Last nights Leicester hustings was a revealing affair: the Tories didn’t bother to field a speaker, and UKIP’s parliamentary candidate, like many UKIP supporters, was unaware of his party’s policies. In fact UKIP’s speaker was the only panelist who chose to pass on the opportunity to answer a number of questions from the audience.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and Green Party candidates were the only apparent representatives of the Left at the event, although ironically the Lib Dem speaker also spoke to working class concerns. The latter did so by only referring to his own political orientation, a position that he was sad to admit was not shared by the rest of his party. As a sign of the implosion of the Lib Dem’s it is fitting that the Lib Dem speaker had to be drafted in from outside of Leicester, from Hinckley and Bosworth.
The Green Party speaker was firm in challenging Labour for the role they played in the privatisation of the NHS; said we should never have bailed out the super-rich who caused the financial crisis; and thought it was wrong to sell off Royal Mail. Indeed, he is certainly right on all those points, and might have added that it was Labour who allowed the private sector carve-up of our postal services in the first place.
The Labour speaker categorically failed to answer the question about their party’s policy commitment to addressing climate change – providing a non-answer that was met with silence from the packed audience. While on a more positive note, he at least observed that tax avoidance by the super-rich was costing British people some £120 billion each year. Although unlike TUSC, who are firmly committed to collecting all this money and taking non-compliant companies into public ownership, Labour has no intention of retrieving most of this stolen money.
For a professional speaker, Labour’s solicitor/parliamentary candidate made a couple of telling boo-boos, mistakenly referring to the secret trade agreement TTIP as a “sheep in wolves clothing” when he meant the opposite. Then in his defence of maintaining our countries Trident weapons systems, he argued that Trident was needed because humanity was a “flawed species” and so had to have a “nuclear deterrent” to protect us from the “unknown threats that lie ahead of us.”
In an attempt to bolster his argument for a wrong-headed policy, the Labour speaker then glowingly cited leading right-wing militarist Donald Rumsfeld, who famously said we need to protect ourselves from the “unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
How a Labour Party parliamentary candidate can stoop so low as to quote such nonsense to support an already indefensible position is bizarre to say the least. Indeed as one commentator wrote at the time about Rumsfeld’s statement, “It stands as a symbol of the lies and manipulations that propelled the U.S. into the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.”
Rumsfeld’s non-answer was actually a response to a question from a journalist in 2002 who had asked “What evidence do you have that Iraq is supplying terrorists with W.M.D.?” His famed quote goes:
“…as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Yet in stark contrast to relying on such manipulations, a true political representative of the working-class would provide a clear and frank answer to all important questions of the day, as TUSC speaker Andrew Walton did last night.