Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
It’s almost exactly two years to the probable date of the next General Election – May 2015. The results have come in from the May 2013 local elections around the country. As a parliamentary candidate, I now have an even keener interest in the facts and figures!
Obviously, everyone is talking about UKIP in the local elections. They did well too in my local constituency. Although there were no elections in Brighton & Hove this spring, Peacehaven & Telscombe Towns ward – part of East Sussex County Council and my Kemptown constituency – did have elections. UKIP did extremely well, taking both seats from the Conservatives.
This doesn’t bode well for the Tory MP for Kemptown, Simon Kirby. On this showing he would lose thousands of votes to UKIP – and lose his seat. Nor was it a good result for Labour, beaten into third place. The Green Party stood two candidates in the ward and polled a respectable 200 votes – not bad for a campaign starting from scratch.
So why did UKIP do so well in a part of Brighton Kemptown and across the country? I think there are lots of reasons but the main one is clear: huge swathes of people are simply fed up with what they see as the main three ‘all the same’ parties. They have a point.
This follows the pattern seen elsewhere in Europe. The mainstream parties all support different degrees of austerity. Many of them are mired in corruption scandals and seen as entirely self-serving. They represent the ‘political elite’ and are out of touch with the concerns of ‘ordinary people’. IPSOS MORI research shows that nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of UKIP voters are male, three fifths are over 55, and half identify as working class.
It just takes UKIP (or Beppe Grillo in Italy) with a populist, humorous, outsider stance to make the most of the desire for ‘something different’ and to give mainstream politicians a kicking. Of course, it is easier if the policies of the protest party pick easy scapegoats – foreigners, Europe, scroungers and the like – which sections of the media already regularly target.
So, can the Green Party (or the radical left more generally) simply replicate the success of UKIP or other protest parties?
It’s not that simple. We genuinely do have a completely different and more complex message to UKIP. For us, the worsening climate disaster is closely linked to the austerity drive. It is the same powerful elite who are driving attacks on the living standards of the vast majority of people, and threatening the very survival of the planet. And the solution to both is linked too: breaking the power of that elite, reorienting the economy towards sustainable goals, and fairer distribution of the wealth that already exists.
For many people that seems too big and daunting a message to grasp – much easier to blame foreigners and scroungers. And of course we in the Green Party remember only too well that we scored a stunning 15 per cent in the 1989 Euro elections, but only scored 0.5 per cent in the following general election – a sobering thought for me. It tends to be only in moments of major crisis that people can grasp the bigger picture: after the Chernobyl disaster, when the danger of nuclear power became a reality; or immediately after the economic crash, when people saw the real immorality and incompetence of the bankers and the inequality of the contemporary capitalist system.
For most of the time, we have to connect these big themes with more day-to-day problems that people face. State benefits are just such a crucial issue.
While most media attention has been on the local elections and the success of UKIP, the benefits revolution introduced by the Tories has taken root. This Tory-led government has slashed benefits in a way that its mentor (Margaret Thatcher RIP) would never have dared.
The government and the right-wing media have softened up the public with scare stories about scroungers and the size of the benefit bill. Most people think benefit fraud is around one third, while in reality it is much less than one per cent – and tax evasion and fraud dwarfs benefit fraud by a ratio of 40:1.
But the ‘welfare reforms’ (ie. cuts) are now taking effect. A briefing prepared by the local Community & Voluntary Sector Forum in Brighton & Hove paints a bleak picture. Over 35,000 households in the city will be worse off as a result. And the three worst affected wards are all in my own constituency – East Brighton, Moulsecoomb & Bevendean and Queens Park – where 10,000 households will face cuts.
These staggering figures are a devastating indictment of the coalition government and the local Tory MP Simon Kirby who voted for all these benefit changes.
It’s clear to me that a major emphasis of my campaigning in the next two years will be supporting those affected by these benefit cuts, holding the Tories nationally and locally to account for introducing them, and forcing Labour to come clean on whether they would reverse them.
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
The global elite have been stealing from society on an unprecedented scale, writes Tom Walker
Richard Murphy says that the appropriate political will and understanding of tax can put an end to offshore avoidance and evasion
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes