“It’s a fine mess you’ve got us into!” – an essay

The present day Conservative Party is like Oliver Hardy.  Creating mess after mess, Ollie looks for a  scapegoat to blame for his problems, most notably of course his friend and companion, Stan Laurel – another fine mess you’ve got us into!  So today’s Tories scapegoat the Labour Party, always the trade unions – and now Europe!  But Today, wherever you look, many of our most serious problems are attributable to past and present Conservative government policies. Yet in spite of the problems that their policies have created, Conservative politicians are now brazenly conning the British electorate that if we allow them to continue with the same old failed policies things will get better.

Take energy: it was Mrs. Thatcher who transferred our state energy companies into private ownership, so handing over an important segment of our national sovereignty to the “market”. We are all now only too familiar with the consequent chronic problems: a cartel of 6 major suppliers – 5 of them foreign owned, even in one instance by the national state company of another neighbouring European state! Extensive over-pricing for millions. A bewildering and highly confusing plethora of “tarifs”. And of course profits that no longer accrue to the British Treasury and lighten the nation’s tax burden, but profits that are paid out to shareholders, many of them foreigners. And Conservative politicians have the gall to expect us to marvel at the results of their policies. 

Ah, you might say, but the Tories have achieved great things for our railways!  Haven’t they just!  Amongst the highest fares in Europe; a fragmented system and the absence of an integrated national rail network as in France or Germany;  unacceptable standards of service by some of the private company franchise holders.  And all the while Virgin rail boss, Sir Richard Branson, is sun-bathing on his Caribbean island minimising his U.K. tax liabilities from his off-shore tax haven.  Well done the Tories! 

But what about their education policies?  Yes, you may well ask that question!  They’ve introduced Academy chains that compete to control schools on a totally arbitrary basis;  so we have individual academies and so-called free schools built in the wrong places and wastefully under-suscribed. A recent report by the House of Commons Public Accounts committee found that £42 million of public money had been wasted on  these schools;  and it would appear that any billionaire crank can establish a free school or run a chain of academies with generous state subsidies and without any proper accountability built in. Thus as a result of recent Tory education policies we no longer have a coherent national system of education run uniformly throughout the nation and accountable through elected councils to their local communities. But meanwhile amongst that diminishing group of publicly accountable LEA schools many are struggling financially, with subjects being dropped and qualified teachers made redundant, and this after students have already completed 3 years study of a subject – talk about a “national curriculum”!  And now some schools are contemplating a four-day week. Our Prime Minister’s solution to all this fragmented chaos? Bring back grammar schools’ and reintroduce a thoroughly discredited system of selection from the distant past.  As they’d say in Dad’s Army, “who are you kidding, Mrs. May”! 

Oops we almost forgot the Conservatives’ housing crisis!  We are daily reminded of the dimensions of this crisis:  shortages, overcrowding, homelessness, “generation rent” who endure exorbitant rents (rent deregulation was introduced in the Tories’ 1988 Housing Act); appalling living conditions for many of the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens – yes indeed Rachman of the 1960s is back with a vengeance!  What of course is kept from us is that the root causes of today’s crisis lie in Conservative government housing policies implemented since 1979; it’s a wholly self-made crisis, wholly avoidable and unnecessary.  It may surprise readers of this memorandum to know that in the late 1970s an approximate balance between the supply of homes and the need for homes had been achieved for the first time since the end of WW2. The Labour Government under James Callaghan published a wide ranging “Green Paper”(1978) that surveyed the progress that had been achieved since 1945. It reported that as a result of the extensive building programmes of both Conservative and Labour governments the acute housing needs of the period had been largely met by the public authorities building affordable housing and by private developers building for owner occupation.  However this report surveyed the nation’s continuing housing problems and after carefully examining all the then known data (three volumes of evidence  were published with this report) came to a cautious conclusion as to what our future housing needs would be in the light of all this demographic and other evidence. The 1979 incoming Thatcher Government, however, rubbished these plans and preferred to put its trust in “the market” to provide for the nation’s future housing needs!  An extensive programme of selling off council houses with large discounts (up to 60%) was implemented by the 1980 Housing Act. There was strong opposition at the time to this sale of our national housing assets.  Directors of housing travelled from the remoter régions of the country to warn ministers at Westminster of the likely problems for rural communities if the stock of affordable homes were sold off and villages became populated by second home owners. The Bishops of the Church of England also strongly advised against this policy on the grounds that only the then present génération would benefit from this transfer of heavily discounted public property assets, while the generations yet to come would for ever be denied access to good quality affordable housing. The great failure during these decades was not to replace this stock of affordable homes. Indeed the second (1983-87) and third (1987-90) Thatcher administrations, actually prevented local housing authorities from reinvesting the accumulating assets from council house sales in building replacement affordable homes, and with the 1988 Housing Act they compounded the difficulties of many less well off households by deregulating rents in the private rented sector. Thus by the end of John Major’s period in office (1997) the ground was well prepared for a future massive housing crisis. The private market since 1979, in spite of Conservative faith in the market, has just not been up to meeting the housing needs as foreseen in 1978, so private house construction has consistently been below 160,000 units per year compared to the 200,000 estimated in 1978 to be required annually; and every year that has passed that housing deficit has grown – the Conservatives’ free market experiment in housing has failed disastrously for so many, and especially now for the young! 

And so we come to Brexit the Tory Way!  They now want to take us out of Europe the hard way – the most damaging act of national self-harm since Munich in 1938!  The first thing that should alarm British voters is the lack of knowledge amongst those ministers responsible for negotiating us out of the EU. A number of commentators have noted this. Ian Dunt, for example, in his book “Brexit – what the hell do we do now?”, suggests that our ministers are (were) not aware that no alternative trade deals under EU regulations are permitted until the UK has actually concluded its exit from the EU. So we have the spectacle of brexiteer Minister, Liam Fox, travelling to the Phillipines to promote trade with a country with whom we currently conduct 0.1% of our trade while turning his back on that trading block on our doorstep with whom we conduct 45% of our trade. One could be forgiven for assuming that the inmates are running the asylum!  Dunt  also points out how dependent the British economy is on Immigrant EU labour: agriculture and meat production; according to him 95% of abbatoir vets are from other EU countries, as also are 15% of health service staff and some 30% of our catering and hotel workers.  What May and the Tory right wing appear to have ignored so far in their dealings with our EU partners is that the xenophobia, ethnic hostility even racism that their brexiteer policies have given rise to are beginning to damage this country’s appeal and its ability to attract qualified persons from Europe. Already, for instance, the recruitment of medically qualified immigrant recruits has dried to a trickle; and our universities are beginning to lose academic staff, while student recruitment from overseas is also falling. The post June 2016 devaluation of sterling (15%) is due to the brexit vote to leave the EU, and now the conséquent inflation is already beginning to lower many people’s standard of living. In fact the past decade is the first since the Napoleonic wars that has seen incomes fall behind prices. In other words except for a rich elite we are all getting poorer and under Theresa May with brexit and continuing austerity this decline in living standards looks all set to continue.

To return to our Oliver Hardy Conservative Party: their policies of privatisation since 1979 have abandoned whole swathes of our economic sovereignty to the arbitrary workings of “the market”, the loss of which – like UKIP – they’re attributing to our membership of the EU. Their policies have created crisis after crisis, foremost in housing, but also in education, with our prisons, in energy supplies, with our NHS, and the rest. Young people especially have been harshly affected by Tory policies and all their policy failures. Many of the young are now saddled with large debts which in many cases will never be paid off – and all the while the private finance houses that have bought such debts (another Tory privatisation) are charging 6% interest to their debtors, while the banks pay 0.35% on savings accounts. And thanks again to thé Tories most of our affordable housing stock has been disposed of and some of it at least has found its way into the grasping hands of rapacious landlords.  Things can only deteriorate if we continue with the same régime and its fallacious destructive ideology.  Please vote LABOUR for a halt to further privatisations (the NHS?), and an end to the destructive Tory policies of austerity.

Horsham Labour Party

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Country Council Elections 2017

Our list of candidates has been published and their details and statements can be found here

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Tories’ Rubbish Proposal

The Tories have broken an election manifesto pledge to maintain weekly bin collections. They could have announced their intension to end weekly bin collections  ahead of the Southwater by-election but they chose to remain silent on this most important  local issue.

Labour supports weekly bin collections because moving to fortnightly collections will have a massive detrimental effect on the quality of life of so many residents, especially families living in flats and houses with little or no garden. Having over flowing bins outside a  front or back doors particularly during the summer time is not acceptable. Please join our campaign and sign and share our petition, HERE.

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Press release: strip Govia of Southern Rail franchise

Strip Govia of the Southern Rail franchise and bring our railways back into public ownership

Delegates to the South East Labour Party conference which took place last weekend in Ashford, Kent, unanimously supported a motion from Horsham Labour Party calling on the Government to strip Govia of its contract to run Southern Rail and to bring the railway back into public ownership.

Proposing the motion, Horsham Labour Party’s, Young Labour coordinator, Cameron McGillivray explained why this is such an important issue to the people of Horsham who have suffered at the hands of a shambolic and failing rail company for far too long.

McGillivray a regular commuter from Horsham, knows just how bad the service has become and told conference that, ‘The Conservative Government have no plans to address this incredibly important issue, the only solution they have is to simply give a blank cheque to the Govia management. That’s not going to resolve anything, we need a proper plan to get our railways in the South East renationalised. The Conservative Party want to sweep the Southern Rail problem under the carpet, we won’t let that happen.’

McGillivray concluded with a rousing finale, stating, ‘It’s up to the Labour Party to lead the way on public transport, it’s up to the Labour Party to represent the rail workers and it’s up to the Labour Party to support the rightly frustrated passengers.’

Horsham Labour Party has listened to local commuters and knows that the revocation of the Southern Rail franchise has widespread support. Little wonder, as commuters have experienced a year of massive cuts to the service, trains that are running are overcrowded and remain unreliable, more tickets offices are planned for closure, and safety is set to be compromised further with driver only trains. And, the travelling public are asked to pay more each year for less. Horsham Labour Party will continue to campaign for a publically run rail network which puts the rail travelling public first.

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Southwater byelection – Vote Labour for a Change on 10 November

kevin o'sullivanLabour’s candidate Kevin O’Sullivan is asking the people of Southwater to, ‘Vote Labour for a Change’ and experience the difference a Labour councillor would make. Who benefits from returning yet another Tory to Horsham district council ? The property developers.

Kevin is an experienced property lawyer working for a firm of solicitors in Tonbridge. He understands the impact of local housing policies on communities and would stand up to the developers who push for huge developers that provide little or no benefits for local people.

Kevin demonstrates a strong commitment to social justice and has a track record of standing up for people, whether it is through the work he has done with Living Wage Horsham or as an active member of Horsham Amnesty. He is committed to green issues and uses public transport to commute to his office in Tonbridge rather than owning a car. More recent experience of Southern Rail has confirmed his long held view that we should bring back the railways into public ownership!

If elected Kevin will put local people first. He will hold regular surgeries, be accountable to those who elected him and, most importantly will provide a strong voice for all of Southwater’s residents.

Kevin is a family man with three children who have recently entered higher eduction and is a regular attendee of St John’s church.

Southwater By-Election

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Horsham CLP Women’s Garden Gathering

Last Saturday, a group of like-minded women from the Horsham CLP gathered in Linda’s gorgeous garden for an afternoon of conviviality in sunshine and showers. It was a great opportunity for members (old and new), affiliates and registered supporters to meet up and share views in a relaxed environment. Many of the women have since expressed an interest in attending further events as well as getting more actively involved with the CLP.

Here are some comments from the attendees:

It was a great opportunity to meet other women and share views.’ Louise.
‘Thank you for arranging such a lovely meeting.’ Sue.
‘Thanks for a great afternoon. What an interesting group!’ Jacky.
‘I just wanted to thank you for organising the Labour Party Women’s get together yesterday, it was a very enjoyable afternoon.’ Jill.

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Affordable housing petition

NorthHorshamWe have received many letters about Liberty’s planning application for the proposed new development in north Horsham.  We are also aware of strong opposition to the current application – evidenced by communications within the County Times.

For this reason Horsham Labour Party has set up the following PETITION.  Please take the time to read it and sign if you agree with us – and promote it with your friends.

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Southern Rail ‘Service’

Horsham commuters were in no mood to accept the lame excuses and feeble apologies offered by the directors of Southern Rail when they attended the public meeting organised by Jeremy Quin MP on Saturday 9 July. The anger and frustration felt by those who have experienced months of cancellations, delays and ‘ disappearing’ trains was clearly demonstrated to the three member panel.

There was a very clear sense that the vast majority of the audience that Southern Rail had forfeited the right to continue with their lucrative franchise, due to their complete inability to run anything like an acceptable level of service.

The meeting heard accounts from speaker after speaker of the impact on their physical and mental health of hours spent on overcrowded trains and station platforms, often with limited or no information about the prospects of reaching their intended destination. There were examples of people having lost jobs or fearing losing jobs as a result of their inability to arrive at their workplace on time.

The directors present at the meeting were unable to respond to their customers concerns in a way that provided any hope that things are likely to improve any time soon. The only solution that the management team were able to offer was the imminent introduction of the new timetable. However the only beneficiary of this timetable, which will massively reduce the numbers of services that will run and remove some peak time services altogether, will be the train operator. With fewer services running they will better able to achieve the reduction in cancellations and delays required to access the bonuses offered in their franchise contract. For the customer there will be increased overcrowding and even greater disruption for those now unable to undertake their usual commute.

As commuters attending the meeting pointed out, it is clear that Southern have significantly under resourced the service in attempt to meet their contract terms. Their industrial dispute with their staff over a restructuring that they claim is intended to ensure that the carriage doors are operated more efficiently, has resulted in further disruption. Any attempt to blame the rail union for the continued chaos, however, was dismissed by passengers who have endured poor service for too long.

Jeremy Quin’s efforts in arranging this meeting were appreciated by the attendees. His meeting to discuss the concerns with the transport minster were also welcomed. It did not escape the attention of many present, however, that the government has also to take some responsibility for the current mess.

The government has negotiated a contract which pays a fixed sum to Southern regardless of the standard of service. They incur no reduction in that sum in the event that they fail to deliver an acceptable service, the only penalty is non receipt of the bonuses payable if they fail to meet the targets on punctuality and reliability.

In view of this lack of any incentive to ensure that the service operates efficiently, the sole penalty for an appalling service delivery must be the forfeiture of the franchise. A penalty demanded by commuters but on that, the government appears reluctant to impose. This reluctance is now seriously detrimental to passengers, who are increasingly demanding that the government take such action.

Jeremy Quin said at the meeting that he was elected to serve the interests of his constituents and not those of the train operators. He has demonstrated that, up to a point he has tried to do that. If we are not to conclude that his efforts so far have simply been intended to deflect attention from the government’s share of the responsibility to resolve this mess, it is now time to respond to wishes of Horsham’s commuters . We call upon Jeremy to ensure at his next meeting with the transport minister that the franchise is taken away from this failing company with immediate effect. If, as he said at the meeting, the government cannot identify a company prepared to run the service, the franchise should be brought back into public ownership. A company should be set up that has the backing of the trade unions, staff and commuters and which can deliver the public service we need.

David Hide
Chair Horsham Labour Party

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Protesters Call For An End To The Housing Crisis and For Secure Homes for All

 

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On Friday, 15th April members of Horsham Labour Party brought the protest against the government’s housing bill to the streets of Horsham. Members gathered outside Horsham Council’s offices to take part in the National Sleep Out, the latest action organised by the Kill the Housing Bill campaign.

 

Protesters spent a cold, April night huddled in sleeping bags beneath the canopy at the front of the council offices. Their aim was to highlight the increasing levels of homelessness that are being seen right across the country, including in Horsham. Latest figures show that the number of people sleeping on the streets has increased by a third in the past year and by over half since 2010.

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Carol Hayton , Horsham Labour Party’s campaign coordinator, said, ‘ As a result of the government austerity measures, benefits and services have been drastically cut back, leaving the most vulnerable in our communities struggling to access the support they need to keep a roof over their head.

Supporters of the Kill the Housing Bill campaign believe that the Conservative government’s Housing and Planning Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, will make the situation significantly worse. Measures in the bill will massively reduce the availability of affordable housing to rent by eliminating the planning requirement to build social housing on new developments. Existing stocks of council and housing association homes will be reduced by the extension of the right-to-buy to housing association tenants, councils will be forced to sell off their high value council houses to fund the Right to Buy offer. Many council and housing association tenants will see their rents increase to unaffordable private market levels by the ‘Pay to Stay’ measures proposed in the bill.

 

David Hide, chair of Horsham Labour Party was amongst those participating in the demonstration. He commented, ‘Those of us who have joined this protest have experienced for one night the conditions that are a reality for thousands every night. The cold, discomfort and lack of security are likely to become a reality for even more people if this bill goes through. The bill aims to destroy social housing. It means higher rents, less security, and less chance of a home people can afford. We have seen increasing numbers of homeless people in Horsham. Horsham Council offers very little in the way of support for IMG_0926 (1)those who are homeless or in fear of homelessness, as those currently forced to sleep in our parks and open spaces have testified. The cuts to local government council funding will mean that they will have even fewer resources to deal with the housing crisis. As a result we will see even more people on our streets or sleeping in the few sheltered areas available to them, like this area outside the council offices. We are, therefore, calling upon the government to think again about the measures in the bill. We challenge Our MP Jeremy Quin and his Tory colleagues to deliver a bill that will end the housing crisis rather than making it worse.’

 

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Labour in for Europe

Our Main Campaigning Points

  1. Jobs and prosperity
  2. Workers and peoples’ rights
  3. Funding received from the EU
  4. Security
  5. Environmental benefits
  6. Advantages when we travel abroad

 

  1. Jobs and prosperity1. 1 in 10 jobs in Britain depend on our membership of the EU, and in the south east where more businesses sell to Europe it is even higher.
    2. There is a thriving tourism industry in the south east which will be damaged if we leave. Local businesses and jobs in language schools, hotels and B&Bs (and at airports in the wider area) will be adversely effected.
  2. Workers and peoples’ rights that have come from EU membership1. Minimum 4 weeks paid holiday.
    2. 48 working hours per week limit.
    3. Protection against discrimination on grounds of age, religion/belief and sexual orientation
    4. Enhanced maternity rights and protection against dismissal on grounds of pregnancy
    5. Right to paternity and adoption leave
    6. Minimum safety standards at work
    7. Minimum consumer rights

3. Funding from the EU

1. EU funds have helped pay for roads, railways and home improvements in the south east.

2. All the universities in the south east receive considerable funding from the EU and this particularly benefits the local economy. This has a huge beneficial effect on jobs and prosperity in the area.

4. Security

1. EU member states are able to work together to combat terrorism.
2. The cross-border arrest warrant makes it easier to bring dangerous criminals to justice.

5. Environmental

1. EU rules have made our beaches, rivers and air cleaner.

6. Travel benefits

1. UK citizens have access to free health insurance and lower mobile phone charges when they travel abroad.
2. No visas are required to travel throughout the EU

 

British Workers Rights that have come from the EU

  1. Minimum 4 weeks paid holiday.
  2. Maximum 48 hour working week.
  3. Enhanced maternity leave and pay.
  4. Paternity and adoption leave.
  5. Protection from age discrimination.
  6. Equal pay and conditions for part-time, fixed term and agency workers.
  7. Protection against dismissal on change of business ownership.

 

As you consider how to vote, please consider the following additional points which have been brought up in the media

  1. Immigration

EU migrants put more into the UK budget in taxes paid than they take out in benefits.

There is little evidence of “welfare tourism”. Most EU nationals living here work and pay taxes.

Approximately 2 million British nationals live elsewhere in the EU compared to 2.3-2.5 million EU nationals who live in the UK.

Pressure on housing in the UK has not been caused by migration from the EU but rather by the failure of all governments over the last 35 years to build enough houses. A Labour government would build many more council houses and regulate private landlords which would ease housing pressures.

Leaving the EU is unlikely to change immigration numbers at all. Norway and Switzerland are outside the EU but in order to trade with the EU they have to sign up to the “free movement of peoples” principle.

Leaving the EU will not have any effect on immigration numbers from countries outside the EU.

 

  1. Sovereignty

UKIP claims that 75% of laws effecting Britain are made in Brussels are incorrect. Only 13% of British laws have been influenced by the EU.

We have as much influence over any laws made in Brussels as any other country in the EU does. We are the 3rd largest country by population in the EU and have 73 MEPs. Only Germany (96) and France (74) have more. Smaller countries such as Denmark and Finland only have 13 MEPs.

Britain has had a major influence over many developments in the EU such as setting up the single market, introducing consumer rights and introducing climate change targets

If we leave the EU we, like Norway, would still have to abide by many EU laws in order to access the single market, but we would not be able to play any part in influencing those laws.

 

  1. EU Budget

The total UK contribution to the EU budget is 17 billion euros ( £ 12.5 billion ). 1 to 2 pence in every pound of our taxes go to the EU. However, in return the UK Government estimates that trade with the EU is worth three times as much to the UK as our cost of membership and that membership of the EU is worth £3000.00 to every UK family.

3.5 million jobs in Britain (1 in 10) rely on us being in the EU and on access to the single market.

 

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE LEAVE

  1. A significant fall in GDP is very likely. Experts believe that a best case scenario would see our economy shrink by 2% but in the worst case scenario it could be by up to 9%. This would lead to widespread job losses and lower wages for those who remain in work.
  2. EU funding of our universities, roads, railways and small businesses will end immediately.
  3. Workers rights, such as 4 weeks paid holiday, are likely to be taken away.
  4. It will be much harder to extradite wanted criminals to and from Europe once the European Arrest Warrant is lost.
  5. Leaving the EU will put at risk many existing conservation projects. Legal protection for many of our natural areas would be lost. Once we are no longer part of the world’s biggest trading bloc we will lose our ability to have an influence on countries such as India and China when it comes to climate change negotiations.
  6. Our entry into and out of mainland Europe will be restricted. Flight prices are likely to increase and we may lose our right to access free healthcare across Europe. That would mean the need to take out costly travel insurance. It may well be necessary to obtain a visa to visit certain EU countries.
  7. It will be harder for Europeans to visit the UK which would significantly damage the south east’s tourism industry. Hotels, B&Bs and language schools would be forced to close.
  8. We would still be bound by many EU laws, as Norway and Switzerland are, but with no ability to have an influence over the making of those laws. We would move from being a “rule maker to a rule taker”.

 

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