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Beyond the Big three

Andy Tate



Parties such as the Green Party, the Socialists and UKIP claim they can offer a viable alternative to the big names of politics. ANDY TATE looks at their chances of success in next week's local poll and examines what they stand for

Rather than being fed up with politics altogether, perhaps British voters are simply fed up with what the three main parties have to offer.

Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats. Blue, red, yellow. Different bottles, same wine  all as bad as each other, say some.

While this conclusion leads many people to stay at home on election day, increasing numbers are embracing the smaller parties instead.

For those who want Britain to withdraw from the European Union, there is the UK Independence Party.
And for those who wish to reject parties backed by and serving the interests of business, there are the Greens and the Socialists.

In recent years, particularly since the introduction of more proportional voting systems for some elections, smaller parties have seen the share of their vote rise steadily.

Of course, the mainstream parties would consider the minor parties an irritation, siphoning important votes away to the margins of political debate.

And the downside is a handful of successes for the British National Party  but not in Swindon  with its race-driven agenda of voluntary repatriation.

But most democrats would have a hard time arguing that giving people a wider choice at the polls is anything but a good thing.

Swindon Socialists
Conventional wisdom has socialists down as high taxers and big spenders.
But Andy Newman, leader of Swindon Socialist Alliance, is calling for council tax increases to be limited to the rate of inflation.

"Council tax is an unfair tax on the poor, which hits pensioners and those on low incomes hardest," says the 43-year-old telecoms engineer from Old Town.

Instead, a socialist-led council would demand extra funding for Swindon from central government to pay for extra investment in schools, transport and affordable housing.

And if the money was not forthcoming?
"We would take a stand," says Mr Newman. "Swindon is under-funded and needs to fight for more money."
The socialists say the town has been badly let down by councillors too afraid to stand up to the government when it matters.

"We would take a different approach because socialist-run councils are prepared to break the law," he says.
Running a deficit budget by going into the red and leaving central government to pick up the bill is one possible tactic. Bussing council workers up to central London to picket the House of Commons is another.

It is not, as Mr Newman admits, a recipe for stability or the quiet life.
"We could make things very uncomfortable for the government," he says.
"But all we're demanding is as much money as Slough. It's not a socialist revolution."
Ultimately, the socialists  who include two Socialist Alliance candidates (Central, Gorse Hill & Pinehurst) and one Socialist Alternative (Moredon)  want the Government to tax the rich to pay for services for the whole community.

"A millionaire currently pays the same amount of tax as someone earning 35,000," says Mr Newman.
"We believe people earning over 60,000 should be paying 60 per cent tax."
In between battling with the government, the socialists say they would introduce bus conductors to reduce fear of crime, and invest more money in schools, while imposing a moratorium on Swindon's expansion.

If elected, the socialists have pledged to spend their 5,000 annual expenses on community campaigns.
"The socialists are standing in the tradition of what the Labour Party used to stand for," says Mr Newman. "We are real Labour."

Independent
Jim Withey is standing as an independent candidate in Shaw and Nine Elms, in protest at proposals to build Town's new football stadium on the site of the Shaw Community Forest, which is near his house.

The 61-year-old engineer from Sparcells, a former member of the Conservative Party, says: "People are so angry they are prepared to stand in front of the diggers.

"If elected I would do everything in my power to stop this stadium from being built. I don't want a football stadium staring me in the eye."


 

 

June 2004

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This article first appeared in the Swindon local press

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