.
However, according to modelling the Economist reports, a vaccine which is 80% effective administered in two billion doses by the richest 50 countries would save half as many lives than if the vaccine was administered in proportion to the population of all countries.
This, from one of the mouthpieces of the capitalist class. Yet another damning criticism of a capitalist system based on competition, which highlights the need for a socialist plan of production, under the democratic control of workers, not just for distributing a vaccine to Covid most effectively, but for all the necessities of life.
Iain Dalton, Leeds
NHS services will be put under enormous strain in distributing a Covid vaccine. My sister is part of a collection of GP surgeries in Norfolk. They’ve been told to get their plans in place by 1 December, though really there’s no expectation that the vaccine or the logistics will be ready to get going before Christmas.
Only one site will have the freezer capability to store the vaccine, so all the vaccines for the area will be given from that one site. 30,000 in three weeks, then repeated. Because of the storage issues, they’ll have to give the vaccines as soon as they come in – even if that means a batch arriving on Christmas Eve and calling people in to be vaccinated on Christmas Day!
Paula, East London
After trees debacle, South Yorks councils try bridge-building!
A couple of miles across the fens from the Great Ouse at Littleport, Cambridgeshire, lie the villages of Little Ouse and Brandon Bank, separated by a tributary river of the Ouse and a bridge between the villages used mainly by local people.
The BBC recently reported that this bridge is around 50 years old and is to be updated. Imagine the surprise of villagers to be contacted by Bidwells (an upmarket Cambridge-based firm of surveyors and agents) with a request for a contribution of £650 per household towards the cost of the works on the bridge, plus an extra £75 for the supply of a key to the new gate for it.
Bidwells’ client was revealed as South Yorks Councils’ Pension Authority, joint owners of the bridge. It would be a fair bet that the popularity of this request mirrored the reaction to the tree-felling in Sheffield (See ‘Sheffield: Tree-cutting council must admit it was wrong’ at socialistparty.org.uk).
Toll roads disappeared in England with the creation of the railways in the mid-nineteenth century, and more recent tolls have been removed from bridges (Severn and Skye) after long campaigns. Perhaps local government trade unions will take action to open up pension fund investment decisions?
Steve Cawley, Peterborough
London buskers outlawed
Westminster Council plans to bring in licensing fees across the West End in order to criminalise unlicensed street performance.
Anyone walking through central London might find themselves in a large crowd watching any number of street acts, buskers, performing music, comedy or some death-defying piece of acrobatics. Great and you’d probably put in a donation for the pleasure.
If Westminster Council gets away with its current plans, that could be a thing of the past, damaging for the thousands of buskers who perform for a living.
They plan to restrict pitches to just 25 with only five allowed amplification over a borough of 21 million square metres. This is nothing new. Back in 1832 ‘noise’ came to the attention of the Metropolitan Police Act. Why? Well then, as now, councils and their friends the developers want a perfect patch to profit from, and buskers don’t fit their description.
Nick Broad, co-founder of the Busking Project explains: “Limited pitches, limits number of performers. Limited amplification, limits performance time, you cannot shout for hours. Buskers will be asked for £2 million liability insurance, which is nothing to do with public safety. Musicians selling their own CDs are told to get a traders’ licence, who does that benefit?
A £20 buskers’ licence means those who are touring not going to pay everywhere, put off travelling performers. No performers, no art. For many people, street art is the only art they see.” For performers and the public this means art becomes ever more something for the rich with the working class ever more excluded.
Developers behind the new legislation have funded the council to employ police to fine and ticket buskers in Leicester Square. Nick also explained: “Issues around noise level and performing times, alongside consideration for local residents, is something street performers are trying to work and collaborate with the council over but have been ignored. Westminster Street Performers Association has a notification email, self-policing system which shows what is possible.”
The Socialist Party argues for government support to protect all jobs in the music and arts industry, we fight for greater funding in schools that has seen cuts to art, drama and music. These attacks reflect the narrow outlook of capitalism’s profit-first motive and the need to fight for a socialist future that allows genuine freedom and access for those who wish to perform and participate.
A second consultation ends in mid-November and an online petition is gathering support. Protests by Save London Buskers have drawn publicity. More information is available at savelondonbuskers.com