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Interview: Mary Jackson, fighting for Doncaster
The Left Vote spoke to socialist (TUSC) candidate for Mayor of Doncaster, Mary Jackson, about her campaign, her vision for Doncaster and what it’s like to have an English Democrat in charge of your town.
Q. What is your top priority for Doncaster?

Mary Jackson pledgesA massive house building project. Since Thatcher introduced the bill to enable tenants to buy their council and housing association houses the money from the sales has been building up, ring-fenced and illegal to spend. Millions of pounds tied up in the bank (and in every other district too).

During three terms of a Labour government the only thing they did about this was to free up the accumulated interest to improve and modernise council houses. I will set up a legal challenge to this immoral Act to free up Doncaster’s money to build council houses in Doncaster.

There are 11,500 people waiting for council houses in Doncaster and thousands of builders, plasterers, labourers, painters etc…. and thousands of young people on the dole.

A massive house building project will cut the dole queue, create apprenticeships, put money in peoples pockets so increase sales in local shops and cut and eventually end the housing queue. Doncaster can become a beacon for the rest of Britain instead of the joke it has become.

Q. Is it possible to stop the cuts at a local level when it’s the national government that holds the purse strings?

Yes it certainly is. The bedroom tax for the poorest in the borough including low paid, disabled, sick and unemployed is a vicious piece of legislation aimed at people who are already using food banks because they cannot manage to eat on the present level of benefits. I am horrified that in the 5th richest country in the world we have food banks springing up all over including Doncaster.

There’s an easy answer to this and Knowsley Housing Association has already done it in their area. reassess all the houses, people do not generally have spare bedrooms because they use them as studies, playrooms, dining room (generally this would be in a flat) or store rooms.

Some people with disabilities need to sleep alone and in those cases it would be a simple decision to give discretionary housing benefit to cover the reduction in HB. From the governments own figures 63% of households effected have at least one disabled person.

There is so much anger about it but also much desperation from the people effected that many councils have been forced by demonstrations and protests into saying they will not evict for arrears built up because of this tax on the poor.

The cuts to council tax benefit are a government initiative but not law. Councils must decide where they get the money from to make up the reduction from central government. Councils are blaming the government but it is the Labour council with the Right Wing mayor who have made the decision.

Q. You are standing for a mayor on a worker’s wage – why do you think this is important?

I think it is important for an elected representative to be paid no more than the average wage of their electorate. It is the policy of the Socialist party which I am a proud member of and also of TUSC (the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition) because it’s important to understand the issues facing the people you represent and sharing their economic reality keeps that to the for-front of any policy implemented.

I believe that part of the reason the Labour Party became just another Capitalist Party is because our representatives became so well paid that they felt themselves to be above their members. The high wages attracted ‘social climbers’ to become MPs  and we lost the dedicated activists who wanted to fight for a more equal society and instead got this shower of Blairites who are divorced from the people they represent.

Q. What’s it been like having an English Democrat as mayor?

Strange!

He cut the mayor’s wage and doesn’t claim expenses which sounds fine but one of the first things he tried (and failed) to do was to stop the grant for the Pride celebration. Next he made all the experienced children’s social workers redundant because their pay reflected their experience. After four years of his leadership we have 42 vacancies in children’s services. It is being run by inexperienced workers and agency staff.

Early on in his term, riding high on his ego, he was asked how he would tackle  anti-social behaviour. His answer. “The Taliban have the right idea on family values. There’s no delinquency in Afghanistan”

Very strange!

Q. Could you tell us a little more about yourself?

Completely non-political until I read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in the early eighties and found out there was an alternative to Capitalism then the miner’s strike forced me to put my new found theory in to practice. I could not believe that a British government could try to starve its people into submission.

I joined the Labour Party to fight for the establishment of a Socialist society. I was an active member for a few years but not long after I had the cheek in a LP meeting to ask our MP, Kevin Hughes at that time, why he felt able to take such an exalted wage which was so much more than the wages of the people he  was representing. He started to push for my expulsion. I have to say it took two years to expel me because Thorne LP fought hard to block him.

My expulsion papers read like a reference because of my track record. A quote from one of the letters between Thorne and the regional exec  ‘ Mary Jackson is the hardest working member in the district, she gets up in the morning to fight for Socialism and doesn’t let up until she goes to bed at night’. During those two years I was twice voted on to the regional exec. I have to say by the time I got expelled Tony Blair had become leader of the party and I was glad to go.

I was the main organiser of the Anti Poll Tax Federation in Doncaster and represented people taken to court for non-payment.

Spent many happy hours on the women’s camp at Armthorpe in 1992 when we were trying to stop the destruction of our communities and way of life.

Successfully organised demonstrations and brought in the local TV to highlight the disgraceful disrepair in the former pit houses, bought by Doncaster council for a pittance from the coal-board. Most of those houses had not been rewired since the second world war. One of them was in such structural disrepair that the inspector cleared the house within ten minutes of entering it because it was in danger of collapse….and internal walls did actually collapse before they could get in to renovate it.

For twenty six years I’ve been an advice worker at various advice centres helping people in a practical way deal with the difficulties of living in an unjust Capitalist society … and on that score the misery of clients trying to manage in the last three years withstand the constant attacks of this Con-Dem government has been horrendous, terminally ill and suicidal people found fit for work. people who haven’t enough money to feed themselves AND their children opting to go without themselves to ensure their kids could eat that it almost made me ill.

It is this that made me decide to stand in this election because I saw it as a great opportunity to put a Socialist alternative to the austerity measures on offer from the three main parties.

To point out that in the fifth richest country in the world. A country that can give a tax cut of up to £100,000 a year to the richest 8000 and a £10 million funeral for the most hated Prime Minister of the last century the government was hell-bent on cutting the living standards for the majority and freeing up our vital services to the vultures in the private sector.

April 28, 2013 | Filed under Interview and tagged with , , , .

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5 Responses to Interview: Mary Jackson, fighting for Doncaster

  1. james? says:

    the interview is interesting and there is some good answers to the questions but i am a little confused as i was under the impression that tusc wanted local government representatives to refuse to administer local services ie to prevent a a budget passing as this would be seen to be doing the governments work for them and making cuts. but you have a programme of priorities that you think the council should be doing which would put you out of step with other tusc candidates. i think that you will do better than other tusc candidates as you actually have a postive programme but if elected you would be faced with the devil dillemmna of attempting to implement some of it or sticking to tusc line on not presenting cuts budgets.

    • Mary Jackson says:

      there appears to be some misunderstanding of TUSC policy. It is ‘not to set a CUTS budget’ but to set a NEEDS budget.

      IT WOULD BE IMPRACTICLE NOT TO SET A BUDGET AT ALL. TUSC will set budgets based on the needs of their electorate. In Doncaster I would set up meetings in all areas to find out what Doncaster residents want an set a budget for the people of Doncaster

  2. alistair tice says:

    No contradiction at all James. TUSC does not propose not administering local services or not passing a budget. Mary and TUSC propose the setting of ‘Needs’ budgets, ie what jobs & services are needed in Doncaster in our case. And mobilising the local trade unions and community in a mass campaign to force central government to increase funding. Our argument is that if all, or even just 10 or 20 local authorities refused to carry out the Tory cuts, Eric Pickles couldn’t send commissioners in everywhere, not without a serious constitutional crisis (abolition of democratically elected local councils) and not without facing strike action by local council workers refusing to co-operate with a government imposed dictator carrying out cuts.So Marys positive proposals ie housebuilding programme & restoration of EMA are part of the Needs budget which would have to be fought for.

    Alistair Tice
    Doncaster TUSC agent

  3. John Gill says:

    To answer james? Being Mayor of Doncaster would put Mary in a totally different position to say being a lone or one of a small group of councillors on a county or unitary council, as a lone councillor you would have little choice if you wanted to oppose any cuts other than vote against setting a cuts budget and call for the other political groups to work with you to set a needs budget and demand more money from Eric Pickles. The Mayor however has more power and is in effect as powerful as the ruling political group of councillors, but obviously will need to use their powers of persuasion rather than be at loggerheads with the elected councillors, it has not however, been a good relationship between the EDP Mayor and the ruling Labour Group but that could change if the councillors realise that they are up for re-election next year and if they tried to block any positive moves by the Mayor it could cause them problems next May.

  4. james? says:

    i chose not to reply again while the election was on as i think you were almost certainly the best candidate in doncaster but i stil dont agree with this position on needs budgets. i dont think you would be aloud to pass one and i think it could create misunderstandings with the electorate as at the end of the day tusc councilors will be left with refusing to adminster services its the only realistic course they could take. ive looked at the tusc website and it talks about spending reserves and using prudential borrowing powers as a way of buying time (while opposing council tax rises) at this point in the game i think the cuts are so severe that even if they were to change mind about council tax rises that still would nt prevent a budget with at least some cuts.
    i think if tusc actually said to people if elected we want to refuse to adminster local services at least it would be honest of the consequences of a tusc vote and if tusc did well on this platform then it may tip labour to consider when they most likely lose the next election. interestingly west somerset council has now been declared unviable by the local government association who are now claiming that by 2016 alot of councils wont have the money to meet legal obligations. i think things will get desperate enough that tusc does stand potential to build support for its position following the general election. whether that will manifest its self in electing councilors is another matter.

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