George Galloway: The fight is on

Labour is soft on the bankers. The Tories are the bankers.

So it’s not surprising that each of them is planning massive cuts to public services if they win the next election. The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, promises cuts that will be “deeper and tougher” than those carried out by Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s.

Those cuts, we should remember, led to city after city in Britain becoming industrial ghost-towns, as millions were thrown on the scrap heap of the dole. Meanwhile from Toxteth to St Pauls, Brixton to Handsworth our inner cities burned as riots erupted out of anger and frustration.

So we have Labour’s manifesto in a nutshell. ‘A future fair for all’ translates as vote for us and we’ll deliver cuts deeper and tougher than the axe woman herself.

And the Tories promise the same – only they won’t wait a few weeks before they get cutting but will begin joyfully wielding the axe on day one.

My Tory opponent in Poplar and Limehouse sums up everything about David Cameron’s old Etonian Tory party. He’s a banker who’s taken time out to try his hand at becoming MP for one of the poorest constituencies in Britain. There’s a huge housing crisis in east London, with 23,000 people on the waiting list while only one in five of new homes is affordable.

There’s no crisis for the Tories or their candidate. He owns three properties in the constituency.

Labour poured tens of billions of pounds into the banks. But it’s left them in private hands, even though the public now have decisive ownership of many of them. That means the scandal of even more bankers’ bonuses while working people fear for their jobs, their homes and their futures.

Now all the establishment parties are dancing to the bankers’ tune. Their plans for slashing spending threaten to plunge us back into an even deeper recession and are based on economic illiteracy.

The deficit in Britain is not exceptionally high by historical standards. And the way to reduce it is through investment, not cutbacks which will leave more people out of work and less spending, which both result in less money paid in tax and a HIGHER deficit.

Britain’s deficit was higher throughout much of the nineteenth century, when it expanded to be the workshop of the world. It was much higher in 1945, when the country was devastated after six years of war, and in every year through to the 1960s.

Yet this was the time when real Labour policies led to the creation of the National Health Service and the building of 200,000 council houses a year. Millions of people who had endured slum conditions in the 1930s moved into decent housing for the first time.

The collapse of the free-market policies the Tories and then New Labour have followed over the last 30 years should be a time for radical change in how we run our society. Instead, the establishment parties want to get back to the greed is good years as quickly as possible.

In these elections, local and national, Respect is arguing for something different. And we stand a chance of winning more seats in parliament and local councils, where we can make those policies a part of the political picture, as we have in east London and Birmingham over the last five years.

With the possibility of a parliament where no party has an overall majority, Respect’s presence could prove critical. If just three Respect MPs are returned from our strongest areas, we will have an impact way beyond our numbers.

Respect will never prop up a Tory government. A Respect vote is the clearest possible way to stop the Tories and their policies, so many of which are shared by Labour.

And we have minimum conditions for helping to keep any other government in office.

Respect is demanding a massive programme of council house building to solve the housing crisis. Construction is also one of the best ways of creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

Across the industrialised world, it is those economies that have invested that have escaped the worst of the recession. The Chinese economy has increased investment by 7 percent of its total output and is growing strongly. In Britain, investment has fallen by 1 percent and we are teetering on the brink of renewed recession.

Much of the Chinese investment has gone into less polluting technologies. In Britain, this government has allowed the only manufacturer of wind turbines in the country to close.

Investment in cleaner energy, well insulated modern homes and cheap public transport could produce a million green jobs.

We will also insist on setting an early date for withdrawing British troops from the bloody and pointless war in Afghanistan that Tony Blair plunged us into.

There’s one area where we could and should save billions. Replacing the Trident nuclear missile system will cost £96 billion. We’ve spent £8.5 billion on the Iraq war and £12.5 billion on the Afghanistan war. The cost of these wars is now running at £4.5 billion a year.

That’s all money that could go into schools, hospitals, universities and homes.

Respect has a track record of fighting for these policies. In local government in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets, we’ve successfully defended public housing, championed the concerns of local residents and fought to keep open services.

As we’ve done so, we’ve brought people together across our diverse communities against those who would seek to divide us one from another.

Can we make a difference nationally? That depends on you. Every success for Respect at the next election will puncture the complacency of the establishment parties and force the demand for change into the political debate.

One thing’s just as sure. A vote for the parties of cuts would be an invitation for them to come and take a hospital, school, university or nursery in your area.

Respect will work with all those who want to defend living standards and services against those who want to make working people pay for an economic mess that is not of their making.

If you want to bring some fairness to a grotesquely unequal Britain and to change the political system that has become so discredited, then helping to get Respect elected will be a major step in that direction.
George Galloway is the Respect Party parliamentary candidate for Poplar and Limehouse in east London.