Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Why is it only spring in Bradford?


Respect celebrate their council gains with
an open top bus tour around Bradford.
Continuing on from the election of Geogre Galloway as MP for Bradford West in March 2012, the rise of the Respect party in the northern city of Bradford continued in May as Respect candidates took five seats on Bradford council, unseating the Labour council leader Ian Greenwood in the process.

In my previous article about George Galloway's election victory I discussed the Islamophobic reaction to his success, so I don't want to get bogged down in that issue again. Instead. I would prefer to remain focused on how Respect have broken the mold in Bradford and whether this is an isolated local phenomenon, or the beginning of a wider political revolt.

Over the three previous decades the big three parties have now all got clear and demonstrable track records of favouring the interests of the London based financial services sector over the interests of the British industries and industrial towns and cities that once made Britain the greatest industrial power in the World. Margaret Thatcher started off the process of trying to turn Britain into a pioneering post-industrial "financial services hub", converting London into the biggest financial sector casino in the World and overseeing a large decline in industrial output, a de-industrialisation process that was continued under Neo-Labour.

For the three decades that the political establishment have been prioritising the interests of the financial service sector, they have been starving Britain's industrial base of support, causing industry after industry to fall into terminal decline for the want of a bit of government support. Despite huge falls in UK manufacturing output, the governments' hands-off approach was cheered by the financial sector for obeying the neoliberal doctrine of "state intervention is evil". The whole idea was that any declines in the national balance of payments from this assault on manufacturing could be made up through increases in financial services activity.

This deliberate policy of de-industrialisation left once powerful manufacturing cities like Bradford to ruin. Neo-Labour cashed in on the traditional Labour voting habits of industrial heartlands like Bradford, that loyally returned Labour MPs and a Labour controlled council. Yet during their wasted 13 years in power Labour did virtually nothing to rejuvenate the industrial north, Scotland and South Wales. They were too busy cosying up to the money men, the city slickers and the property developers. The closest approach Bradford's Labour controlled council could muster to help for the economy of Bradford was the initiation of a gigantic city centre retail development called Broadway Shopping Centre, to be constructed by an Australian based multinational shopping centre group called Westfield.

2008 was the turning point when the deregulated financial sector gamblers at London casino suddenly realised that a huge proportion of their "winnings" were nothing more than toxic debt legacies bundled up, disguised as assets and given AAA stamps of approval by the incompetent/corrupt Credit Rating Agency oligopoly. This realisation sent the financial sector gamblers squealing to the government for bailouts, creating the revolting spectacle of a so called Labour government subsidising the hypocritical private financial sector gamblers with the biggest state subsidies in history after over a decade of turning a blind eye to the severe decline of British industry, and the losses of millions of productive jobs.

It is now quite clear that the financial services boom was illusory and that the "prosperity" of the last three decades was little more than a severe economic decline disguised with a slush fund of North Sea oil revenues, cash raised by asset stripping the state and a boom in "easy credit" backed property speculation triggered by the deregulation of the financial sector.

The failure of the Westfield development left Bradford
city centre with nothing but what the locals call "the hole".
As it stands now North Sea oil production has slowed down and there is a good chance that what is left of it will be used for the benefit of a newly independent Scotland. The state is running out of potentially profit spinning assets to hive off, it has got so serious that the police that gladly acted as Thatcher's bully boy militia during the Miners' strike are now protesting against Tory plans to privatise and outsource local police services. The mess in the financial services sector is even greater, they have absorbed hundreds of £billions in bailouts, another £325 billion through the Bank of England's barmy Quantitative Easing money printing scams and what is worse, the hard working people of the "real economy" are being made to pay off the financial sector's reckless gambling debts by the Nasty party / Lib-Dem liar Coalition in the form of "austerity".

The bursting of the unsustainable property speculation bubble and the resulting ideologically driven austerity measures have had a disproportionate effect on the post-industrial north. Bradford Council has been required to cut council spending by £129 per head of population, whilst the much more affluent area of Witney that elected Prime Minister David Cameron as their MP have only been asked to save £26 per head of population. It is quite clear that the cost of "austerity" is being pushed onto the majority of ordinary people whilst the rich just carry on getting richer.

Not only are the citizens of Bradford being made to pay an unfair price for the cost of the failure of the establishment's barmy neoliberal experiment, they also have a daily reminder of the ruinous impact of the establishment parties post-industrialisation fantasies upon their city. As they see the gigantic hole in the city centre where the abandoned Westfield retail centre was supposed to go, as they see the scores of closed mills and factories around the city and if they know any of the ever rising numbers of young people in the city that are finding themselves unemployed.

Alexis Tsipras and the left-wing Syriza block
benefited from a huge electoral surge, thanks
to their anti-austerity policies in Greece.
With track records like this across the UK from the three main parties in former industrial towns and cities like Bradford, the surprise isn't that an alternative party has won an MP and five City Councillors in a relatively small northern City. The surprise is that this tiny uprising is the extent of the rise of alternative parties in England, whilst anti-austerity parties are storming into power across the rest of Europe.

In France, the austerity supporting President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first French President since 1981 to be ousted by the electorate after only one term, to be replaced by the left-wing austerity critic Fran├žois Hollande. In Greece a host of anti-austerity parties benefited from a backlash against the "austerity loving" mainstream parties and in the Italian local elections centre-left and protest parties gave Berlusconi's PDL party an absolute hammering. Yet in Britain the parties opposed to the cosy neoliberal establishment consensus are relatively tiny phenomena of Respect in Bradford and the Green party in Brighton, who have a single Westminster MP each in a chamber of 646, a pathetic 0.3% representation for anti-austerity parties that are opposed to the cosy neoliberal consensus amongst the three dominant establishment parties.

It seems that outside of Bradford and Brighton, the English electorate have become such a bunch of servile, spineless, cap doffing, forelock tuggers, that the great majority of those that bother to vote at all, will continue to mindlessly elect the same toff dominated, corruption riddled establishment orthodox neoliberal parties that have repeatedly lied to and shafted the great majority of ordinary working people for the last three decades.
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