Would-be Labour leader visits Hebden Bridge

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Labour leadership contender, John McDonnell MP addressed a packed public meeting at the Stubbing Wharfe in Hebden Bridge yesterday evening, with many of those present having to stand.

Among those in the audience were Alice Mahon, former MP for Halifax and actor, Tony Booth, Tony Blair's father in law.

John McDonnell needs 44 MPs to sign his nomination in order for his name to appear on the ballot slip so those present were encouraged to write to our local MP Christine McCafferty to ask for her support. At the moment, John McDonnell is the only person, other than Gordon Brown, who is likely to have the required number of nominations. If there is going to be a leadership contest, and Gordon Brown not to be the only person on the ballot slips, other MPs need to give their support.

Chaired by journalist, Susan Press the meeting was first addressed by John Rhodes, Chair of the Hebden Bridge Labour Party and Mike Wood, MP for Batley and Spen. John Rhodes gave a very effective speech (later described by Mike Wood as "brilliant") where he pointed how, after 10 years of a Labour Government, poverty and inequality had increased greatly. He oulined three areas in particular; the continued attack on local democracy (mentioning bollards and wavy steps); the privatisation of education and social care; and the attack on institutions which support working people such as social housing and occupational pensions.

Mike Wood said, "I want my party back - if there is still a party left," pointing out that membership had halved and the party was nearly bankrupt, being £20-£30 million in the red. He even wondered if the destruction of the Labour Party was "by design".

John McDonell spoke with passion, intelligence and humour. He started off by saying that he felt like was in a cult movie where his existence was in doubt, so little had his campaign been covered in the media. He even has to phone his mother to assure her that he was still around. He conceded that recently, he had been invited on to Newsnight and that Jeremy Vine seemed to like him.

He told us that much of the privatisation, which was continuing apace, didn't make the media either. There was a serious possibility, in the near future of a Securicor probation officer recommending to a judge that the prisoner be sent to a Securicor prison. The profits from those who will be running the privatised job centres will be from the money saved by putting people back to work.

Privatisation had gone way beyond anything the Tories did - "a Thatcherite wet dream".

The Trade Unions Rights Bill was recently talked out by the Government so that unions now have less rights than they did before the 1906 reforms. There was anger among European socialists at how the Blair Government was holding back reforms in Europe.

Instead of spending billions on Trident, we could have free comprehensive education, ending fees for higher education and selection in secondary education.

Taxes needn't rise. Corporation tax amounting to £90-150 billion a year is being avoided by large companies. Rupert Murdoch declares himself non-domicile and avoids paying tax.

John's campaign pledges include withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; ending privatisation; renationalisation of the railways; investment in council housing; restroration of civil liberties and trade union rights; green energy based on renewables; immediate restoration of the link between pensions and earnings.

John McDonnell said Labour was sleepwalking to defeat at the next general election because of the policies of New Labour which are almost identical to the policies of the Conservatives. The only hope was the growing grassroots campaign throughout the country to support John McDonnell's campaign to be the next Prime Minister.

More info: John4Leader

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