Thursday, 23 April 2015

On the stump with Ashton's prospective parliamentary candidates. Elections 2015!

A series of election events known as ‘question time hustings’, have been organised by Community & Voluntary Action Tameside (CVAT), to take place in Ashton-under-Lyne, Hyde and Denton, prior to the General Election in May. On Tuesday evening, I attended the first of these meetings at the Holy Trinity Centre, Dean Street, in Ashton.

Angela Rayner, the Labour candidate for Ashton-under-Lyne, - who was selected from an all women’s short-list - was the first to speak. She began by paying tribute to her predecessor David Heyes, who is retiring at the next election. Ms. Reyner is a socialist but doesn’t believe that people should get something for nothing. Although she is now a trade union official with UNISON, she began her working life as a home help and didn’t go to university. Referring to the financial cut- backs she told the meeting that Tameside Council had lost 50% of its budget and that over 1 million people, were relying on food-banks in Britain in order to feed themselves and their families. “I’m not here to manage the decline she told the meeting.” She also told the meeting that public services should be defended and should remain in the public sector.

Charlotte Hughes, the Green Party candidate, is a single parent who was born and bred in Ashton. She believes that because of this, she is fully aware of the needs of her constituents. Unlike many of the other mainstream parties, who are only interested in ‘hardworking families’, Hughes believes that everybody should be helped, not just those who are in work. She told the meeting that she was sick of the way in which the Labour controlled council in Tameside were using people as guinea pigs to pilot Tory government projects, such as Universal Credit and the so-called ‘Troubled Families’ phase 2 initiative, which is bullying and harassing  single-mothers who are unemployed. She told the meeting, “So far there has been no consultation with the public” about these schemes or the way in which, the Labour council in Tameside, are implementing Tory policies. A community activist, Ms. Hughes, can be seen on a regular basis protesting outside Ashton Jobcentre against unfair and illegal sanctioning. She told the meeting that this year, she had stopped two people from committing suicide.

Another candidate who was born and bred in Ashton is bungling Maurice Jackson, the UKIP (Kipper) candidate. A former Tameside Labour Party member, he was hopelessly out of his depth on the night. Jackson declared that he would not be making a three-minute speech but was happy to take questions. At times, he was barely audible or coherent and struggled to even string a decent sentence together. For most of the evening, he could be seen reading from what presumably, was a UKIP leaflet, in order to check what the party’s policies were. Judging from his performance on the night, he had obviously drawn the short straw.

A Canadian study that was published in January 2012, in the Journal of Psychological Science and reported in the Daily Mail the same month, stated that people with conservative beliefs, were likely to be of ‘low intelligence’ and were receptive to ideas that appealed to their basest and stupidest impulses. 

As right-wing Thatcherites, UKIP seems to draw their fair share of English cranks into their ranks. The former UKIP MEP, Godfrey Bloom, resigned from the Party after calling women ‘sluts’ and after complaining of foreign aid going to ‘bongo-bongo land’. Another UKIP member declared that the floods which brought havoc to parts of Britain two years ago were caused by the Wrath of God, after the introduction of ‘Gay Marriage’.

Most of the evening was taken up with questions from the floor. One questioner complained about a lack of political leaflets through the door. All the candidates said it was either down to lack of funding or resources. Bungling Morris said that UKIP didn’t have any money to back the candidates and that he was a paper candidate.

Ms Rayner, was asked how she would retain public services in Tameside when the Labour Council was a privatizing council? She responded that it was all about giving adequate funding to local government. Asked if she thought the number of councillors could be reduced as they now had less to do, since many public services had been hived-off to the private sector, she said she didn’t believe in reducing things to their lowest common denominator. 

For the Green’s, Ms Hughes said there was a lack of transparency in Tameside Council and that the council leader was getting an ‘obscene amount of money’. She believes that councillor’s allowance should be on a fixed ratio vis-à-vis council workers wages and salaries.

A questioner asked the candidates if they agreed that volunteering should stay voluntary and asked if the voluntary sector should be participating in the Government’s workfare (work-for-your-dole) schemes.  

Ms Hughes said that she was against workfare and was a member of Boycott Workfare. She thought people should be paid a decent wage for a decent day’s work. The UKIP candidate said his party didn’t believe in workfare. (UKIP have branded claimants a ‘parasitic underclass of scroungers’ and have plans to stop them buying tobacco and alcohol). Ms Reyner said that she didn’t want to bring back the work-house and opposed workfare (which the last Labour government introduced with their work-for-your dole schemes). She favours more apprenticeships as a way of getting people back to work.

Another questioner asked -  “If elected would your government remove the market principle from the NHS?” 

The Green Party candidate said yes. The Labour candidate said her party would repeal the Health & Social Care Bill. The UKIP candidate said his party would remove car-parking charges and was against the privatization of the NHS.

From the floor, another questioner asked: “Do you agree with Nigel Farage (UKIP leader) that the NHS should be replaced with an American style health system? Bungling Morris, denied that Farage had ever said this, whereupon, the questioner offered to show him where the quote had come from.  Ms. Reyner then said that both the leader and deputy leader of UKIP had said they wanted to privatize the NHS.

All three candidates were asked about their views of Europe. Ms Rayner said that she was pro-Europe but it needed reform. “I don’t believe immigrants come here just for housing and benefits. We’ve been enriched by Europe. It would cost us £6.5 billion if we came out of Europe.” Ms. Hughes said that it was Green Party policy to stay in Europe but the party favoured a referendum. “Immigration is positive. The NHS would not be what it is without immigrant workers.” Mr Jackson said that UKIP wanted a referendum. “We have an Islanders mentality”, said gaffe prone Morris, “I think we should come out of Europe.”

A questioner asked: “What do you think of fracking in Tameside, even if Tameside Council supports it?” 

Ms. Hughes said that the Green Party was against fracking. “You wont be able to insure your house if it is near to fracking. Fracking leads to pollution. Fracking is being rolled back in America.” The UKIP candidate said that his party were in favour of fracking. Ms Reyner said that Labour was not entirely against fracking but that it must be safe and the decision should be taken locally.  “I’m not going to rule fracking out.”

The outcome of the Parliamentary elections in Tameside next month, is probably a foregone conclusion even though Jonathan Reynolds is defending a 2,700 majority in Stalybridge. Labour has held all three seats for as long as I can remember.

Although UKIP have gained support from the blue-collar, male, working-class former Labour voter in the North, who struggle financially, and feel left behind and alienated from the political class, they are unlikely to get elected in Tameside. UKIP has virtually no support among the financially secure and the thirty-and-forty age group of university graduates. Support for UKIP is also weak among women, white-collar professionals and the young.

The Green Party, who will probably struggle to retain their deposits in the Tameside elections 2015, do have some good policies such as the citizens basic income, renationalisation of railways, a living wage, a wealth tax, and a maximum pay ratio (no executive should receive more than ten times the salary of the lowest paid worker). However, these policies tend to get overshadowed by wackier policies like banning sporting events such as the Grand National and dog racing.


tonydj said...

"A Canadian study that was published in January 2012, in the Journal of Psychological Science and reported in the Daily Mail the same month, stated that people with conservative beliefs, were likely to be of ‘low intelligence’ and were receptive to ideas that appealed to their basest and stupidest impulses. "

If a similar report were to be used to "prove" that ethnic minorities or left-wingers or the unemployed were of low intelligence it would be torn to shreds by you in the pages of this blog. It is a common tactic to use pseudo-scientific psycho-babble to 'prove' the stupidity of those who do not embrace the works of Engels, Marx, Bakunin or Lenin. For the record I regard myself as conservative (NOT "A Conservative") Though if I was to see the demo outside Ashton Jobcentre I would most likely support it. However I have two degrees (MA and BA) 4 'A' levels and a string of 'O' levels. Low intelligence?

By making the initial claim of low intelligence you make the same sweeping generalisations that you would accuse 'The Right'of making against immigrants.

Blanco Posnet said...

"Although I haven't read the Canadian report, only articles about the psychological study, it is not saying that all 'conservatives' are stupid. This is something that you have assumed. What it does say, is that people of low intelligence are drawn or gravitate towards, conservative ideologies. They argue that such things as open mindedness, flexibility, and trust in other people, does require certain congnitive abilities.

Having read the biography on Margaret Thatcher, by Charles Moore, it is interesting to note that her election adviser, Gordon Reece, told her that the people who were like to vote for her, did not read broadsheet newspapers, watch serious in-depth political programmes, or show much interest in politics. According to Reece, they were likely to read the News of the World, Sun, Express, The People and Daily Mail. In terms of their viewing habits, he told her that they watched Coronationation Street, Jimmy Saville, Top of the Pops, and listened to Jimmy Young.

It is said that the Conservatives aim their message at the 'low-information' voter. If the comments by Reece are anything to go by, then it seems, he recognised this only too well."