Tuesday 18 June 2024

My Pledge as a Workers' MP for Chorley - Stop School Cuts

Chorley voters have been writing to me to ask that I pledge support for issues that are of particular concern to them. So that they are on the record for all voters, I am posting my response on some of the key issues here on my blog:

As a secondary science teacher and NUT - now Lancashire NEU - trade union member for nearly 40 years - as well as being a former Local Secretary National Executive member of the National Union of Teachers and Regional Secretary of the National Education Union - I fully back my Union's campaign against the underfunding of our schools and colleges.

As the NEU and the 'School Cuts campaign explains explains: "70% of schools in England have less funding in real terms than in 2010. This means they can’t afford the same essential running costs they could 14 years ago. Schools in England need £12.2 billion this year to start reversing the impact of 14 years of government cuts".

The School Cuts website shows what this means for schools in the Chorley constituency - a cut of £7M in real terms since 2010/11.

As one of my fellow Lancashire NEU members put it in an email to candidates: "You can’t cut school budgets year after year without education suffering. Our class sizes in the UK are among the highest in Europe. Whole subjects are being lost to cuts, with children missing out on life-changing opportunities to study arts, sports, and music. School staff are being driven to burnout by relentless stress and sky-high workloads".

That's why I have pledged to urgently fix the school funding crisis by campaigning for:

  • Real-terms growth in funding for schools in my constituency.
  • Urgent investment to tackle the SEND funding crisis.
  • Funding to address backlog of building work required in schools.
  • All pay awards and other new initiatives to be fully funded by the government.

I also pledged support for the NEU's wider Manifesto for Education on the day it was first released, earlier this month.
As well as opposing cuts, this includes demands to end child poverty, improving pay and workload, for appropriate special needs support, and for for an engaging curriculum - which, I would add, should also include teaching about the climate crisis:

I would add that TUSC also opposes the privatisation and marketisation of state education and so I would also add, on top of the demands in the Union's Manifesto, two further demands - to oppose academisation and to return all schools and colleges into democratic local control - and to reverse the privatisation of supply cover in order to to end the rip-off of both school budgets and the agency workers who they profit from (and which I suffer from personally!).

Martin Powell-Davies, Trade Unionist and Socialist Candidate for Chorley.

Sunday 16 June 2024

My Pledge as a Workers' MP for Chorley - on Water Aid

Chorley voters have been writing to me to ask that I pledge support for issues that are of particular concern to them. So that they are on the record for all voters, I am posting my response on some of the key issues here on my blog:

The facts that WaterAid's Manifesto for Water point to - about such a basic necessity as clean water - spell out the huge - and worsening - inequality on our planet:

- 1 in 4 people still don’t have safe water.

- 1 in 2 don’t have a decent toilet where waste is safely managed.

- 2/3 of healthcare facilities in the 46 least developed countries do not have access to basic hand washing facilities.

Water Aid are therefore absolutely right to be calling on the next government's international development agenda to prioritise global access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Sadly, however, given that both main parties have made clear that they are parties that will do the bidding of big business, I fear theirr call will be lost under the financial policies that such a new government will follow.

While the representatives of the world's wealthy protect their interests, large parts of the world face social disintegration. Countries such as, for example, Madagascar are ravaged by drought. Not only lack of access to clean water but hunger, famine and destitution are affecting the neo-colonial world on a scale not experienced previously, contributing to an unprecedented migration crisis which the far-right will also seek to exploit.

If elected as MP, I will certainly speak up on this issue, and against global injustice, but I will also speak out for a more lasting solution and that, in my view, is to change the way our society is run from a capitalist one that benefits the few to a socialist one that benefits the many, one that brings into democratic public ownership the major companies and banks that dominate the economy, so that production and services can be planned to meet the needs of all and to protect the environment, not just in Britain but globally.

Martin Powell-Davies
TUSC Candidate for Chorley

My pledge to be a Workers' MP on a Worker's Wage

Most voters think that 'politicians' are, at best, out-of-touch with the problems their constituents face in paying their monthly bills. At worst, MPs are seen by many as simply careerists out to line their own pockets by doing the bidding of the wealthy and powerful. And they certainly get a very nice salary - as the graph shows:

Figures based on April 2024 salaries taken from BBC sources

We're not the same as the establishment politicians

Socialist Party members - like myself - elected as MPs for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition can show that we're not the same as the establishment politicians - because we pledge to act as a 'Workers' MP on a Worker's Wage'.

In doing so, I would simply be following the traditions of any elected trade union representative, seconded from their job to represent the members in their workplace. They don't expect to be paid more than their colleagues - they live on the same terms and conditions, face the same bills, and try and deal with the same financial pressures and problems as the people around them. 

That's exactly how I was paid when I was Secretary of Lewisham NUT from 1993 - 2015. I remained on a classroom teachers' salary, so fighting for my own pay rises at the same time as fighting for my union member colleagues' pay rises too! A workers' MP should be the same.

Not losing touch with the cost of living struggles facing Chorley voters

Too many MPs in the past have been elected with the best of intentions, only to lose touch with the problems their working-class constituents face when living comfortably on their MP's salary (which presently stands at £91,346 a year). But some MPs made sure they kept in touch - like Dave Nellist, now the National Chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, but once the Militant-supporting MP for Coventry South-East.

As Dave explains here: "When I was an MP in the 1980s, my family and I took only the average wage of a skilled worker in a unionised factory in Coventry. We weren’t isolated or insulated from the problems of the people in our city. When I complained about the cost of living, it was because it hit my family exactly the same way it hit the people I represented. And every Socialist Party member standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in this general election makes the same pledge. If elected, we would be socialist MPs living on a worker’s wage. I think that’s worth supporting. I hope you do too".

Accountable to the voters I represent

I'm happy to discuss with local trade unionists and campaign groups what the appropriate 'worker's wage' would be for me. Whatever we agreed, I would also make sure that my income -  and any expenses claims that I needed to make - were open for inspection, so that I was accountable to the voters I represent. I would also share how I was using the (not inconsiderable!) difference between the wage I was taking, and the income that I would receive officially as an MP, as a resource to help support trade union, socialist and community campaigns.

As a starting point, thanks to a supportive school in South-East London, where I was working as a secondary science teacher in Catford alongside my union duties, I was able to progress to the top of the classroom teachers' 'Upper Pay Scale' in the past. So, if working as a teacher in a school that recognised 'pay portability' for previous entitlements, I could now claim a U3 salary - which, for Chorley, would now be £46,525. However, as I have been working for the last five years as a supply teacher, usually paid beneath the statutory scales by privatised agencies even when I was in long-term posts, then the most I might be likely to earn was M6, the top of the main pay scale, with an annual equivalent salary of £38,330. That might be a more appropriate 'worker's wage'. Alternatively, my income could be based, like Dave's in the past, on the average skilled workers' salary for Chorley.

A Worker's Wage or a Speaker's Salary?

Either way, it's worth saying in conclusion that the worker's wage that I would take as an MP would only be around a quarter of what the previous MP for Chorley, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, would earn if re-elected in his role as 'Speaker'.

According to the BBC, from April 2024, the Speaker is entitled to a salary of £79,760 in addition to his salary as a Member of Parliament. That would total an annual salary of £171,106. How many Chorley voters earn anywhere near that much a year??

My Pledge as a workers' MP for Chorley - End the Housing Crisis!

Chorley voters have been writing to me to ask that I pledge support for issues that are of particular concern to them. So that they are on the record for all voters, I am posting my response on some of the key issues here, on my blog:

Action to end the housing crisis is one of the key demands of our campaign to elect a workers' MP for Chorley who speaks up for homes and health, not war and privatisation.

Let me start by making clear that I am not just a candidate who makes these pledges at election time, I am a trade unionist and socialist who is actively campaigning on these issues. 

Martin campaigning in Chorley

Martin on a successful TUSC Council Lobby over Housing

I have been campaigning with South Lakes TUSC over the housing crisis, surveying people on our campaign stall about the solutions we are putting forward. All of our solutions were widely supported - but the demand to "build enough council homes for all" got the most backing of all:

And TUSC haven't just been talking about these issues - we act on them too. 

For example, in South Lakes, our pressure has been having an effect on local decision makers. As explained in this post, we lobbied the Council over the second of these priorities - ending the scam of supposedly "affordable homes" - and I was given the opportunity to address the planning committee on behalf of TUSC. 

I put forward our case in the Council Chamber, exposing the profiteering developer and pricking councillors' consciences on genuinely affordable homes. A deferral on a planning decision was passed, despite the pressure put on the councillors by council officers.

That was only a small victory but as a workers' MP for Chorley, I would have a platform to demand far more. I would speak up for urgent action to address homelessness and the lack of genuinely affordable housing, on behalf of those without secure housing and for the many renters and mortgage holders whose rising housing costs add significantly to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Our demands include:

  • Build council homes to meet need - for a mass building programme of high standard, eco-friendly, affordable council homes to tackle the housing crisis - take over empty properties - end 'right to buy'.
  • Ban no-fault evictions, secure tenancies for all.
  • Rent control that caps the level of rent. Fair rent decisions should be made by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers and representatives of trade unions.
  • Stop the scam of “affordable” homes – rent of 80% of local market rates is not affordable.  Affordable new homes to be rented at genuinely affordable social housing rents.
  • Immediately fund remedial measures for all unsafe homes and carry out the work required to insulate homes to address the climate crisis.
  • Ensure quality homes - Introduce compulsory licensing of all landlords. Take big homebuilders into democratic public ownership to ensure quality and safety.
  • For affordable mortgages – nationalise the banks to be run under democratic workers’ control and management.
Martin Powell-Davies
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Candidate for Chorley

Saturday 15 June 2024

My pledge as a workers' MP for Chorley - cut the working week with no loss of pay

Chorley voters have been writing to me to ask that I pledge support for issues that are of particular concern to them. So that they are on the record for all voters, I am posting my response on some of the key issues here on my blog. This reply is to an email from the '4 Day Week Campaign":

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition's Core Policy platform, on which all TUSC candidates are standing, includes the following policy on Employment and Trade Union Rights: Scrap zero hour contracts.  Guaranteed hours and full employment rights for all, including migrant workers, from day one of employment; including trade union rates of pay and sickness pay, and sickness, parental and holiday rights.  Cut the working week to 32 hours with no loss of pay.

I am therefore very happy to sign your pledge "to campaign for and support legislation that will enable the transition to a four-day, 32-hour working week with no loss of pay". This is fully in line with the position of TUSC, and also of my party, the Socialist Party, one of the constituent parts of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, for which I am standing as General Election candidate for Chorley on July 4th.

As a teacher trade unionist, I have long campaigned for at least 20% non-contact time and a fixed limit for overall working hours to address the relentless workload that has driven so many teachers out of the profession for so long.

I can recall that it was not so many decades ago when science and current affairs programmes discussed how technology was going to enable the working week to be hugely shortened. Instead, we now live in a society where hours, and the intensity of those hours, have hugely worsened and many low-paid workers work more than one job in order to pay their bills. 

As the Socialist Party states in its "What We Stand For" pamphlet: 
"One hundred years ago the trade union movement was fighting for a living wage and a maximum working day of eight hours. Today the battle has to be fought again. The average working week in Britain is 41 hours, with 12% of workers slaving for more than 50 hours a week to make ends meet. Meanwhile others, including many young people, are left unemployed or trying to survive on just a few hours work. The Socialist Party stands for sharing out the work – with a maximum working week of 32 hours with no loss of pay – so that everyone has the right to full-time work on a living wage, but no one should slave every hour to make enough to live on. This – combined with a major programme of increased public services – could eliminate unemployment and underemployment".

The question, of course, is how to win the demand? I wish your '4 Day Week' campaign well in convincing more employers - like those listed on your website - to see the benefits of cutting hours without loss of pay in terms of higher productivity and reduced staff turnover. However, I fear that the drive to maximise profit will mean that the majority of employers - and governments that represent those big business interests - will continue to try and increase exploitation through making employees work longer hours for less pay. 

As a trade unionist and socialist, I believe the answer lies with organising trade union action aimed at winning your demand but also, to make such a policy permanent, building a socialist society run for the billions, instead of the billionaires. Under such a society, a plan for sharing out work for the good of all could be democratically agreed and applied in a way that will never be done under crisis-ridden capitalism.

I hope that explains the basis on which I have signed your pledge and why, if elected, I would be happy to work with you on helping to make the demand become a reality. 

Martin Powell-Davies
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Candidate for Chorley

Friday 14 June 2024

My pledge as a workers' MP for Chorley - Stop Climate Catastrophe

Chorley voters have been writing to me to ask that I pledge support for issues that are of particular concern to them. So that they are on the record for all voters, I am posting my response on some of the key issues here, on my blog:

There are fewer more pressing issues than combating climate change through stopping new oil and gas and making a rapid transition to renewable energy. The reasons for taking urgent action are scientifically unopposable - but that science now needs to be acted upon with absolute urgency.

However, for too many years, capitalist politicians have made promises about taking climate action but, in practice, have continued largely with business as usual - and with the fossil fuel companies it is a very profitable business of course.

The world requires massive investment in renewable energy and transforming industry and infrastructure. However, private ownership means giant corporations dominate the economy and they always put short-term profits first. Competition between capitalist states, and between individual capitalists, also prevents the global collaboration needed. 

That's why, in order to stop and reverse climate change and fight its effects, a global systematic change is required. Transformation on the scale needed needs global planning, investment and coordination. I believe that only a socialist society, with nationalisation of energy, and the world’s biggest banks and companies, can allow for the use of resources to be planned democratically by the working class. This is what is needed to provide tangible solutions to climate crisis, and ensure a safe and decent life for all.

The working class mustn’t be made to pay for the climate crisis that is not of their making. There needs to be a fully-funded and planned transition for oil and gas workers and the communities that depend on them, with a clear plan for investment in alternative jobs and training, a real "Green Industrial Revolution".

As a long-standing trade unionist I would want to use my role as an MP to help bring together workers, trade unions, scientific and technical experts, alongside environmental campaigners, to work out a commonly agreed transition plan with nationalisation ensuring this is enacted on the basis of urgent need - instead of the issue again being 'kicked down the road' by big business backed parties to protect the interests of the fossil fuel profiteers.

Unlike the formally 'impartial Speaker', as a workers' MP for Chorley, I would use my position to help build a mass movement demanding change, the approach which I believe is the best strategy for success.

As I explained in this article that I wrote ahead of last year's COP28 talks: "Our task is to bring together those drawn into action over climate change with those fighting back over low wages, housing, inequality and all the other failings of crumbling capitalism. A mass movement built on those forces would have the strength to force the world’s capitalist politicians to actually enact some of their climate pledges – but, above all, it would have the strength to take decision making out of their failed hands and into the hands of the workers of the world. That would at last bring about a genuine global collaboration, utilising the world’s resources for the benefit of all, not for the short-term gain of a wealthy elite who have put the future of our planet at risk".

[ See also this accompanying response on 'people and planet' ]

Martin Powell-Davies
Trade Unionist and Socialist Candidate for Chorley.

My pledge as a workers' MP for Chorley - for people and planet

Chorley voters have been writing to me to ask that I pledge support for issues that are of particular concern to them. So that they are on the record for all voters, I am posting my response on some of the key issues here, on my blog:

A good starting point to explain my position on the environment is the following article that I have just had published on the pollution of our water, rivers, seas and lakes by profiteering privatised companies : https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/125697/05-06-2024/stop-the-sewage-nationalise-under-democratic-workers-control/

In addition, one of the key areas highlighted in our campaign leaflet is the nationalisation of the water, transport and energy companies to allow planned investment in 'green jobs' to combat climate change, without short-term profit being put ahead of the long-term needs of people and planet:

I should add that such necessary and bold steps should not be held back by arguments from big business politicians that it will require excessive expenditure on 'compensating' the big corporations and shareholders. But, as I say in the article, "why should these fat cats receive a penny more? They’ve already fleeced billions out of the public purse and billpayers. Compensation should only be paid where there is a genuine proven need, for example to safeguard workers’ pension investments or small shareholders – but certainly none to the big corporations".

Investment in insulating and improving our outdated and inefficient housing stock would be a key part of such a plan. Friends of the Earth data shows how significant an issue this is for Chorley - where 50% of homes are rated EPC “D” or below,  and where there are 11 areas that FoE describes as "energy crisis hotspots" ( where incomes are below average, but bills are above average) and thousands of homes that would benefit from loft and/or cavity wall insulation.

I note that FoE also points to the growing risk impact of flooding, an issue which will become a growing problem with a warmer, wetter atmosphere and more extreme weather events. Rewilding and tree-panting can provide one important strategy to mitigate these risks. 

A sustained programme of rewilding - not to mention a rapid reduction in fossil fuel use - may, of course, require taking on powerful vested interests, at which point some politicians may waver in their determination! I can assure you that as someone with a long campaigning and trade union history, I will press for the justified demands of my constituents to be carried out.

In conclusion, my position also reflects the national platform of TUSC which is as follows:

● Prioritising major research and investment into replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power with renewable energy to achieve deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions – otherwise climate change, caused by capitalism, will destroy us.
● Nationalisation of the energy companies, under democratic control, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need, in order to invest in publicy-owned and controlled renewable and affordable energy for all. Oppose fracking.
● Move to sustainable, low-pollution industry and farming – stop the pollution that is destroying our environment. No to profit-driven GM technology.
● Produce for need, not profit, and design goods for reuse and recycling. End the use of single-use plastics.

[See also this accompanying response on climate change: https://www.mpdnut.com/2024/06/my-pledge-as-workers-mp-for-chorley_2.html]

Martin Powell-Davies
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Candidate for Chorley.