Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Alternative Employment event a missed opportunity for Manchester Greens

Green leader Natalie Bennett wants to revolutionise employment by introducing a Universal Basic Income and having a shorter working week. Ms Bennett was speaking at an alternative employment event last night at The Cornerhouse in Manchester following elections which saw her party growing their share of EU and council seats in the UK.

Natalie Bennett's input into the conversation was well informed and to the point, but a distinct lack of fanfare and cameras shows the publicity problems the Green Party is facing.  It's possibly a less cynical way of doing politics, but it does not win elections.

The discussion, organised by anti-capitalist group Plan C, centred around three questions:
1. What does the future of work look like currently?
2. What would you like the future of work to look like?
3. How can we organise and what interventions can we make in order to create the future of work that we want to see?

The leader of the Green Party in England and Wales told the audience that a universal basic income is something her party aims towards, but admits that there are political limitations her party has to work within, highlighting the need first of all to “first make minimum wage a living wage.”

Academic Nick Srnicek, who was also on the panel, agreed with these political aspirations but said they would have to be worked on over years.

Mr Srnicek thinks that a Universal Basic Income, an income based on need not ability, could be a solution to problems such as wage stagnation, job precariety and underemployment. He also sees it as a “leverage for class power” as it increases the value of work. This is a point Ms Bennett was able to develop: “The nature of the payscale will change. For example, a sewer cleaner would be paid more than a banker, because it's a job that less people would be willing to do.”

Panelists agreed that a shorter working week is also a necessity, with Natalie Bennett highlighting issues around childcare that could be easily resolved with a shorter working week.

When challenged on how a UBI and shorter working week could be financed Nick Srnicek suggested that the money could be found somehow. Natalie Bennett said it's hard for economists to work out what would happen because it's hard to predict how people will behave, however she did point out that UBI had had atransformative effect in some developing countries where it doesn't cost a lot to finance.

Natalie Bennett outlined her party's positions on employment very well, and the political realities of the modern world, but the Greens failed to generate publicity around the event and to really drive their message home. It might be fair to say she was being respectful to the debate in not using it to score points politically, but in reality her party need to take those opportunities to do that.

There seemed to be a fairly broad consensus in the room, both with the audience and the panel.  The event was well attended, well organised and the audience had plenty of opportunities to input ideas.  "A Future that Doesn't Work" was organised by Plan C MCR.  The podcast will be available on their website soon.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Will lower turnout affect EU elections?

On the 22nd of May 2015 voters in the North West of England will take to the polls to elect eight people to fight on their behalf at the European Parliament. But just how many will actually come out to vote?
The big question everyone seems to be asking is similar to that of years gone by: should we in the UK stay in Europe, or should we leave? The main difference this time round has been the addition of two television debates headed up by pro-EU Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and charismatic anti-EU UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
The United Kingdom has historically had a low turnout at in European elections. The last election in 2009 saw a UK turnout of 34.5%, however the North West of England, and Manchester and Salford Council areas in particular have been particularly low, even compared to the rest of the UK.

Online Graphing

English Democrat candidate Steve Morris thinks this is due to a rejection of the established parties. He describes his party as a civic nationalist party, who wants England to be removed from the political EU, but appreciates how we benefit from other European countries as neighbours and trading partners.

The English Democrats want to get out of Europe altogether, but the Conservatives on the other hand want to reform Europe altogether. Syed Kamall MEP, Leader of Conservative MEPs in Europe, said the Conservative Party would guarantee a referendum on Europe if they won the next General Election. Last week he was in Manchester, trying to drum up support for his party’s candidates here.

Syed Kamall may be right in saying the big battle is between the Conservatives and Labour. In the North West in 2009, the Conservatives and Labour polled first and second sharing 25.6% and 20.4% of the total votes cast respectively. This meant the Tories won 3 seats, Labour won 2. UKIP, the Lib Dems and the BNP won 1 seat each.
However Syed Kamall may also be wrong. His party is unpopular in the UK at the moment, after almost three years of cuts and the recent expenses scandal involving Tory MP Maria Miller, and the polls reflect this. estimates that the Conservatives will slip nationally from the party with the most European candidates, currently 26, to the party in third place with 18 seats. They estimate UKIP will rise from their base of 13 seats to the UK’s second biggest European party with 20 seats.

These polls were carried out before the second Nigel Farage vs Nick Clegg debate and some think that Farage’s dominance in that debate will give UKIP an even bigger jump with some commentators predicting that UKIP will become the biggest UK party in Europe.
The television debates will only have added to Nick Clegg’s anxieties. The Deputy Prime Minister’s party has suffered from being the junior partner in an unpopular coalition government. They are likely to come out of the European elections considerably scarred with polls showing they may only return two seats.
The Electoral Commission are running an awareness campaign to encourage people to register to vote by the 6th of May, but have said that’s as far as they go, it’s up to the parties to motivate people to actually cast their vote.
Salford City Council doesn’t have time to deal with students, but a spokesperson urged everyone to come out and have their say in the election.