Local socialism – we can make a start now

Right now, there’s a Labour internal selection going on across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.  I’m on the shortlist as the possible Labour candidate for North of Tyne Mayor.

I’m a grassroots activist.  I worked on both of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns.

This is one of the Metro-Mayor deals.  It’s not about running the bin collections or managing social services.  It’s a new role: economic development.

It doesn’t have much money – £20mn a year doesn’t even dent the cuts to public services.  This was a Tory deal, after all.

But it does have something important.  The Tories designed these Metro Mayor deals with a swashbuckling businessman in mind, cutting through red tape and crushing local planning objections.  When I read the devolution document, it occurred to me that its authors never thought a socialist like me would get hold of this position.  So I’m standing on a radical socialist platform against Labour establishment candidates.

Under the Localism Act of 2011, the Mayor has the power to do anything an individual can do.  We can establish a People’s Bank.  We can build community housing cooperatives.  We can create a green energy company.  And they can all be collectively owned.

We have to leave behind the New Labour ideology of taming capitalism.  Capitalism is a rigged system that is long past its sell-by date.  It squanders human talent and wrecks our environment.

A People’s bank would be cooperatively owned, one-member-one-vote.  It cannot be privatised.  It will offer a full range of services – current accounts, savings accounts, mortgages and business banking for local firms.  It’ll take us a couple of years to complete the regulatory process.  This changes the rigged system – the banks are one of the biggest extractors of wealth from our economy.  By keeping the profits reinvested locally, we can support local & worker owned businesses.

Community housing cooperatives are social housing.  Built to a high standard, with eco-friendly construction methods, they’re great places to live.  Crucially, they are not owned by the state.  They are owned collectively by the people who live there.  So they are exempt from right-to-buy legislation.  We can have fair-rent, socially-owned housing now.  The profits can fund local community projects and maintain green spaces.

In Nottingham the local authority already owns Robin Hood energy.  In the North of Tyne, we can establish an energy provider owned by its workers and customers.  The Tories have slashed green energy subsidies, so we’ll have to grow it slowly.  But we’ll have wind and solar power, and can supplement it with micro-hydro electric power from the region’s mountains.

This works because we’re already spending money on these things.  Instead local wealth being siphoned off into the tax-havens of billionaires, we keep it in our communities.  This means higher wages and more jobs.  More worker-owned businesses.  This means more spending power, which supports more jobs.  And so the cycle continues.

Add into this the Community Wealth Building strategy that’s made Preston the most improved city in the UK, and we can start something special.

I’ve already got the support of the majority of local Labour Parties and the majority of unions.  Socialist MPs like Laura Pidcock and Clive Lewis are backing me.  I want your help to become the first socialist Mayor of the North of Tyne.  Please share my social media posts, donate to my campaign, and if you know any Labour members in the area, tell them to vote for me in the selection ballot.  The Labour selection ends on the 18th of February.  All the information is on www.JD4Mayor.com and loads of videos too.

The public election is in May.  In less than four months we could have an arm of the state putting socialist policies into practice.

If I’m elected Mayor, I won’t be able to end arms sales.  Or renationalise the railways.  Or scrap tuition fees.

What I will do is plant the seeds for the economy to come.

By Jamie Driscoll, the left-wing candidate on the shortlist as the possible Labour candidate for North of Tyne Mayor. 

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