Politically Correct by Neal Brookes - October 21, 2015

Neal Brookes, chairman of Blackpool South Labour Party
Neal Brookes, chairman of Blackpool South Labour Party
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Seduced into believing in image not policies

Last week on BBC Question Time a minister was taken to task by a mother tearfully pointing out the effect government cuts to working tax credits will have on her family.

Little wonder the minister was too embarrassed to look them in the eye and try and justify the fact the cuts had strangely not appeared in the government manifesto.

The Northern Powerhouse promised shortly before the election appears to have run out of steam (pun intended), along with the government commitment to improve rail links between northern cities and upgrade existing lines and rolling stock.

While we are told these projects are merely delayed and are being reworked, it is perhaps telling that the rail links affecting the home counties and across London appear to be facing no such delay, or am I simply a northern cynic?

I prefer to be judged as someone not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions such as why are we allowing thousands of steel workers to lose their jobs, while we are encouraging cheap Chinese steel to potentially build our own HS2 railway track?

Would the same government attitude prevail if white collar city jobs were being threatened? I doubt it. The only way to change government policies on any matter is to engage in debate.

In recent years we have been seduced by successive media barons into believing we have a presidential style of government and how a leader looks is more important than his or her policies and integrity.

I hope the recent election of Jeremy Corbyn by the Labour Party ignites real policy debate not just within Westminster but across the whole country.

In Blackpool town centre this Saturday, I along with others, will be asking voters to have their say on issues that are important to them.

Only by having such debate locally can we hope to influence national policies.

Come along and tell me whether I am wrong on tax credits and northern job losses, at least I will be able to say I asked people their views.

Protect our union rights

I have been a trade union member every day of my working life of almost 40 years and been encouraged by my employer to be involved in ‘collective bargaining’.

The Government’s Trade Union Bill seeks to make it illegal for union members to have their union fees deducted direct from their wages in future, even when an employer encourages this.

It seeks to make industrial action illegal unless at least 40 per cent of members have taken part in any industrial action ballot.

A ballot which incidentally will not be allowed at the workplace or electronically (unlike the election of the Conservative London mayoral candidate), but must be undertaken by postal ballot and allow the employer at least two weeks notice of intended action.

The intent in this is clear, given that the proposed Bill will also make it legal for an employer to simply replace striking workers with agency workers desperate enough to accept zero hours contracts and lower wages.

In 1834 the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of agricultural workers, were deported to Australia.

Their offence was ‘taking an oath of secrecy’.

Their only crime was to form a trade union to protest against their meagre wages and working conditions.

This Government risks making more martyrs by the passing of this unjust law designed simply to undermine workers rights to peacefully protest against ever lower living standards and deteriorating conditions.

I believe we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that future generations retain their right to protest and campaign for decent wages and conditions in years to come.

Registering to vote is crucial

At the last General Election, I lost count of the number of people I met who were not given the opportunity to judge the performance of their local councillor, or MP because they had not bothered to register to vote.

In previous years many people were simply registered because someone in the house had been bothered to return the registration form on behalf of everyone at that address. That system no longer exists. Everybody has to take responsibility to register themselves.

The good news is, it is really easy. Simply go on the internet and do it from the comfort of your own home or contact the council direct.

It is easy to believe it can be done when the next election is called but by then it could be too late.

The Government is planning a review of electoral boundaries in the new year so it is vital that you have registred your right to vote.

If you only do one thing as a result of reading this column today, register to have your say in future elections.