Sunday, 2 May 2010

A fight for the left in Darling's back yard

Article published in the Morning Star on 28 April 2010.

Edinburgh South West, currently held by Chancellor Alistair Darling, looks like 'Labour's Britain in microcosm.'
The constituency was created under boundary changes with his old Edinburgh Central seat being fused together with that of Edinburgh Pentlands represented by Tory top dog Malcolm Rifkind.
Some of the most affluent suburbs in the city are in this seat. People in Colinton, Craiglockhart, Juniper Green and Baberton have done very well indeed out of New Labour. Typically these areas contain large suburban houses in heavily manicured grounds with two cars in the driveway usually a Mercedes, BMW or Porsche.
At the heart of this wealth is the fact that Edinburgh is Europe's 5th biggest financial centre after London, Paris, Frankfurt and Milan. More than £3 trillion worth of equity is under management here.
Those who benefit from this 'management' may not be natural Labour voters but they have been well looked after by Alistair Darling’s government. Edinburgh is now Britain's second richest city after London. Quite an achievement for one with a population of only 440,000.
Of course the vast majority of the electorate don’t inhabit that world. Life expectancy in working class areas like Wester Hailes, Oxgangs, Broomhouse, Sighthill, Parkhead, Stenhouse, Gorgie, Dalry, Fountainbridge and Clovenstone is ten years less for males than it is in the wealthier neighbouring suburbs.
For them this election offers a grim choice of spending cuts and sackings or spending cuts and sackings with the only questions being how soon will they come and who will implement them.
Unemployment in Edinburgh South West has doubled in the last year. At 5.9% its not the highest in Scotland by any means. On the other hand Edinburgh had a chronic labour shortage for most of the past decade.
Employment in the public sector—the local council, NHS,civil service and the Royal Mail—is vital to working class communities and independent figures show that, on any likely outcome after May 6th, a 100,000 public sector jobs would be at risk in Scotland from cuts.
That’s why the SSP has opposition to cuts at the centre of our campaign. We challenge the pro business and anti public sector agenda of Alistair Darling.
Nor can the supposed alternative of Liberal Democrats and SNP offer much to working class voters.
The SNP/Liberal Democrat Council has announced £80m of spending cuts this year and has targeted a number of community facilities in the working class districts of Edinburgh South West for closure including Longstone After School Club, Colinton Mains Community Centre, Gorgie Memorial Hall, Sighthill Community Centre and the 'Platform' Adult Learning Project in Wester Hailes. Needless to say people in these areas are disinclined to vote SNP or Liberal Democrat – Nick Clegg or no Nick Clegg.
Labour Councillors who turn up at protest meetings offering support are invariably treated with suspicion since they ran the Council until 2007 and have a record of cuts as bad as anyone.
The constituency also contains the city's two army barracks Redford and Dreghorn. Hundreds of military families live in nearby accommodation. Afghanistan therefore remains a huge issue. And in two important regards; first hundreds of young boys are recruited from working class communities into the army and second military personnel themselves frequently approach SSP campaigners on Princes Street to sign our petition for withdrawing the troops. This suggests the recent Independent on Sunday poll which found 77% of people believe the war to be unwinnable and want the troops brought home tallies with our daily experience on the doorstep and city centre stalls.
In contesting this election therefore we are highlighting the need for an alternative to cuts, sackings and warmongering. Our alternative puts the people and the planet before profits and bonuses for bankers and not just in this election but in the battles which will surely follow May 6th.
Specifically we are highlighting the urgent need to unite trade unionists, communities, campaign groups and service users in opposition to cuts which will be worse than those Thatcher implemented in the 1980's.
Elections, including those on May 6th and for next year’s Scottish Parliament, can play an important part in this process of unification but for the Scottish Socialist Party a mass movement of resistance needs to be built around this issue. That was why our recent national conference called for such a movement with delegates recalling how, 20 years ago, a similar movement defeated the poll tax.
Faced with attacks to vital public services we in SSP will put all our resources into building such a resistance.


  1. Edinburgh really is a city of haves and have-nots, yet all we hear is "how wealthy" it is - a small consolation to the invisible majority.

    Good luck Colin; although as to who I should vote for in Edinburgh North is still to be resolved.