Home truths from abroad

I’m not allowed to vote in the local elections in Blackpool (due to moving to Hong Kong in January). And it’s probably just as well.

In my ward, Tyldesley, there’s a true Hobson’s choice. We can pick a couple of Labour candidates who we kicked out four years ago, or a couple of Tories who’ve got a profile lower than a snake’s belly (sersiouly, I once pushed their names through the archive at The Gazette and came up with one – yes, one – reference to one of them. And it wasn’t even for council business) and a list of achievements that’s as short as the membership list of the Nick Clegg appreciation society. Not even a paper Lib Dem to break up the monotony. For the first time, I’d be faced with the unedifying prospect of spoiling my ballot paper – there’s just nothing between ’em.

It’s a similar picture in much of Blackpool. The same old faces from the same old parties. The only candidates I can really vouch for are the ones I know personally. The town hall would be a better place if Jon Bamborough won in Anchorsholme and Steven Bate took Ingthorpe. And it would be a poorer place without Fred Jackson in Victoria, Jim Houldsworth in Marton (even though some people really don’t seem to like him), Lily Henderson in Highfield and Henry Mitchell in Bispham, all old stagers with a contribution that goes beyond sticking their hand up when the party whip tells ’em too.

For a fuller preview, have a look at the always excellent Philtheone blog. Phil predicts a balanced council with two Lib Dems holding the balance of power. I think a couple of independents might just muddy the water and that Labour’s youthful leader Simon Blackburn might find himself in trouble (voters in the western part of Lancashire seem to have a taste for decapitation – up in Lancaster, no sitting council leader has held their seat since 1995).

There’s an even more comprehensive look forward to the vote in Fylde, where independents are likely to prevail, on Counterbalance – just a thought, but isn’t this the kind of thing local newspapers used to do?


Left on the sidelines

There’s been a welcome return, in recent weeks, for the excellent Philtheone blog, perhaps Blackpool’s best (unless you know better).

He’s come up with some real scoops and, on a few occasions, sailed a little too close to the wind. The opinions are steadfastly right wing (albeit heavily against the current Tory leadership of Blackpool Borough Council. But occasionally Phil – and more to the point, some of his fellow contributors – come out with some real nonsense.

Where to start with this swivel-eyed, crypto-fascist nonsense?

What poster True Blackpudlian are saying is that ordinary working people do not deserve the human right to organise as they see fit. Our unions are already among the most restricted in the world. Union members have a right to vote on whether their union has a political fund or not. If the union has a political fund, members have a right to opt out of contributing to it. What more restrictions do you need? Why should the ordinary working people who make up the trades unions not have the right to have paid professionals at the top of the organisation? After all, if they don’t like them or don’t think they’re up to the job, they can always vote them out. Could it be that the reason (some) trades unions oppose the cuts is because it is not in the interests of their members for their members jobs to be slashed?

If any institution in this country needs to be democratised it is big business and pension funds. They’re supposedly run in the interests of their shareholders, yet can you get rid of or call to account the trustees of your pension fund? Are they made to hold regular conferences at which all members can have their say on policies? Are they hecker’s like. So billions upon billions of pounds ‘belonging’ to ordinary working people is ‘managed’ by a tiny cabal of very wealthy people in shady corners of the City of London, based on whatever ‘relationship’ is ‘bought’ by this powerful yet shadowy elite.

And while we’re at it, how about shedding a little more light on other organisations which play a role in our political process yet fail to follow even the most basic rules of transparency, never mind democracy. Who pays for the Taxdodgers’ Alliance? Who elected its leaders or set it policies? While foreign-based billionaires can buy their way into the political process, ordinary working people are in a vice-like grip. And you want to make it worse. Shame on you.