Saturday, 31 January 2015

Local Council By-Elections January 2015

Number of Candidates
Total Vote
+/- Dec
Plaid Cymru**



* There was one by-election in Scotland.
** There were no by-elections in Wales.
*** There was one independent clash.
**** No others this month

Overall, 9,465 votes were cast over six local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. No council seats changed hands. For comparison see December's results here.

Coming second by a sizeable margin is nowhere a challenger party wants to be in the first set of contests in a general election year, but that is what January's results have yielded. That said, January is always a bit of a funny month with not much happening. Last year only saw five contests, for instance. With so few voters going to the polls you can read what you like into them. The Tory long-term plan cutting through? LibDem support recovering as voters reward them for services rendered to the coalition? SNP dumping on Labour? Green surge filtering through to votes? And on it goes. Spin it as you wish.

More Notes on the Citizen's Income

1. The first rule of polemic is if you're going to argue against someone's position, at least do it in an intellectually honest fashion. Falling short of this is Sally Gimson's piece on Progress. Sally attacks the Citizen's Income on the grounds that because Charles Murray, author of the notorious and reviled The Bell Curve, and the Greens agree that a basic income could promote social cohesiveness that the latter buys into the libertarian nonsense of the former. Never mind that the Green policy document, which I suspect she didn't bother looking at, underlines a continued commitment to extra support for housing and the disabled. Rarely since the days of high Stalinism, when Trotskyists were lumped in with fascists because both had criticisms of the USSR, do such clumsy amalgams come along.

2. There are citizen incomes and there are citizen incomes. The previous post on this topic trailed a few of these. Chris Dillow has explored some issues further. There are libertarian schemes. Green schemes. Means-tested schemes. And socialist schemes. While the Greens' are bringing it more mainstream attention thanks to their rapid growth, it's not the be-all and end-all. There is no set way. Not one set of ideas have achieved the status of hegemonic thinking beyond the basic income being a right of citizenship.

3. Boffy's objection, that "it would encourage bad, inefficient employers to pay low wages, and to take account of the fact that the state - that is other workers from their taxes - would be making up a large part of what they should be paying as wages" can be met with a "not necessarily". To be sure, this is precisely why libertarian advocates love the idea: it's yet another state subsidy for inadequate wages. The policy, however, does not preclude the retention of existing provisions around the minimum wage or, indeed, its extension. It all depends on the strength of the labour movement. In fact, as per Boffy's model of a much more dynamic and confident movement there is no reason why its administration, along with whatever is left of the social security apparatus, be devolved to it.

4. Despite the best efforts of libertarian and Green advocates of the citizen's income, and its critics to wish it away, class struggle exists. It is to capitalism what dishonesty is to the Liberal Democrats: integral and indissociable. Policies pursued by governments can affect class struggle, and in turn the character of policy and their implementation is so conditioned. This is no less true of the citizen's income. Its socialist friends have to fashion it so a) it can win over wide swathes of the labour movement, b) ensure that its implementation and maintenance does not impact negatively on our people, and c) that it is weaponised to best pursue the interests of the overwhelming majority against the narrow, anti-social, and destructive imperatives of capital.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Terminator Genisys Trailers

Bad spelling is never a good sign. Neither is getting an over-the-hill Hollywood mainstay to reprise the action role that made him massively famous over 30 years ago. And yet ... yet ... going on the two trailers so far released Terminator Genisys might just turn out to be an enjoyable romp.

Come July your scribe will be heading to the cinema for this and shall report back his findings.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Syriza's Interesting Allies

By their friends shall ye know them? This old adage has got some folks feeling a bit uncomfortable as the new Syriza government apparently cosies up to Mother Russia. This is by no means a new thing. Last year Alexis Tsipras provided Putin's interventions in Ukraine with some political cover. Interesting friends of Syriza are by no means confined to the Kremlin, however. Someone else saying warm words is Peter Spence, economics correspondent for The Telegraph. And today out comes an establishment someone else to give Syriza's message succour: Mark Carney of the Bank of England has attacked Eurozone austerity. Whatever next, eulogies in The Sun and Mail? It's only a matter of time before Rupert Murdoch calls for the top 100 monopolies to be nationalised.

Let's separate the economics from the foreign relations for a moment and reflect on the character of capital across the European Union. At one level of remove, all capital is the same. It has certain interests in common, chief of which always and everywhere is the maintenance and strengthening of the system that makes capital possible. Bound up and utterly inseparable from this is wage labour. For capital to reproduce itself as capital, it cannot escape the living labour power resident in the brains and muscles of human beings. It tries, it's always tried. Mechanisation, automation, computerisation, seeks to put distance between accumulation and the production of goods and services, but it cannot. Machinery requires technicians. Computers require programmers and IT specialists. Services require service givers. Because capital is and always will be hopelessly dependent on human bodies, it is in a constant collective struggle with those it employs to render living labour dependent on the dead. Capital is but the accumulated wealth realised by labour power past. As beings who, in the overwhelmingly vast majority of cases, lack property to provide a private income we have to sell that labour power in return for a wage or salary in order to survive. Therefore in capitalist societies, the real terms of the dependency are reversed. A society populated by workers without capital can be conceived. A society with capital and no workers cannot.

Yet as we zoom in at a greater level of magnification, there are considerable differences among capital as well. Their common interest is constantly in tension with their individual interests. Bits of capital in certain sectors scrap over markets and resources. Sectors of capital scrap with each other over wider political and cultural influence. Nation-states scrap with each other to further the interests of their capitals in far-flung markets, and so on. An example of this in British politics is how the Tories and Labour are aligned with different fractions of capital. Another is how capital across the continent is divided about the merits of the EU, and/or the relationship it has with the USA, China, Russia, and emerging markets.

Capital is similarly divided about Greece and austerity generally. Some sections, usually the most short-sighted and more likely to either benefit directly from cheap, flexible labour markets, or from finance taking bits of wrecked economies and throwing them into the alchemical fires, are intensely chillaxed about austerity. The more the merrier. Other bits of capital, those whose moments of accumulation play out over the longer term, or profit from state activism in various markets, are less sanguine. This is the section that realises too much austerity sucks demand from economies. Businesses and consumers generally have less cash to splash, thereby threatening a spiral of decline that might threaten the profitability of capital-in-general and lead to unpleasant political consequences.

Mark Carney is of this school. His comments hinge on EU economic integration, of how the dynamic of competition between the different national capitals of Eurozone states has not seen a natural convergence despite the single currency, shared fiscal rules, and the ECB. The next round of quantitative easing, or creating digital money, to buy up public sector debt (repeating again the counter-intuitive act of the government/taxpayer owning government/taxpayer debt) should overcome unevenness and work to float the boats of those economies worst hit by the financial crisis. Piling on the austerity merely deepens problems by wrecking an economy's capacity to grow down deficits and move on to reducing debts naturally. Carney's intervention certainly gives more power to Syriza's elbow when it comes to renegotiating Greece's debt, a welcome coincidence of divergent interests one might say that could expose divisions in the 'official' position and make a worst case scenario for Greece less and less likely.

This section of capital will always try and make the best of a bad situation pregnant with existential threat. Stalinism was denounced by its Trotskyists critics for, among many other things, doing deals with capitalist powers in return for security. It didn't always work out. Likewise, in the event of Syriza-style radical left governments coming to power elsewhere in Europe there will be sections of business that fulminate, rage, disinvest, and attempt to subvert the new state of affairs. Others will seek some sort of accommodation and talk down the threat posed to capital as a whole. Peter Spence's Telegraph piece is in that mould. Writing of Yanis Varoufakis, the new finance minister, the radical creds are played down and his competence as a British-trained economist talked up. He is a "fan of markets in many contexts", we're told. The sub-text is clear, here's a man with which we can do business. Besides, politically speaking, normalising the abnormal knocks edges off any potential threat coming from labour movement and radical parties here taking Greek lessons, and is a salve to oneself too. If we see Syriza as a blip because of exceptional economic difficulties, and they're acting radically within recognisable parameters of governance then there might not be anything to fear after all.

Returning to foreign affairs, what will concern capital across the EU is the relationship being cultivated with Vladimir Putin. It's cause for disquiet among some otherwise left wing friends of Syriza too. Not surprising really. Yet if by some weird quirk of fate, and as distasteful as I'd find it, were I in the Greek foreign ministry it's a relationship worth pursuing, even if it means treating with the so-called National Bolsheviks. Russia's economy is in the merde thanks to collapsing oil prices, but it's still tussling with the EU over Ukraine and other matters. You don't have to be schooled in centuries of diplomatic game playing to see that a visible, some might say ostentatious, warming of relations between Athens and Moscow sends a message to EU capitals. Are Angela Merkel and the austerity die-hards going to block debt renegotiation if it weakens their hand against Putin? Of course not. A good relationship with Russia is a string to Syriza's bow and strengthens their negotiating position. Realpolitik eh?

When all is said and done, Syriza have an incredibly difficult task before it. If it can make use if allies of convenience with the realms of European finance, if it can exploit the tensions between the EU and Russia to carry through its immediate programme of debt renegotiation, they will find no criticism from me. The stakes are high for Greece and, by extension, for us too. Watch. Learn.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Monday, 26 January 2015

Syriza and Us

'Radical Left Takes Power'. There's a headline not seen in my lifetime. Syriza's victory in yesterday's Greek elections is rightly being greeted with dismay, derision, and near panic by those who presume to know the needs of Greece better than the 2.2m voters who turned out against a completely unnecessary economic depression and austerity-without-end. Sadly, it was just two seats short from acquiring an absolute majority, tingeing the celebrations with a bit of 'oooh, 'ang on a minute' as Syriza came to a governing arrangement with the Independent Greeks, also known as the British Conservatives' Greek sister party.

Alexis Tsipras and his cabinet, due to be appointed tomorrow, face an incredibly difficult situation. They may have the goodwill of most of the left from across Europe with them, but they could find the financial clout of the ECB and bond markets against them. Internally there are problems too. Even if Tsipras is able to renegotiate the bail out on the most favourable terms austerity policies are unlikely to be reversed in short order. The restoration of pensions, the minimum wage, and sacked public sector workers isn't going to happen tomorrow. Easing off these policies and then clearing up the economic damage left behind might not happen at a pace agreeable to a chunk of Syriza's support. Managing the situation politically is very tough and disappointment and disillusion is an ever-present danger. The only way Syriza can mitigate the potential damage is avoid the spin and stupid optimism of their predecessors who, like our beloved government, bemoaned "tough choices", without seriously tackling tax avoidance and evasion and, in Greece's case, ingrained corruption. Syriza has no choice but to be completely honest with their electorate and the Greek people at large about the challenges and problems facing it.

Another problem is with the state apparatus itself. There are two issues here. Firstly, Syriza is very well placed to purge the administrative machinery of the persistent pockets of corrupt officialdom. As it has supplanted PASOK as the main proletarian party in Greece, albeit with significant small business support also, taking on and rooting corruption out is sociologically possible because its core constituency does not benefit from those kinds of relationships. It's hurt by them. The same is true of tax evasion. Just as it's utopian to believe the Tories here would crack down hard on legal and illegal tax dodging schemes because it's their base who benefits, so it was true of New Democracy's relationship to the conservative business interests aboard their coalition. Only a party standing apart separately from those interests can take them on. Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution finds itself confirmed in constitutional politics too. Taking on entrenched corruption will be a tough fight, and Syriza are certainly motivated enough to do it, but it comes back to matters of timing and energy required.

This is because there's another potential battle within the state looming: that between a government of socialists and a thuggish police force sympathetic - in the main - to Golden Dawn. Lest anyone forget the police's appalling record of attacking what were protesters and are now government supporters. The New Democracy coalition undertook a limited offensive against fascist infiltration of and collaboration between them and the police after Golden Dawn supporters murdered an anti-fascist musician in September 2013. Their so-called fuhrer, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, currently awaits trial for that murder and his alleged involvement in the disappearance of up to 100 migrant workers. Yet the fascists, while still small and hopefully an electorally spent force, might yet be a focal point for reaction within the police and security services. Syriza's 2012 programme demands the removal of arms and masks from those policing demonstrations, and calls for a more comprehensive training programme aimed at understanding the social roots of crime. That was then. Now? I don't know, but one assumes that Syriza comrades have been giving this some serious thought. (If any reader can shed a light, please comment below).

Syriza and its Independent Greek bedfellows make for awkward pillow partners. Syriza is uncompromisingly progressive on social issues, the role of religion in public life, immigration, and so on. The ANEL are not. Yet at least on the primary issue before Greece - the renegotiation of austerity - their positions are more or less identical, even if the bases for it are quite different. For leftists here in Britain who are getting a bit twitchy about it and are already looking for signs of a sell out, as Syriza's leadership have proved themselves politically adept enough to steer their party from a ragtag and bobtail outfit of Trots and Maoists to government in less than a decade, I think it's fair to say they no how to treat with and the dangers of doing a deal with these characters better than you and I.

And that, overall, is the sort of stance the British left should take toward Syriza. They're the experts about the politics of their land, not us. There are a great many activists and thinkers in left politics here who do have expertise and experiences Syriza might find useful. They may occasionally avail themselves of an insight that a bit of distance and grounding in a different political history that could help. The British left should comment and above all learn from the experiences of the coming weeks and months. There is no room for lectures, for carping, for the performative piety of lefty identity politics. Above all the role of the left here, regardless of our background, is to offer solidarity with Syriza, defend it from the calumnies sure to be chucked at it by homegrown idiots and enemies, and make the case that another form of politics is not just possible, but can win too.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Why Labour Should Adopt the Citizen's Income

I'm all for nicking good policies, and one Labour and the labour movement should half-inch is the citizen's income from the Green Party. Of course, the Greens don't own it, it has been knocking about for a good many years. But they are the only ones pushing it as a key plank of their commitments. Here is the short section from their policy website, and is likely to have similar wording for the 2015 manifesto:

EC730 A Citizen's Income sufficient to cover an individual's basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits (see EC711). A Citizen's Income is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work.

EC731 The Citizens' Income will eliminate the unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work (See EC400). The Citizens' Income scheme will thus enable the welfare state to develop towards a welfare community, engaging people in personally satisfying and socially useful work.

EC732 When the Citizens' Income is introduced it is intended that nobody will be in a position that they will receive less through the scheme than they were entitled to under the previous benefits system. Children will be entitled to a reduced amount which will be payable to a parent or legal guardian. People with disabilities or special needs, and single parents will receive a supplement.

EC733 Initially, the housing benefit system will remain in place alongside the Citizens' Income and will be extended to cover contributions towards mortgage repayments (see HO602). This will subsequently be reviewed to establish how housing benefit could be incorporated into the Citizen's Income, taking into account the differences in housing costs between different parts of the country and different types of housing.
At £3,692/year for over 18s, we're hardly in the territory of a weekly lottery win for everyone. But it is not without cost. The Telegraph think it will cost between £240bn-£280bn/year. Where they get this figure from I don't know. Providing an income for everyone over 18 would cost £185bn. That includes people currently in receipt of the basic state pension. Remove the 10.4m currently drawing one knocks off just over £38bn. The Greens favour funding it from a wealth tax and savings from a largely obsolescent welfare state. Extra payments for housing, the disabled, and some form of child benefit would remain.

It's not beyond the realms of possibility. It can be done if the political will and popular support is there. Two possible objections come to mind first, however.

1. It undermines the incentive to work.
2. It would contribute toward inflation.

Let's look at some evidence.

Between January 2008 and December 2009, a coalition of mainly-German aid organisations sponsored a basic income grant pilot in Otjivero-Omitara in Namibia, a small town of about a thousand people located 100km from Windhoek. Everyone under 60 was paid 100 Namibian dollars/month and the results were interesting. While the data was skewed by family members from elsewhere migrating into the town once the pilot was underway (making it look like household income actually fell for the duration), nevertheless poverty was reduced within a year from 76% to 37% of residents. For those not homing migrants, it crashed to 16%. Within six months of its introduction, underweight children fell from 42% to 17%. School drop out rates fell from 40% to 0%, debt declined from N$1,215 to $772/per person, reported crime collapsed by 42%, and the number of adults involved in "income generating activities" increased from 44% to 55%. The pilot notes "the grant enabled recipients to increase their productive income earned, particularly through starting their own small business, including brick-making, baking of bread and dress-making. The BIG contributed to the creation of a local market by increasing households' buying power."

Very good work though five years after the pilot concluded the Namibian government have not implemented the policy. However, that's Namibia, a country dominated by a huge desert, low population, and lop-sided economic development. In effect, one might argue that the period of the BIG pilot helped round out Otjivero-Omitara's local economy. Is this of any use to wealthy, Western nations? A series of US and Canadian government pilots with Negative Income Tax delivered results that were repeated by the Namibian experience. These were slightly different in that a basic income was paid only to those who fell beneath a certain threshold - think of them as a form of today's working tax credits. The Namibian effect on schooling was presaged here: attendance and attainment up, drop out rates down. Low birth weights disappeared and, in the Canadian experience, falls in accidents, and physical and mental health problems pushed hospitalisation rated down by over eight per cent. Nor was there any evidence of recipients giving up work to live off the grant. Some secondary earners - mainly women - scaled back their work hours, and there was some evidence that if a primary earner lost their job they spent a few weeks looking for a suitable replacement (pp 9-10 here).

Still not convinced? Let's take a trip to Alaska, home of the Klondike, Ice Road Truckers, and Sarah Palin. Since 1976 the state has taken a slice of oil revenues and invested the proceeds, building up a sovereign wealth fund worth around $50bn. Since 1982 the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation has paid out a dividend to the 700,000 or so resident Alaskans of varying value.

As you can see, the value has been all over the place. I expect it will be a historic low this year, depending on the performance of its non-oil assets. While it is true prices in Alaskan shops are higher than the US heartland, this is because of import costs rather than any inflationary effects. Furthermore in November 2014 unemployment stood at 6.6% vs the national average of 5.8%. Evidence of bone idleness or the fluctuations in the oil economy? As the Department of Numbers site indicates, unemployment rates have been relatively stable since 1990.

These experiences show a citizen's income can be done, but should it be done? Of course, and as a matter of urgency: it is a simple measure that can dramatically improve the living standards of millions and, as the evidence suggests, have very beneficial knock-ons in terms of education, health, crime, and community cohesion. That's why the Greens and increasing numbers of Labour people endorse it. From a labour movement point of view, there's another compelling reason.

For 35 years business has had the whip hand over the global economy. Capital freeboots its way across the planet subject to few checks, and playing one region off against another. David Harvey made the compelling case in his A Brief History of Neoliberalism that capital in its neoliberal phase is decadent and regressive. Profits have not come from the expansion of the productive forces, as Marxists would put it, but rather by an 'accumulation by dispossession'. The forced enclosures of land, the selling off of publicly-owned assets, the export and deletion of jobs, the introduction of markets into public services, and the erosion of progressive income tax regimes has redistributed wealth from the poor to the rich. It's a global power grab that's only been possible because labour movements have been defeated in far too many countries far too many times.

From a British perspective, this has meant that many millions of people are not covered by trade union protections and are subject to overwork, pitiful pay rises, job insecurity. And that's the full-time workers. As the government talks up the economic recovery and trumpets jobs growth, a simple look at the figures shows that 24 out of every 40 new jobs are full-time, yet in 2008 the F/T rate stood at 64%. And today? 62%. We have a job market increasingly bent toward part-time working in which many people can't make ends meet. With unemployment high and competition fierce for what full-time jobs there are, its bent far too much toward the purveyors of temporary working and zero hour contracts. A citizen's income would change all this. If people entering the job market know they have a regular weekly payment providing a little bit more security, the market incentivises good employers. No longer will workers have to cling to a low paid job with an awful boss. A basic income will keep the wolf from the door, changing entirely the balance between employers and employees, and offering new political opportunities our movement can capitalise on.

This is the other reason why I support the basic citizen's income. It's a bold step toward securing the interests of our people and changing society permanently for the better. We need to take it up, turn it into party policy, and win it.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Saturday Interview: Glyn Matthews

Glyn Matthews is a Socialist Party activist and former blogger from Cardiff. When he's not discharging parental responsibilities he can be found doing party work on the high street of the Welsh capital and relaxing with a few bouts of pro-wrestling. Glyn's old blog is Everyone's Favourite Comrade and he tweets from here.

Why did you decide to give blogging a go?

I used to have a lot of free time on my hands and a lot of opinions. I would get into loads of lengthy Facebook discussions that were simply lost within a few days. I was also returning to full-time education as a mature student so it just seemed like an obvious thing to do. Both to rant and to get back into the swing of writing seriously.

Have you got a best blogging experience?

I was short listed for the best welsh political blog award a few years back. I went to an award ceremony for it but to be honest it wasn't that great.

... and any blogging advice for new starters?

I think the key to any blogger is finding a niche or several niches, knowing what you write about and who to promote it.

I think a key is also to put the time in put have a good layout for the blog as well as this is much more likely to get people to read and come back again.

Do you also find social media useful for activist-y things?

I think this is very difficult to answer. I think it can be useful in many ways such as the very speedy disemination of information to counter the mass media or to organise urgent events such as counter demonstrations against neo-fascists.

However I also think there are alot of dangers for activists in social media as well. The idea that it can play as much of a role as real world activism and the sometimes undemocratic nature of online activism.

I think the real answer is as much as other mediums for activists. Use it how you can but be aware of its limitations.

Why did you give it up?

I didn't - Obviously my blog hasnt been updated for years now but it is more of an issue of time. I have two kids. One who is four is on the autistic spectrum and one who is 18 months. So along with this and working 12.5 hour shifts I just cant find the time so I would say that I am a lapsed blogger with a pending return in the future. I suppose the short answer is simple time constraints though.

Are there any blogs or other politics/comments websites you regularly follow?

A few every know and then. Yours is one of them.

Are you reading anything at the moment?

I am cuttently reading through the Game of Thrones series.

Do you have a favourite novel?

Jennifer Government by Max Barry - I would encourage anyone who has not read it to do so. I would describe it as a cross between 1984 and Brave New World, but set in the modern world

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major influence on how you think about the world?

I would have to name two.

1. Liverpool - A city that dared to fight by Peter Taaffe and Tony Mulhearn
Undoubtedly many reading this will consider this a partisan answer but a lot of people tend to forget what it is about. I read it as a 17 or 18 year old kid angry at how corrupt the whole world was; that oil meant more than blood, that power corrupts everyone. This book shaped me a lot it showed a real example of people prepared to fight back. Regardless of your opinion on the legscy you cannot deny that.

2. Rebel Sell by Joseph Heath snd Andrew Potter a great book which argues well that counter culture is not rebellion.

Who are your biggest intellectual influences?

Well I guess I would have to answer the general body of works stemming from Marx, Engels, Lenin & Trotsky right down to the ideas of the CWI today with a few notable mentions along the way.

What was the last film you saw?

The Purge - interesting but a bit weird

How many political organisations have you been a member of?

I joined the Socialist Party when I was 17 and I am still a member today. Any other organiaation I have been a memver of along the way stemmed drom being a member of the Socialist Party.

Can you name an idea or an issue on which you've changed your mind?

There are two things that come to my mind instantly and I think I have to mention both of them.

I remember when I was around 13/14 it was around the time of the invasion of Kosovo and I was just beginning to think about the world around me. The only information I took was from the BBC and ITV news coverage but I instantly took the side of the KLA, and as a result I felt close towards Welsh nationalism for a few years but have moved far from that now.

The other change is much more recent. Since I have had children my attitude towards parenting has changed significantly in case anyone is wondering if this is a political issue.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to disseminate?

What set of ideas do you think it most important to combat?

I think it makes sense to answer these questions together because it cause and effrct. I think that it is important to show there is an alternative to austerity, that the capitalist sysyem caused the crisis and blaming benefit claimants or immigrants is a distraction from this. Easier said than done.

Who are your political heroes?

I am really not a fan of politicsl heroes at all. I think it an anathema to everything I believe. I think its all about a body of ideas devloped over time. Some people would assume I would say someone like Dave Nellist and of course I respect him and his integrity but he would never have been in that postion without the body of ideas that came before and around him or by the background work by 'unknown comrades'.

If I was pressed to name someone though I guess I would have to say the late Andrew Price. Known well in the trade union field, I first met Andrew when I was 16 as one of his students. He first introduced me to Marxism. I got to know him better when I joined the Socialist Party and was inspired by the clarity of ideas to his friends and comrades and determination to defeat his class enemies all whilst dealing with paralysis of one side of his body. This made him stand out as an inspiring figure.

How about political villains?

Same as the last question really it is not about individuals but if I had to name one it would have to be Tony Blair: he was the villian during my political awakening

What do you think is the most pressing political task of the day?

The crisis of working class political representation

If you could affect a major policy change, what would it be?

A very difficult question for any activist but I guess I would have to say to stop and reverse all privatisation of NHS services. It genuinely scares me as to where that could lead us to in the future and if we would have the same access to healthcare as we do today.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?

I could write a whole essay here and still only scratch the surface so I will just say imperialism.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

Probably best to ask someone else

What is your favourite song?

Yapolitical by Pink Punk. It is definately not everyones cup of tea but I love it.

Do you have a favourite video game?

Any of the Grand Theft Auto games

What do you consider the most important personal quality in others?

I guess the correct answer would be human compassion but I am not gonna lie, I'm definitely thinking a good sense of humour.

What personal fault in others do you most dislike?


What, if anything, do you worry about?

The future

And any pet peeves?

Celebrity culture

What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?

Apply yourself you lazy shit. You might regret it if you don't.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I dont have a lot but I enjoying cooking, which I've only really started doing since having kids and when there is spare time I like to read.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I am a big Pro Wrestling fan and I think that defines a guilty pleasure for a Marxist. I cannot think if something less Marxist-like.

What talent would you most like to have?

I would love to be able to play a musical instrument of some kind. Tried it but I am just not musical.

Either that or the ability to fly.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true - apart from getting loads of money - what would you wish for?

We are realists we demand the impossible. - A classless society.

Speaking of cash, how, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly
to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money?

Massively. I would buy a house, share cash out to people around me who are strapped for cash. Depending how much money it was I would quit my job and never work again and finally have time to start blogging again. Why, are you thinking of naming me in your will?

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be?

Leon Trotsky, Beethoven, & Paul Hunt

And finally ... what do you think will be the outcome of the election in May?

I think that be it a majority or some kind of coalition it is likely to be a Tory government.

I think its probably time to say farewell to the Lib Dems.