- The Guardian
- Issue #1957
On May 6, voters in Britain will go to the polls in local elections that will see the largest number of candidates representing the Communist Party (CPB) since the early 1980s. Candidates will be campaigning in the Welsh Senedd, Scottish Parliament, and London, Assembly as well as in English local councils.
The launch of the Communist Party’s manifesto, or platform, for the May 6 elections on Tuesday night will reflect “the confidence and enthusiasm of a growing Communist Party,” general secretary Robert Griffiths says.
The platform “Capitalism Is the Problem – Socialism Is the Solution” outlines the party’s policies and accuses the “Tory government in Westminster and, to a lesser extent, the devolved administrations” of a “heavy responsibility for the carnage caused by the coronavirus outbreak,” pointing out that “Britain has one of the highest COVID death rates in the world.”
The government’s mishandling of the pandemic and Britain’s deepest recession in 300 years have led to a renewed interest in socialism. So far in the UK, there have been more than 126,000 COVID-related deaths, 400,000 have contracted long COVID, and hundreds of thousands of people are on National Health Service (NHS) waiting lists.
The Communists are hoping to show voters that there are alternatives. Millions of people voted for change in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 and 2019 general elections. Polls showed they were looking for a new politics and economics and an end to the richest ten per cent of the population owning more than half of Britain’s personal wealth.
The Communist Party, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, advocates radical political change which includes activity in and reform of local, regional, and national governments in England, Scotland, and Wales. It advocates a devolved, federal Britain with proportional representation and other changes to make politics democratic, accessible, representative, and accountable.
Though the Labour Party is moving away from socialist policies, the Communists argue that “socialist measures are exactly what is needed as we emerge from a pandemic into a major economic crisis.”
Griffiths said: “Hundreds of billions of pounds are being used to bail out the capitalist monopolies, but our candidates are campaigning for socialist priorities instead, such as investment in the National Health Service, public services, manufacturing, housing, and climate security in a federal Britain.”
Lorraine Douglas, one of the Party’s candidates on the Greater London Assembly list, told Morning Star that a stronger left voice is vital as we are “back to the early 1980s as far as unemployment goes,” with COVID-related unemployment hitting the capital city especially hard.
She highlighted the CPB’s manifesto’s emphasis on rebuilding council houses and stopping the handover of land to property developers.
Official statistics suggest that nationally, 325,000 new houses need to be built every year just to keep up with changing demographics. The Communists are calling for radical reform of the housing and planning system, regeneration, affordable homes with secure tenure, local caps on private-sector rent levels, and the removal of incentives for private equity firms to make large profits with property developers and landowners.
In Manchester, Communist candidates are leaning heavily on the housing message. The party says its elected officials would work with a local housing cooperative to increase affordable housing and support the rapid expansion of the building of affordable housing across Greater Manchester. There is a huge imbalance in Manchester between luxury apartments in the glitzy city centre and housing in the suburbs.
To redress the wealth imbalance, the Communist Party advocates a minimum £10.40 per hour living wage (18.54 AUD), with additional supports for lower-income workers. It is also calling for an above-inflation pay rise for public-sector workers, particularly for NHS staff who have borne the brunt of the pandemic. The Party says that the government could fund much of the costs for the increase with cuts to military spending. The Conservative government of Boris Johnson recently allocated hundreds of billions of pounds to update Britain’s nuclear weapons program.