One thought on “Zoe Williams interviews Rupert Read in Cambridge”

  1. Dear Rupert,

    I wanted to ask a follow-up question in relation to yesterday’s Green party rally held in St. Catharine’s. I asked the question from the back-row about the Brighton Green-led council’s implementation of austerity and, particularly, the CityClean strike of 2013 (around 19 minutes in on the video). I have previously raised this matter with various Green party members, activists and supporters and their answers have usually been a little vague and ill-informed. I was thus glad to hear you offer a clear statement of position, but I’m afraid to say that your answer lost you my vote. I wanted to write to explain why this is the case to see if this might make you reconsider the response you offered yesterday.

    As I mentioned, I voted for Caroline Lucas when I lived in Brighton in 2010. I now live in Cambridge. Given that there is no left-wing, socialist candidate running in the election, I have been hovering between voting Green and spoiling my ballot. I am pleased to see the Greens raising many of the arguments that were covered at yesterday’s debate and it is similarly refreshing to hear candidates call on voters to ‘vote for what you believe in’. That’s also where the problem comes in, as I cannot vote for the positions you outlined yesterday in relation to the GMB strike. Before you spoke, Natalie Bennett offered a reasonably cogent attack on the anti-trade-union laws, although she stopped short of saying she would repeal them, and she further stated that trade unions play an important social role and that they should be supported in their campaigning activities and industrial action. Part of the reason I voted for Caroline Lucas in 2010 had to do with the fact that she had given firm support to the UCU picket lines at the University of Sussex where the management were forcing through compulsory redundancies. (Incidentally, I’d be interested to know your politics in relation to UCU, given you work at UEA). It was thus dismaying to hear you defend Brighton council’s decision to attack the pay and conditions of the GMB CityClean workers on the basis that these workers were seeking to maintain indefensible sectional privileges: “some members of the trade union there were seeking to maintain interests and advantages that they had over against other workers and it just wasn’t on”.

    Surely I don’t need to remind you where this type of rhetoric comes from? As you will know, the Tories and their servile press are well-known for their attacks on so-called ‘gold-plated public sector pensions’ and remember, too, how Boris Johnson responded to the RMT strike on the London Underground when train drivers were threatened with reductions in pay. The Tories’ rhetoric was exactly the same as yours: the union members are simply out to defend unjustifiable sectional privileges. When I stood on CityClean picket lines in 2009-10 (against the then-Tory council’s attacks), some of the workers informed me that the pay-cuts would mean they would need to take out second mortgages. Unfortunately, your answer thus confirmed for me why many socialists in Brighton now refer to the Greens as Tories on bikes. (Tangentially, I found it mildly laughable that many people in the room yesterday still seemed to regard the Labour party as a socialist party).

    I wanted to offer you the chance to respond and reconsider your position before my general impression of the Green Party becomes fixed. The gender equality legislation should, of course, be used to raise the pay of female council employees, *not* to cut the pay of male workers, so I fail to see how describing the issue as a ‘gender issue’ gets you off the hook either. I could say a lot more about the Green-led council’s cuts, but I’ll leave it at that for now as it would take up far too much space. I appreciate that you will probably want to say that the GMB dispute is now ‘settled’, so let me offer you another view of that: I regard the ‘settlement’ of the dispute as yet one more defeat for the trade union movement in a long series of defeats that have been intensifying since the 80s. It is all very well for Natalie Bennett to say that the Green Party wants to see a re-invigorated trade union movement, but perhaps the party should look to its own backyard first, as the principles seem to be in stark contrast with practice. In short, to win my vote, you would need to issue a public mea culpa reversing your position on the GMB strike.

    Local Green party supporters might also like to know about the housing protest in Cambridge taking place later this evening and the Stand Up to UKIP (2) protest taking place on Friday. Neither of these protests was mentioned at yesterday’s meeting.

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