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Forging a better road for tomorrow

SIMON BRIGNELL explains why he’s compelled to stand in Cambridge local election on a Communist Party ticket

ACROSS the length and breadth of Britain, the local elections are once again upon us.

This year, my tradition of marching to the voting station with the bold intent of ticking a box and having a pint in the pub next door afterwards has been expertly dashed by the exasperating scenes I witnessed just weeks earlier in a Cambridge City Council meeting.

Said meeting was a housing scrutiny committee meeting to discuss the progress of a consultation for the redevelopment of Ekin Road. For those who don’t know, Ekin Road is in Cambridge’s most deprived ward, Abbey, while Cambridge itself is often cited as Britain’s most unequal city.

The area consists of 122 dwellings of mixed types, mostly council housing.

As a commercial catering equipment engineer and Unite member whose workplace is based in the Abbey Ward, I felt compelled to attend the meeting. I have worked here for over 10 years, I know people who live here and I use the local shops, which are also now at risk of demolition.

The city council had handed multinational real-estate firm, JLL, £300,000 to assess three options for the redevelopment of Ekin Road — refit and repair existing buildings, partial demolition and redevelopment, and full demolition and redevelopment.

You can guess which JLL chose. Their interests are quite obvious.

Despite objections from the residents of Ekin Road, who have formed their own Save Ekin Road campaign group, the council looks set to take the path of least resistance and demolish the whole lot.

Unsurprisingly, full redevelopment means fewer council houses and building “affordable” houses — properties where rents are up to 80 per cent of market rates. It also means compulsory purchase and demolition of some freehold properties. What is surprising is just how willing the Labour-led council is to plough ahead. 

Where’s the fight?

I sat in on this meeting with other Unite members and Ekin Road residents as they asked public questions which predictably fell on deaf ears.

Since these proposals, the council is now proposing a wave of gentrification across Cambridge which could displace hundreds, if not thousands of residents.

These plans will force residents and workers out of the city, into outlying villages and towns where they will be forced to either use dysfunctional public transport that Stagecoach chops and changes whenever it decides the state subsidy isn’t quite profitable enough, or they’ll have to rely on cars.

That may mean eventually confronting the perpetual political zombie that is the rightly maligned congestion charge, greenwashed as a “Sustainable Travel Zone.” I have no doubts that it will be resurrected once again.

Even if workers could afford to stay in the city, could they afford to eat? Foodbank usage has been soaring across the city due to record food prices. I know this because I’ve helped with the YCL foodbank collections. Thankfully Cambridge residents are generous with their donations. 

This all points to a single cause: state monopoly capitalism.

The policies of the ultra-wealthy are imposed upon us from the top down. They seek to enrich the big developers, university cartel and friends of the government while riding roughshod over local democracy, and they are in distinct opposition to the interests of residents and workers.

There’s no planning in these policies, only the anarchy of capitalism and its “free” markets. See Michael Gove’s ridiculous plan for Cambridge, for example.

Public transport suffers while fat cats receive state subsidies. The supermarket oligopoly makes billions whilst the poorest workers have to use foodbanks. Energy prices remain absurd, and God forbid you need a dentist! 

As I’d written in the local press as part of the Toothless in England campaign, the choice many working people face during colder months is “heat, eat, or teeth.” The Communist Party has so far been the only party to fully support the Toothless in England campaign and all of its aims.

And this is why I have decided to stand in local elections. This is why many other comrades in The Communist Party will also be standing up for their communities.

While none of us are under any illusions that we’d be able to overthrow these conditions being imposed upon us with absolute immediacy, or even certainty, the point is to stand and fight against them.

Our programme, Eastern Rising, from which my manifesto is derived, warns of the chaotic consequences that await us if these policies are to be adhered to.

By standing today, we forge a better road for tomorrow, and that road is the road to socialism.

Who knows, maybe I’ll still get my pint in the form of a victory beer after the ballot.

If you live locally and want to know what I’m campaigning for, please get in touch with me at [email protected].


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