Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Socialist Party’s first North Wales District meeting

Picture: The Stilletoes performing at the Youth Fight for Jobs gig

On Sunday the 21st of June the Socialist Party’s first North Wales District meeting was held in Rhyl, a demonstration of the growing support for the party in the area as several people who do not have a local meeting to attend, came to their first party meeting. The meeting was opened by Keith Pattenden discussing the recent gains of the BNP in local and European elections and what could be done in Wales to campaign against their racist poison. He examined the reasons for their rise in votes and members over the last decade particularly looking at New Labour’s abandonment of the working class. We discussed how people without a viable alternative of a progressive party can turn in frustration to the BNP to express their anger. However, an important point was made that in this years Euro Elections the BNP vote actually dropped and they won MEPs only because many working class people didn’t vote! This showed how a new workers party is the only way to win over those people who feel utterly disillusioned with the main three parties and give them a positive place to put their vote.

The second session on building the Socialist Party in North Wales was introduced by Bangor Socialist Party branch secretary Iain Dalton. The branch in North Wales has expanded massively over the last half year with members now in several towns in Gwynedd as well as in Rhyl and Wrexham with mnay contacts even further afield, there has also been an influx of sixth form and college students over the last few months too. We reviewed our activities over the last few months from the protest against the onslaught in Gaza we organised to our recent activity around the Youth Fight For Jobs campaign, particularly emphasising the need to link this campaign with trade unionists locally. The importance of our Students Societies was highlighted too, owing too the NUS’s current unwillingness to campaign for students shown by their acceptance of fees and lack of support for UCU lecturers action against cuts was mentioned, particularly at Bangor University where cuts of 10% across all departments are being discussed.

In the week since the meeting we’ve already begun putting our plans into action with a fantastic Youth Fight for Jobs fundraising gig held near Bangor which raised over £100 as well as excellent stalls in Bangor and Colwyn Bay against the privatisation of Royal Mail where we sold record number of papers at both. We are also holding our first party meeting in Wrexham this week, which will hopefully be the beginning of a new branch building on the activity in the town over the last few months.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Titans Scrapped, But Large Prisons Still in Pipeline

An edited version of this article was published in last weeks edition of the Socialist.

The government’s flagship programme for increasing the prison population, 3 2,500 capacity Titan prisons have been scrapped and instead are to be replaced by 5 smaller 1,500 place prisons. These prisons will still be bigger than all but one of the currently existing prisons existing at the present in the UK. As government finances become tightened due to the impact of the recession, combined with the massive barrage of criticism they faced over the issue of ‘warehousing’ prisoners, the governments plan is to build 2 of the 5 immediately whilst leaving the other three prisons hanging in the area with the possibility of being scrapped.
More over, these new prisons will be privately built and run – proving that Straw and New Labour have learnt nothing from the disaster of PFI and privatisation of prisons and other public sector institutions over the past decade or so.
Yet a report in The Times (6 April) says that even before these new prisons are built twenty UK prisons already hold over 1,000 prisoners each. Colossal sums of money have been spent on prison building in the last few years.
This includes £430 million to create over 4,000 extra prison places and £2.3 billion to be spent by 2014 to create 20,000 new places including the five new 1,500 capacity jails as well as eight new prisons with a combined capacity of 5,400 alongside expansions of existing facilities.
However, the government constantly says that crime as a whole is falling and official figures back this up. So why does the prison population keep increasing, reaching a new record of 83,810 last August?
Certainly the nearly 5,000 prisoners serving (up to January 2009) indeterminate sentences for public protection have increased the figure. This is just one of many new sentences and criminal offences that the government has created over the last few years. Average sentence lengths have been creeping up over the last decade too.
But magistrates are pushing for even greater powers, doubling the length of prison sentence they can hand out up to 12 months. They claim they can deal with 18,000 more cases a year making huge savings for the Courts Service (the average cost of a crown court trial is £18,000 compared to £1,800 for a magistrates’ court trial).
The cases at present can be tried ‘either way’, by a magistrate or judge and jury – so this potentially could restrict such cases to magistrates courts only, removing the right to a jury trial. But should these unelected judges be given more powers?
As we have outlined in The Socialist before, only socialist measures using democratic methods to reduce the prison population and tackling the social issues at the root of crime as well as providing serious rehabilitation for prisoners can overcome the crisis.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Legality and the Lindsey Oil Refinery Dispute

There seems to be a trend in recent disputes of law-breaking. Of course the thing that has been highlighted in the media is that much of the action taken by workers in these dispute has been illegal. For example, Rob Williams sealing himself into his office after being sacked was technically trespassing, as was the occupations by the sacked Visteon workers. At Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) and other construction sites, the wildcat strikes are of course illegal under the anti-union laws.

Yet in most instances they have been proceeded by illegality on the part of management. The sacking of Rob Williams was illegal, all the proper procedures were simply ignored in their rush to get rid of a militant trade unionist. At Lindsey Oil Refinery the disputes have been over management breaking agreements with the trade unions (not sure whether thats technically illegal - but the principle is the same.

I think the recent disputes demonstrate the class bias within the law where it favours company management over the workers - anything illegal the management does they are able to cost out and work out whether its cheaper to break the law than to face militant resistance. Fortunately, where workers are in position to take action they can overcome some of this bias and acheive a form of justice for themselves as the case of Rob Williams shows.

I'm sure someone can probably do a better job with these thoughts!

Anyways, a few quick plugs:

Latest Socialist Party LOR leaflet http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/latest/7466
New blog based in Wrexham http://wrexhamsocialist.blogspot.com/

Monday, 22 June 2009

Defend the Sacked Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) Workers!

As people may have heard over 700 workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) have been given the sack and told to reapply for their jobs today. Below is the latest Socialist Party LOR newsletter. An older one can be found http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/latest/7464 . There is also a support group on facebook which can be found http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=233431010584#
You can also find a report from the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8111648.stm and an interview with striker John McEwan and a Total representative http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8108000/8108720.stm
Photo: Workers strike in solidarity at Aberthaw in South Wales

Lindsey Socialist Party Newletter no. 18, 22 June 2009

Supported by Keith Gibson ex LOR strike cttee, Trevor Grewar Hull Amicus/Unite branch chair, John McEwan national stewards forum, Steve Jones LOR steward (all in personal capacities)


By dismissing 647 LOR workers, Total have declared war on trade unionism and the NAECI agreement. This dispute is no longer just about 51 sacked workers, its about the future of our industry. The employers want to break the solidarity of construction workers and smash effective trade unionism so that they can get rid of the national agreement to bring in cheap labour and drive down wages to boost their profits.
We must stand united together to defeat these greedy bosses. They say they won't talk unless we return to work - that's what they said in February, but we forced them to talk. They say we should have an official ballot - but the ECIA are organising to make the ballot illegal! They say we can apply for our jobs back by 5pm today - we won't let them pick and choose. We all came out together, we'll all go back together, together with our 51 comrades.



Fiddlers Ferry
BOC Scunthorpe
South Hook
BP Saltend
West Burton

Socialist Party suggestions for taking strike forward:
  • Monday morning - burn the dismissal notices
  • Organise 24 hour picketing of Total/LOR
  • Appeal to tanker drivers and train drivers not to cross
  • Continue to send pickets out to spread strike nation-wide
  • Tuesday - mass rally outside Lindsey to be attended by workers from all sites on strike, and supporters
  • Stewards from all NAECI sites should convene after Tuesday's rally to set up an unofficial shop stewards network
  • Call for boycott and blockades of Total petrol stations
  • Contact French trade unions at Total in France for support
  • Expand the LOR shop stewards cttee into a Strike Cttee to organise - picket rotas, leaflets & placards, press & media, fundraising & hardship fund, trade union support, speakers at meetings, etc.

Messages of support

From Joe Higgins, Member of the European Parliament, The Socialist Party, Dublin , Ireland
"The threatened sacking of 900 Lindsey workers by the Total oil company is an absolute outrage.
As a newly elected MEP I will be raising your case in the European parliament. I would like to add that I will also be calling for the EU directives on 'posted workers' to be withdrawn as soon as possible because they are a licence for European companies to undermine trade union pay and conditions as part of national agreements."

"Will give support with email now, leaflet on Monday, and discussion with our management on why you have been sacked. The national trade union secretary has sent emails out to refineries in Belgium."

"Solidarity to sacked Lindsey workers. We support your cause. Union jobs for trade union members"

"Please pass on solidarity greeting to all sacked Lindsey workers from the Fire Brigades Union. Please let us know anything we can do to assist - including financial support, physical support on pickets or whatever is needed. We will circulate any such information throughout the union."

"Please pass on to your members that we in the Coventry trade union movement will be doing all we can to build support for your campaign for reinstatement."

"We'll beat these all day - we'll step it up a gear next week. I'm not giving my life, my kid's life, or my girlfriend's life up for no-one! We'll win together. We'll get a slice of the pie instead of the crumbs they want to take away from us. We will win!"
Plus dozens more...

"Unfortunately Mr.Hardacre, You are politically motivated - in bed with New Labour!"

Whilst we have had dozens of messages of support from other unions and other countries, Tommy Hardacre, our UNITE national officer, sent an email to regional officers on June 17th asking them to tell shop stewards at other sites not to support LOR's action!
We have also been told by a reliable source that he has alleged that the strike is politically motivated by a socialist party.
Why are you not just repudiating, but working actively against our strike?
Could it be that you, and your boss Derek Simpson, don't want to embarrass your New Labour government? The same New Labour government that hasn't scrapped the Tory anti-trade union laws that force us to take unofficial action. The same New Labour our union gives £millions of members' money to.
How dare you attack Socialist Party who are supporting us when you are stabbing us in the back.
Socialist Party members and supporters have been active in supporting construction workers in this industry for years.
Keith Gibson was a spokesperson for the LOR strike committee in Jan/Feb and John McEwan got a start after threatening to picket out LOR because of Total blacking him.
Our members have been at Staythorpe pickets every week and produced regular newsletters (this is No.18) providing information and making proposals on how to take the struggle forward.
The Socialist has carried weekly reports, including ones by Steve Acheson (Fiddlers Ferry) exposing the industry blacklist and Paul McDowell exposing IREM's lack of health & safety.

If you would like to find out more about the Socialist Party, and/or join us in the fightback against the bosses' system - then contact us.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Knights in Parliament and their Corruption

In my last post on this subject I posed a few suggestions of how to examine the significance of knighted mps in parliament and whether one particular party was any more corrupt than the others. So below I've started with a list of Knighted MPs

(7 Featured on Nasty Knights Blog)
Sir Michael Spicer (Con)
Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con)
Sir John Butterfill (Con)
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab)
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Con)

Sir Menzies Campbell (Lib)
Sir Peter Viggers (Con)

And the rest with any allegations against them (or at least the rest I could find)

Sir Alan Beith (Lib) (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5364659/MPs-expenses-would-be-Speaker-Sir-Alan-Beith-and-his-wife-claimed-177000.html)
Sir Peter Soulsby (Lab) (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8039273.stm#soulsby_peter)
Sir Stuart Bell (Lab) (see http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom-theme/guy-aitchison/2009/05/12/sir-stuart-bell-wrong-again-on-expenses and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8039273.stm#bell_stuart)
Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Con)
Sir Anthony Steen (Con) (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/21/mps-expenses-anthony-steen)
Sir Peter Tapsell (Con) (see http://www.louthleader.co.uk/news/Sir-Peter-Tapsell-MP39s-expenses.5325277.jp)
Sir Patrick Cormack (Con) (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8043530.stm#cormack_patrick)
Sir George Young (Con) (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8043530.stm#young_george and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5364194/MPs-expenses-Sir-George-Young-claimed-127000-on-London-flat.html)
Sir Paul Beresford (Con) (see http://www.thisissurreytoday.co.uk/ashtead/MP-denies-dental-surgery-claim/article-1009276-detail/article.html)
Sir Michael Lord (Con) (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5431758/MPs-expenses-Sir-Michael-Lord-claimed-8000-for-garden.html)
Sir John Stanley (Con) (see http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk/searching/MP-reveals-expenses/article-231597-detail/article.html)

So that puts the parties having (Total MPs for each party from UK parliament website http://www.parliament.uk/mpslordsandoffices/mps_and_lords/stateparties.cfm)

Conservatives - 13 Knights (Out of 193 MPs total = 6.7%)
Labour - 3 Knights (Out of 349 MPs total = 0.9%)
Liberal Democrats - 2 Knights (out of 63 MPs total = 3.2%)

Now the above information needs going through but one or two I think may be clean (if you call having huge salaries and then claiming a fair bit of money legitimately clean!), but certainly there are several more which can be added to the list that has featured on the Nasty Knights blog. It would be interesting to see whether knighted MPs are more likely to have dodgy expenses than 'normal' MPs too.

NB. This is a follow-on post to Knighthoods and Corruption

Monday, 15 June 2009

Billy Bragg Gig - Caernarfon 11th June 2009 - part of the Miners’ Strike Tour.

From the Socialist Party Wales website http://www.socialistpartywales.org.uk/

Review by Jan Underwood

Under the South Wales Area NUM’s banner with the words “Forward to a Socialist Britain and World Peace”, Billy Bragg treated us to a great concert and political rant, declaring that he was proud to stand in front of those words.

To kick off the evening Billy had found a young group Dan Amor from Penmachno [a feat in itself, as few in the North know where that is!!] They sang beautifully in English and Welsh about various struggles and life in North Wales. Their rebelliousness mostly amounted to different coloured shoelaces, and their sweet harmonies would only contrast Billy’s gruff – however, it was great to see Billy backing local youth.

A hard-line political poet, Patrick Jones from South Wales followed. He really set the scene, staring with an anti-BNP poem. Other poems were daringly anti-organised religions and pro-female. He finished the set with a tribute to Aneurin Bevan and his vision of the NHS ‘free at the point of entry’ ideals, ‘The Healing House’, set to music by Billy.

On to Billy’s cracking start with ‘The Sound of Ideology Crashing’ – no prizes for guessing the topical subject! He continued with several rare Woodie Guthrie songs, arising from a collaboration with Woodie’s daughter, which could have been written today, such that we are still in the same political mess! Onward with many more political rants which included ‘Oh Freedom’, ‘From Red to Blue’, ‘Which Side Are You On?’ and ‘All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose’. He interspersed ‘I keep Faith’ and ‘There is Power in The Union’ with a call to action. He defined his use of the word ‘faith’, stating: “Faith is international solidarity – there is power in the Union”, linking these two great songs brilliantly.

Whether you love him or hate him, he is a man of action, working constantly at grass-roots level. He even found an opportunity to raise funds for his charity ‘Jail Guitar Doors’ keeping all his fans happy with original signed pictures. He didn’t stop until he had spoken to everyone who wanted a chat and an autograph, which was well after midnight.

The Bangor Socialist Party also had a great night, selling 15 papers, two copies of Socialism Today as well as various books and pamphlets – including a paper and our bilingual pamphlet “The Great North Wales Quarry Strikes” to Billy himself! Countless ‘Youth Fight for Jobs’ leaflets went home with many at the gig. The good feeling spread over to donations on the night (£10), and the following day at a Socialist stall in Bangor, where £15 was raised. If this is his influence, he is very welcome to come again!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

VICTORY AT LINAMAR! Rob Williams reinstated

From the Socialist Party website

100% Victory! Rob Williams has been unconditionally reinstated as convener at the former Visteon / Fords car parts factory from tomorrow!
Rob and all the Linamar workers want to thank everyone for their solidarity. There will be a victory event in the near future.
Rob Williams was summarily sacked from Linamar for being uncooperative with managment.
See Action to defend union rights and Rob Williams dispute at Linamar: management given notice of strike for background information to the dispute.
This means that the demonstration on Saturday will not be going ahead.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Election Results: Round-up and a little bit of Analysis

Where to begin....

Well I think the thing that has stuck in the mind of most on the left in Britain has been the election of 2 BNP MEP's in the North West (Nick Griffin) and Yorkshire and the Humberside (some bloke I can't remember the name of but he had been chair of the National Front). Yet they did this on the back of a lower vote in those regions than they received in 2004.
And this points us to the startling feature of these elections - the collapse in the vote for Labour - nationally they were down 7% to 15.7% behind both the Tories and UKIP. Indeed the Tories actually topped the poll in Wales!
But the collapse in Labour's vote wasn't to do with Labour voters switching to other major parties like the Tories and the Liberals - they simply weren't coming out to vote and many of them won't come out to vote Labour again - such is the stink over the last few weeks, particularly from the expenses scandal, but the economic model they presided over has collapsed and in a similar way to what appears to have happened in Germany and France, they don't really have an alternative to it.
What this result has done, I think, is exposed that the strategy of relying on turnout, of saying don't vote BNP doesn't work. What we must do is put forward a positive alternative - and give workers a political voice that represents their interests and seeks to rectify their grievances.
And this is where I feel No2EU - Yes to Democracy comes in. Okay so the name was a bit crap, the platform was vague and limited and it achieved a small (but marginally better than what I personally expected) 1.01% of the vote nationally coming behind the SLP, but I still stand by the decision of the Socialist Party congress to take part in the coalition.
For one thing it meant that the RMT union has stood candidates in an election against the Labour Party and signs are that it will do the same in a general election, which I think will help hasten other unions to do the same. Also it meant that Socialist Party members were taking part in elections everywhere in the country - not just targetting a few specific wards or constituencies - which I believe meant people were more willing to take our material and read it. Which is especially good considering we published our own material, of course supporting No2EU but also, emphasising the points we felt were most important and allowing us to go beyond the limited No2EU platform. In North Wales this has meant we have been able to gain contacts in the last two months outside areas we are currently organised in (and in North Wales organised can be a little loosely applied due to the shear geography of the area). Take a look at the report that Socialist Party members and sympathisers in Wrexham have written http://www.socialistpartywales.org.uk/news/2009-06/8-wrexham-stall-report.html and this is an area where we didn't have any members til very, very recently.
I am reliably informed that the total left vote (that is of No2EU, SLP, SSP & SPGB) was 340,805 which is 2.25% which apparently is the highest left vote in European elections on a UK wide scale. This needs to be built upon with a challenge in the general election when it gets called and the organising of that challenge needs to be done now.
Which brings me onto the Greens. Their vote was the most increased in the election up some 2% or so, despite them not getting any new MEPs elected (they retain their current 2). Given they came close to beating the BNP in the North West should No2EU not have stood?
I don't think so - for a start I would argue that there are many working class people who probably wouldn't have voted Greens who did vote No2EU. More fundamentally however, is that simply backing the Greens would have put off the task for another election of trying to build an independent political voice for workers - and much as socialists and the Green Left within it may want the Green Party to become that, I don't think it can or will. However, I would welcome collaboration between the Greens and a new workers party (certainly when neither can contest all the seats in an area), but the key point is that that party needs building immediately otherwise working class votes will keep going to the far right as a protest and potentially worse.

Rest of Europe

By far the best result of the elections for me was the news that the Socialist Party's (CWI Irleand) Joe Higgins had been elected as an MEP in Ireland as well as winning 6 council seats in the elections.
But also SYRIZA in Greece got 4.7% and one MEP and the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Block) got 10% of the vote (not sure how many MEPs this translates to). I have to say though I'm finding it hard to find out the results for various groups in Europe so any comments people can leave to help would be appreciated. But the general gist is that in Europe the left (and I mean the actual left) has gained slightly.


Also released today were the election results for the UNISON NEC with 6 Socialist Party members elected onto the UNISON NEC - Roger Bannister (North West), Glenn Kelly (Local Government) and Jean Thorpe (East Midlands) retained their seats. They have been joined by April Ashley (Black Members), Vicky Perrin (Yorkshire and Humberside), and Hannah Walter (Northern) - however several other on the left have lost their seats.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Knighthoods and Corruption

Okay, so I'm late posting about all the expenses stuff - criminal!

Well it should be, I'm not the first one to point out the comparison between the treatment of MPs who get to keep their gains with the minor punishment of resigning their seats and experiencing public shame to that of people struggling to get by on benefits who face possible imprisonment. If anything surely the punishment should be high for MP's who have both stolen more and are public figures who should be more accountable. Obviously, within the Socialist Party we have a policy of workers MPs on workers wages and expenses open to inspection which I think would be a damned good way of stopping this. But this isn't what I wanted to blog about today.

In the last few months a rather interesting website, Nasty Knights, has been set up after one of the authors of the Bent Society blog noticed that several knights (sir) had been involved in somewhat dodgy dealings. But over the last two weeks or so the blog has been inundated with posts as the expenses scandal broke and knighted MPs were up to their necks in it. So far the blog has chronicled 7 Sir MPs, they are
Sir Michael Spicer (Con)
Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con)
Sir John Butterfill (Con)
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab)
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Con)
Sir Menzies (Ming) Campbell (Lib)
Sir Peter Viggers (Con)
Personally, I think studying corruption and knighthoods is actually a farily interesting idea - especially seeing as it seems to be so common. I do have some suggestions to move this forwards though, especially with regards to knighted MPs.
Firstly, of the 7 presented above, 5 are Conservatives - does this mean that Tory knights are more corrupt or that only these have been highlighted? Also is the scale or type of claim important as regards to the party?
Secondly, how many more are there? What proportion of all the knights in parliament are they? And just how many knights are there in parliament anyway?
I think looking at these questions may help us get a decent picture of the extent of corrupt knights in parliament and help in getting some sort of baseline to study other areas of knighthood and corruption.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Money can't buy love . . . or Joe either

I've republished this here beacues I though ti was fairly interesting, hope you readers agree. This is taken from the Irish Times website - http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0602/1224247881156.html

On the canvass with Joe Higgins :The candidate is no grip ‘n’ grinner, in fact he prefers his presence to speak for itself, writes KATHY SHERIDAN

FOR ANYONE who has suffered near asphyxiation in the galloping grip ’n’ grin of a Bertie-style canvass, Joe Higgins is a worrying spectacle.
He answers his own phone and has no lackeys to do his bidding or set up media opportunities. He does it all himself. He decides where to locate, helps set up a trestle table with a couple of activists and then he sort of loiters around the St Stephen’s Green entrance with a pile of “Punish Fianna Fáil and the Greens” leaflets.
Most of the passersby in their shorts and singlets are firmly focused on the women’s marathon and have nowhere to stuff a leaflet anyway. All in all, it has the makings of a calamity of a canvass.
Joe Higgins is no grip ‘n’ grinner. The notion appears to repel him. “Politicians go round grabbing people’s hands and imposing themselves on reluctant bystanders,” he says with droll distaste. Furthermore, “babies also have a civil right not to be kissed by every passing politician”.
He likes to let his presence speak for itself. “You let people who wish to engage with you come and talk to you.” All very live and let live, until you spot the slogan – “The best fighter money can’t buy” – on the huge Higgins poster being shifted close to a trader’s cowboy hat and shades stall. “Lads, lads, don’t, you’ll alienate those people there,” he implores, demonstrating precisely where his sympathies lie.
It’s obvious that no fat-cat slush funds have gone into producing the flat, dated black and white posters. The party has budgeted €28,000 for the entire local (with 11 candidates) and European election campaign. Since he lost his Dáil seat, the 60-year-old former school teacher has been surviving on the “small pension” from his 10 year Dáil tenure, supplemented by the fee for his Daily Mail column.
He lives on less than the average industrial wage, he says, and his mortgage – taken out in 1995 – has another six years to run. MEP pay should be something akin to the average industrial wage, he reckons, and if elected, he vows to be a “workers’ MEP on a worker’s wage”.
The fact that the last Irish Times /TNSmrbi poll puts him on “level pegging with the main right-wing candidate in the country” for the last MEP seat in Dublin, doesn’t appear to have induced any lather of excitement, possibly because where he really wants to be is in the Dáil. “I’m committed to going back to the Dáil in three years time . . . ” he says, offering no apology for it.
“Fianna Fáil has three TDs who are standing for Europe . . . I don’t see a Chinese wall between those positions. They’re all a platform to fight for the ordinary people. Different venue, one mission.”
Anyway, he regards the newspapers who commission the polls as “establishment mouthpieces”. “We rely on going directly to the people . . . But the poll is an indication of how things are changing,” he concedes.
“Insofar as it’s an indication of a mood in society at a particular time, it certainly blends in with the mood on the streets and housing estates . . . People are disgusted that a cabal of speculators, big developers and big bankers were given such power . . . A child socialist would have told them that it would crash but they didn’t see it because they were blinded by greed.”
Meanwhile, the loitering-not-looking strategy is working, well-wishers approach the candidate in a steady trickle.
A Tyrellstown woman actually asks for a leaflet (is this a record?). “Please spread the word among your family and friends . . . ”, says Higgins to them all. Frank, a taxi driver, says afterwards that Higgins “has principle – he’s more action than words and he’s not afraid to speak out. But tell me, what do MEPs actually DO?”.
Nick Robinson, a 35-year-old school teacher with plans to emigrate in the absence of a full-time job sums up the views of several : “I’m middle-class with two third-level qualifications and though I wouldn’t necessarily support his policies in full . . . it really comes down to integrity. And he has it”.
Between times, Higgins tries to work up some outrage at Mary Harney’s public intervention on behalf of FF’s Eoin Ryan – “the cheek of her . . . the arrogance of her really” – before producing his own press statement.
Calling Harney’s endorsement the “kiss of death” for Ryan, he reads on with obvious enjoyment: “The hapless Eoin must have felt his political lifeblood chill . . . She also says Dublin voters must ‘not shoot themselves in the foot’ . . . Can she not see that virtually the whole of Dublin have their ‘political guns’ pointed in the same direction and it is not at their feet!”
Has anyone hurled abuse at him so far today? “I rarely get abuse and where I do, it’s from a right-winger”, says the man who has never knowingly passed up the chance of a lash himself.
This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times