Posts Tagged ‘system change’

We Need A New Party

Friday, April 29th, 2022

We Need A New Party: If you spend any time thinking about politics in the UK you are likely now to be feeling pretty depressed. We don’t really just need a new party, we need a new system and particularly a new system of voting. First past the post is long past its use-by date.

We Need A New Party
Class War arrive at Buckingham Palace for their 2015 manifesto launch

First past the post (FPTP) was designed to give stable government and also to provide a firm bond between the voters in their constituencies and parliament via their MP. But that is a bond which has in many areas been broken by the actions of the two main parties, particularly in the imposition of party candidates against local opinion. But FPTP has also led to the development of a political class whose experience, aims and interests are often very different to those of the people they supposedly represent.

We Need A New Party - Adam Clifford
Westminster candidate Adam Clifford speaks in front of Buckingham Palace gates

Our geographical constituencies also lead to inequalities in the representation of voters, some simply a matter of the ways that populations have grown up around centres of employment, but also the party influences on the drawing of boundaries.

We’ve also seen, particularly since the 1970s, a central government that has increasingly hobbled the activities of local government, with some disastrous effects, particularly over the provision of social housing. The abolition of the GLC was perhaps the most public expression of Westminster’s disdain. Devolution in recent years has done something to reverse this, though not in the English regions, and the introduction of directly elected mayors has largely been ineffectual (and sometimes poisonous.)

We Need A New Party - Ian Bone
Ian Bone of Class War

Attempts to form new parties to challenge the rule of Conservative and Labour have been largely unsuccessful, as although the Green Party may have achieved 2.7% of the vote in the 2019 it only ended up with one MP, rather than the 17 an equal election system would have given. There have been many proposals for a better voting system and some which better retain the link between the the elected representative and a local area. But perhaps we need to go further, taking steps that remove the idea of a political class. We should get the continuity of government that we need from a professional and non-political civil service, not from representatives who feel they have a right to continue in office year after year until they become senile.

Labour did offer the electorate a choice in both 2017 and 2019 – and came close to winning in 2017, defeated largely by the actions of party officials and right-wing Labour MPs. Since then the party has lost much of its membership income and has moved towards being a party financed by wealthy individuals, losing much of its connections with the grass roots. It seems to be aiming at becoming a Tory clone in order to win back voters who deserted it over Brexit in 2019.

Perhaps a new party will emerge from those Labour grass roots and others on the left for our next election, and there are some areas where it could become popular, particularly if Labour put up candidates in opposition to currently serving left Labour MPs as seems likely. But it seems unlikely to gain the kind of support that would allow it to challenge the system.

Possibly if Labour continue on their current dysfunctional path they will create a new ‘Livingstone moment’ by de-selecting their former leader. It might just shake him out of his life-long dedication to the party enough to stand under a new label, and given his popularity and record as a constituency MP he would almost certainly win. It could be the spark which ignites a new politics nationwide.

A new party won’t of course be Class War, who became a political party for the 2015 general election, standing in seven constituencies. As I wrote, “None expected to get many votes, but it was an opportunity to generate some interest in working class attitudes and issues. And Class War and its candidates and policies certainly attracted far more media attention than the various small left wing groups who stood candidates.”

Class War had a manifesto, with six simple points:

  • Double Dole,
  • Double Pension,
  • Double Other Benefits,
  • 50% Mansion Tax,
  • Abolish the Monarchy,
  • Abolish all Public Schools.

UK benefits are mean, and state pensions probably the lowest in Europe, so calling for massive rises makes a lot of sense. And if you want to tackle the class system in the UK then abolishing the monarchy and public schools is certainly a good start. The mansion tax may seem a little excessive, but what we really need is a land tax, though perhaps at a rather lower level. But somehow that didn’t come to mind when the manifesto was being written on the short walk from the pub to a Poor Doors protest.

Class War – and others including the Monster Raving Loony Party, Count Binface and Lord Buckethead – at least make our general elections more interesting, adding a little fun. And I sometimes think they would have made a better job – as Lord Buckethead claimed – at negotiating Brexit than Theresa May and particularly than Boris Johnson.

The manifesto launch took place at Buckingham Palace, where Westminster candidate Adam Clifford was refused entry to canvas the 31 voters registered there, and was filmed by a team from BBC News although I don’t know if any of it was ever broadcast. The event ended when police began to take rather too much interest in what was taking place.

More pictures at Buck Palace Class War Manifesto Launch.


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Global South leads Climate March 2015

Monday, November 29th, 2021

Global Frontlines bloc banner ‘Still fighting CO2onialism – Your Climate Profits Kill’

Many groups came together for a march through London on 29th November 2015 about the need for action over global warming and climate change on the weekend before the Paris talks. It had been agreed that the march should be led by the Global Frontlines block, as the Global South is already being more affecte by climate change.

But on the day the organisers, representing the large groups including Avaaz, changed their mind. They decided to put the main march banner along with some of those in carnival animal costumes at the front of the march as they felt the Global Frontline was too radical, wanting system change not sops.

The organisers decided to put their main banner and a section of animal costumed carnivalistas in front to hide this more radical group, but not surprisingly the Global Frontlines group were not having this and moved back in front of the carnival. The organisers then sent in the private security guards they had employed to steward the march rather than relying as most other protests do on volunteers, with orders to hold back the more radical block and remove some of the more political placards and coffins that were being carried.

It was hardly surprising that this move was resisted, and the protesters stood their ground, and repelled the security guards. The organisers then called the police to try and enlist their help to move the bloc from the front of the march, but other than passing on the organisers’ request I understand they sensibly refused to try to illegally remove the block. The whole argument was a disgraceful attempt to de-politicise the event and to marginalise those facing the sharp end of climate change, and one which they successfully resisted.

The banner at the front of the Global Frontlines block – and thus march as a whole – read ‘STILL FIGHTING CO2ONIALISM YOUR CLIMATE PROFITS KILL‘ and there were others with anti-colonial messages including ‘Extractivism is Colonialism‘ and other anti-mining sentiments. Apparently what worried the more conservative charities most was the message ‘British Imperialism causes Climate Change‘ as well as two coffins naming companies BP and BHP Billiton.

The organisers held back the rest of the march to leave a longish gap between this group and the rest of the march led by the the ‘The People’s March for Climate & Jobs‘ banner which the organisers had tried to put in the lead, along with its white rabbit and giraffes. But when the Global Frontlines stopped and sat in the road for a protest close the offices of BP in St James Square, many of the more radical groups in the main march streamed past this banner to join the march up again.

It was an unfortunate dispute, and one that for many of us undermined the credentials of some of the more affluent protest groups, who many on the left suspect of being funded by corporations and governments to try to tame the environmental movement rather than effectively oppose climate change. It seems quite clear that without some drastic system change we are doomed to see business as usual taking us to extinction.

More about the march and many more pictures – giraffes and all – on My London Diary:
Global Frontlines lead Climate March
March for Climate Action Starts


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Stop Heathrow Expansion – Nov 2016

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Post COP26 and the various official reports on the climate crisis it should now be clear to everyone that we need not to increase air traffic but to drastically reduce it if we are to succeed in limiting the global temperature rise even to the highly damaging level of 1.5 degrees Celsius. But still those with large financial interests in aviation are wanting to continue with the expansion of aviation despite its contribution to ruining the world.

The environmental case against Heathrow expansion was clearly won when plans were dropped after years of campaigning against a third runway over the first decade of this century, but despite this our government was persuaded by the industry to change its policies and put the expansion back on the table.

The case against Heathrow is of course even stronger than the case against air travel and air freight generally because of the location of the airport in the west of London. It was always in the wrong place, too close to the city centre and on the wrong side, with prevailing winds meaning aircraft approached over the city and the pollution from them being blown into it. Possibly even those who planned it during WW2 realised this when they avoided any real public debate by pretending the airport was needed for military use.

John Stewart of HACAN

Back in the fifties when I grew up under the flightpath it was less of a nuisance as planes then were smaller and quieter, though we did on several occasions find small parts from them dropped in our garden but fortunately hitting nobody. But over the years noisier aircraft and more frequent landings have made things much worse – though fortunately I’ve moved to a quieter zone but still near Heathrow. The pollution is still with us, not just from the airport itself but also from the road traffic and congestion it generates in the motorways and roads around.

On Saturday 19th November I went to Richmond Green for a rally organised to support Zac Goldsmith who resigned to stand as an anti-Heathrow expansion candidate and supported by Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Teddington Action Group, SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion), Residents Against Aircraft Noise (RAAN), Chiswick Against the Third Runway and others campaigning against the noise, pollution and catastrophic climate change the third runway and expansion of aviation would cause.

Harmondsworth campaigner Neil Keveren at Richmond

It was perhaps a strange decision by Goldsmith, as both Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates who he was standing against were also strongly opposed to another Heathrow runway, and many locals, particularly members of the Lib-Dems and Green Party were still aggreived at Goldsmith having taken the seat in 2010 from one of the most active campaigners against Heathrow expansion, Susan Kramer. But Goldsmith had resigned as a matter of principle when the government reneged on earlier promises and approved construction of the third runway the month before this protest. Goldsmith lost the election by a fairly narrow margin to the Lib-Dem candidate. Both Kramer and Goldsmith now sit in the House of Lords.

On the Bath Road overlooking the airport at Sipson

It was a strange protest too, though many of the real Heathrow campaigners were there and some spoke, and I was harassed by a member of Goldsmith’s team who followed me around and tried to stand in my way while taking pictures, telling me it was a private meeting. Eventually I had to ask a police officer to speak to him and get him to stop.

Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion

I left as speakers from various West London boroughs where coming to the microphone to make clear their opposition to Heathow expansion to rush to another protest on the issue on the Bath Road overlooking the airport. This was a ‘family friendly’ rally taking place at the same time as a short distance away Rising Up activists were blocking the link from the M4 into the airport – and police stopped me from going to photograph them.

There was a large crowd of police at this peaceful and legal protest as well, although it seemed totally unnecessary; as I commented “it did seem a considerable waste of police resources, perhaps an attempt to intimidate the protesters. The police did behave in a friendly manner, though they did restrict the movement of protesters to an unnecessary extent.”

Environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy

I had already heard several of the speakers earlier at Richmond, though Goldsmith and his Conservative supporters had not travelled here but were presumably busy campaigning in Richmond.

Harmondsworth resident Neil Keveren of Stop Heathrow Expansion speaks at Heathrow

Here are the final three paragraphs of the acrount I wrote back then, still appropriate:

The main concerns of speakers were that expansion at Heathrow will cause the UK to break its own national laws to reduce emissions, as well as undermining the international climate commitments agreed in Paris, and that the new runway will devastate local communities with families losing their homes and many over a wider area suffering dangerous levels of air pollution. The construction of a new runway would create enormous problems across the area around the airport, and if completed would bring chaos to an already overstressed transport system in the whole region.

We need to totally rethink the aviation industry and evaluate the contribution it makes to our economy, and to remove its privileged status and subsidies which currently allow it to expand and pollute for the benefit of its shareholders and the convenience of rich frequent flyers. The industry greatly inflates the contribution it makes to the economy while refusing to acknowledge the many problems it creates.

Of course it isn’t something that can be looked at in isolation. We don’t just need to stop airport expansion, but to reassess much of they way we live. We need System Change if we are to avoid the disastrous effects of Climate Change.

Climate Crisis rally against Airport Expansion
Rally against Heathrow Expansion


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Youth Strike for Climate

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Youth Strike, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s protests, has injected a remarkable energy into the campaigning against what seems the inevitable climate disaster we are heading towards.

Most of those taking part in the protests on Fridays in London are taking time off from school to do so, sometimes with approval and even encouragement from teachers, but often despite threats and sanctions. Along with them are some students from FE and HE, but it does seem to be school students who are leading these protests.

And while schools may not approve, I think that many of the posters and placards show that the campaign is stimulating a great deal of activity in art departments across the area.

Of course as they say, it is their future which is at stake, their future lives that are at risk, while most politicians and those in charge of financial institutions and businesses in the rich world are likely to die before the worst effects of climate change begin to bite. Schoolkids don’t have a vote and feel that those who do are not thinking about the future of the young, and generally I think they are right.

Of course we are a part of the rich on this planet (despite homelessness and the other avoidable aspects of our increasing inequality); people in parts of the majority world are already in some places dying because of the effects of global heating, while here in the richer countries we are still ruled by smug wealth keeping getting richer with business as usual, and climate deniers who reject the science.

Theirs is a generation already feeling cheated by Brexit (whether we get either the current bad deal or a no deal) and by government cuts and longer term policies that have removed funding from education.

Protests like this one, and those by Extinction Rebellion, do have some effect in raising awareness and combating the lies still too frequent in the media. More people are beginning to think about how their own personal choices – over food, holiday travel and more – effect the environment but there still needs to be far more, not just at the personal level but also a giant cultural shift as well as political actions both here and across the world. We need as some of the posters and placards state, ‘System Change not Climate Change.’

More about the actual protest at Youth Strike for Climate.


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Big School Strike for the Future

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

School students can see clearly the threat that faces the planet – especially with some predictions that human life will be extinct on Earth before they reach middle age. I’ve never expected to be still alive in 2050, though it’s just about possible, but these people clearly should be – but quite likely won’t if we continue “business as usual“.

But its also good to be with them and to feel the energy they have, and the enthusiasm they show. As well as in the actions on the day it comes out too in the many placards. There are some mass produced from the usual culprits, Socialist Worker and the Socialist Party, but even the SWP have produced a decent one for the cause, with a nice Wave and the message ‘System Change Not Climate Change’. But clearly there are many schools where the art department is full of people making their placards.

We clearly are at a point where we need drastic change, and are unfortunately stuck with dinosaurs in charge, fiddling about with Brexit and internal party politics (both Tory and Labour) while the planet almost literally burns.

We won’t of course go on like this. It’s a simple choice, change or die, and one that has become far more critical since I first got up in front of a microphone almost 50 years ago and said we can’t go on like this. We now know much more in detail about what is going on.

Police tried to stop the protesters at the end of the Mall, but while a crowd gathered in front of their line, others coming up behind simply swarmed around the sides and ran across the grass to get to the Victoria Monument in front of Buckingham Palace.

The police gave up and the others came through to gather around the monument, and their were speeches from several of the protesters to a tightly packed crowd – and I managed to squeeze my way through to take photographs. Mostly I was so close that the fisheye became almost essential, though the one at the head of this post was made with the 18-35mm at 18mm.

After the speeches there was something of a lunch break, with people making their way along various routes back towards Parliament Square – I chose the shortest way – where some protests continued. The largest block made its way over Westminster Bridge and then turned to the east; I left them on Stamford St, deciding I’d walked far enough, but they were still going strong.

London Schools Climate Strike


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images