If you believe the propaganda department of Hackney Council, you'd think we live under the most generous and enlightened administration on the planet. Awash we are with fantastic new services. How will we ever find the time to enjoy them all or the means to thank our leaders as fullsomely as they deserve?!
What's more, it seems this is all due to the charm, vision and all-round good-bloke-ness of Mayor Jules Pipe, a man in receipt of a PR makeover that could almost make you think that directly-elected mayors are all about personalities rather than politics.
New schools! Re-opened lido! And the East London Line is coming!
Just the odd caveat:
- Many of these are simply re-openings or replacements of facilities previously closed by Hackney's Labour Council. Mossbourne Academy is on the site of the old Hackney Downs school; Petchey on the site of Kingsland School. The Labour Council closed both these schools in the teeth of opposition from students, parents, staff and the community. It closed London Fields lido in 1988!
- But many other facilities that it has closed over the years remain closed. Nurseries gone. 14 libraries cut to 7. Clissold Leisure Centre, its globally-trumpeted millenium project, still sitting like a white elephant with its doors closed.
- Several new 'public' facilities are being built with public money but then handed over into the control of private hands. The East London Line will be given to one of the dreadful private train operating companies once it is extended. Mossbourne and Petchey Academies are the playthings of Sir Clive Bourne and Sir Jack Petchey respectively (I'm sure the fact that they are both Knights of the Realm has nothing whatsoever to do with their sponsorship of Academies, the irony being that Lord 'Cashpoint' Levy attended Hackney Downs school.)
- Er, October's not the ideal time of year to open a lido, is it?<\ul>
I was attempting to explain why Labour got a decent-ish vote despite the reality of its attacks on Hackney's working-class communities. It has managed to present the results of cuts and privatisation as the opening of 'new' services. Very clever - but not very socialist.
Hackney Labour even produced a leaflet telling people that if they voted for any other party, they would get cuts and privatisation! Excellent propaganda - but deeply, deeply hypocritical.
One big reason why Labour's vote in Hackney held up compared with four years ago was that four years ago it was even worse than it is now! In 2002, it was making massive cuts, leaving it with very little left to cut in 2006.
And another is that the SWP's disastrous Respect project left Hackney with only two socialist candidates instead of the 13 Socialist Alliance candidates of 2002.
BTW, criticising the Council for further delaying the reopening of the Lido is not 'scoring points'. It is reasonable political criticism. And it is expressing the frustration of many Hackney residents at what appalling leisure facilities we have (especially swimming), resulting from the right-wing Labour administration's policies and cock-ups.
Sorry for taking a while to get round to replying.
As I understand it, HI broke off from the IWCA for basically good reasons - including, for example, supporting trade unions as against the IWCA's line that trade unions are dead.
However, both IWCA and HI seem to have succumbed to the dangers of promoting coummunity-based politics with socialism cut out of it. HI really shot itself in the foot this time when its third candidate, Arthur Shuter, nominated the Tory candidate for Mayor. It shows how far off your political bearings you can go when you base yourself entirely on community demands and drop any mention of socialism.
That said, HI's vote does not just represent people who have lost their political bearings - it also represents people who want to stand up against the Council's attacks on their community, such as ALMO, closure of leisure facilities, sale of community facilities to property developers, etc. I think that socialists should be with those people, and it is not good enough simply to urge them to vote for the Council that it attacking them just because it calls itself 'Labour'.
I think the IWCA - and split-offs like Hackney Independent - have good and bad points, and I would advocate voting for them on a case-by-case basis. But I think that those cases are becoming fewer and farther between.