Tory ballot-rigging threatens democratic right to strike

June 16, 2015

“Today’s Queen’s Speech is a speech for working people, from a One Nation government that will bring our country together.” David Cameron

The government’s ‘reform’ of trade union law constitutes an anti-democratic ballot rigging proposal designed to undermine the potential power of trades unions and to strengthen the power of employers over their workers.

One of the government’s key Bills in the New Parliament is the Trades Unions Bill. The declared purpose of the Bill, according to Minister Sajid Javid, is to “ensure hard-working people are not disrupted by little supported strike action”. The legislation is said to seek to ensure that strikes were the result of “clear, positive and recent decisions by union members” giving strikes a “democratic mandate”, “minimising disruption for hard working tax payers”. The centre-piece of the legislation will be amendment of the balloting regulations, but there are other proposals included which show that the purpose of the Bill has nothing to do with a democratic mandate but is designed to weaken trades unions and give more powers to the employers. (Download a PDF here balloting  or read on below)  Read the rest of this entry »

Get off the fence Harriet – Labour should oppose the theft of ‘social housing’

June 7, 2015

At the recent Prime Minister’s Question Time David Cameron goaded interim Labour Leader Harriet Harman on Labour’s attitude to the extension of ‘right to buy’ to Housing Associations. Did Labour agree with it? She failed to answer, repeatedly. Why? Her failure to respond reflects Labour’s fear that they will be denounced as being against “aspiration”. Yet the answer to Cameron should have been obvious. The government has no right to tell independent organisations that they have to sell their properties. With a little intelligence, something seemingly beyond the Labour front bench currently, she could have pointed out that if Labour has proposed extending the ‘right to buy’ to the properties of private landlords the Tories would have screamed that this was theft, class war, or even worse, socialism. Heaven forbid, this would challenge the sanctity of private property. But isn’t that what the government is proposing in relation to Housing Associations which are private businesses, albeit that most of them have charity status? How can they tell these independent organisations what to do? Whatever happened to ‘localism’? Download a PDF here getoffthefence of read on below. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop the Tories ballot-rigging proposal

May 31, 2015

Stop the Tories ballot rigging proposals

A letter to the Swindon Advertiser

The parliamentary majority which the Tories won in the General Election was delivered by the undemocratic first past the post system (FPTP). Whilst they might be said to have a Parliamentary mandate they certainly do not have a popular mandate, with little more than one in three voters supporting them and just under one in four of the electorate. Their vote increased by just 0.8%. A big majority of voters, 63.1% of those who voted, voted against them. Tory grandee Quentin Hogg once warned about the dangers of ‘elective dictatorship’ under this system. FPTP allows them to do whatever they can get away with so long as they can win a vote in parliament.

That the Tories have secured a small majority with such a vote underlines the need for a more proportional electoral system. Whatever you might think the politics of UKIP one MP from a vote of 3.8 million can scarcely be deemed democratic. The same applies to the Greens with 1.3 million votes. In Scotland half of the electorate has three MPs out of 59. Read the rest of this entry »

What happened and why?

May 13, 2015

These are some brief initial observations on the outcome of the General Election. 

Understanding exactly what happened in the General Election will take some time. It makes no sense to draw hasty conclusions on what is a complicated outcome in which a number of different trends appear to have clashed. However, what is clear from the results is that the small Parliamentary majority which the Tories gained was  delivered above all by the First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system. The bald facts are these:

  • The Tory vote across the UK increased by 608,306 on 2010
  • Labour’s vote increased by 737,799
  • The Libdems lost a staggering 4,420,936
  •  UKIP’s vote increased by 2,961,583
  •  The Green Party vote increased by 868,946.

Read on below or download a PDF here: whathappenedandwhy

See the PDF for voting tables for UK, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for 2010 and 2015. Read the rest of this entry »

Signal Failure – Rail privatisation & the fight against it

April 24, 2015

20 years ago I wrote a pamphlet for the Thames Valley District Council of the RMT.  The text on the back page reads:

“Rail privatisation is a universally unpopular measure save for a few ‘free market’ ideologues and managers looking to make a financial killing in line with the top dogs in the other privatised public utilities.

This pamphlet examines the method of privatisation, the results so far, and the likely ones in the future should a feeble government survive.

It examines the historical background to the decline of the railways in Britain, under both Tory and Labour governments.

It proposes an expansion of the rail network in the interests of tackling the environmental crisis, improving the service to the customers and creating a socialist plan for job creation.

It calls for an unequivocal commitment from the Labour Party to re-nationalise the entire network, though not to be run by a government appointed businessman on a profit-making basis. It looks at the debate in the old NUR over how a socialised railway could be run by the staff who work in it, at the service of social needs.

It examines the connection of this issue to the debate in the Labour Party over the question of Clause 4 of the constitution (“common ownership of the means of production, distribution, exchange.”

At the time, of course, the union was still affiliated to the Labour Party but the experience of the Labour Government from 1997, led to the union being expelled from it. What had been a Labour-loyalist union was alienated by the refusal of the Government to take a single step towards re-nationalisation and the practical consequences of New Labour’s support for the “dynamic market economy”.

You can read the pamphlet or download it from here: signalfailure

It was written under a pen name because of the threat of victimisation.

“What Future for Council Housing?” now available

March 24, 2015

Ken Loach

“Martin Wicks has written a valuable account of a grassroots campaign from the inside, but the book is more than that. It deals comprehensively with questions that arise when discussing housing and makes a convincing case for our being able to find answers collectively and democratically. This is essential reading for campaigners”

What Future for Council Housing?

Council housing and the housing crisis

A book by Martin Wicks

There is much debate about the acute housing crisis in Britain though it is mostly the voices of housing professionals and academics that are heard, not to mention government ministers who know little about housing. This book is written by a Council tenant and reflects the work and the ideas of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group which was instrumental is helping to defeat an attempt to sell-off Swindon’s more than 10,000 Council homes.

The book records the campaign against ‘transfer’ and the work of the Group in challenging coalition government policy. It looks at the crisis through the prism of the housing situation in Swindon: the decline of home ownership, the rapid rise of the private rented sector and the shortage of Council homes.

It offers a contribution to the debate about the roots of the crisis and how it can be resolved.

Council housing was a collective solution to a social problem created by the failure of ‘the market’. The profiteering private builder gave us ‘jerry built’ homes and the ubiquitous slums. Council housing was a liberation for people who lived in ‘rooms’ and over-crowded housing. It gave them better quality homes than most people in the private rented sector had.

The book offers evidence that the housing crisis cannot be resolved without a return to large scale Council house building once again. So long as housing remains dominated by commodity production then the shortage of genuinely affordable homes for rent and sale will drag on and the rising generations will to be forced to continue to live with their parents or in over-priced private rented accommodation with no security of tenure.

Britain is at a cross-roads where a question mark hangs over the future of Council housing as more and more of the homes are sold off. Yet another path can be chosen to halt the haemorrhaging of stock and to begin building Council housing on a scale large enough to address what is a crying social need.

Price £5 per copy, £7 including packaging and postage

For the price of multiple copies please email or ring 07786394593

Please send a cheque made out to Martin Wicks, c/o The Shop (Resource Centre), Cavendish Square, Swindon SN3 2LZ

Fantasy Island

March 23, 2015

Fantasy Island

George Osborne’s Budget speech reminded me of the old saying, an empty vessel makes the most noise. He was talking about a fantasy island of his own imagining far removed from the real country in which all the victims of his austerity programme live. True, as journalist Paul Mason said, faced with the consequences of his own projections, he blinked. Without explanation his Autumn Budget projected surplus for 2019-20 was cut from £23 billion to £7 billion. However, he has merely increased the punishment planned in the early years of the next Parliament.

The Office of Budget Responsibility called these plans “a roller-coaster profile for public service spending” which would mean “a much sharper squeeze on real spending than anything seen over the last five years”. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies the cuts in 2016-17 and 2017-18 will be “twice the size of any year’s cuts over this Parliament”. Read the rest of this entry »


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