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ON MAY 6, voters will go to the polls in local elections that will see the largest number of candidates representing the Communist Party since the early 1980s.
Candidates will be campaigning in the Welsh Senedd, Scottish Parliament and London Assembly as well as in English local councils.
In Manchester, we are standing a candidate, Aaron Andrew, in the Longsight ward.
A member of the YCL and the Communist Party, Aaron is a nurse and has experienced first-hand the impact of underfunding and privatisation in the NHS.
Longsight is an area of Manchester that has long suffered from government austerity, with the highest percentage of universal credit claimants aged 16 and above in the whole of Manchester.
It is an area where exploitation by private landlords is rife, providing expensive yet poor-quality housing, with overcrowding being a serious problem.
Homelessness in Manchester remains a crisis. Last year, it recorded the second-highest number of deaths of homeless people in England.
Government cuts over the past 10 years ensured the British public paid the price for the 2008 financial crisis.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the people of Britain face yet another onslaught on living standards and jobs, with more than one million adding to the unemployment total over the last year.
Longsight has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Manchester, where nearly a third of people have no qualifications.
Those lucky enough to have employment find themselves in precarious jobs with zero-hours contracts and few employment rights, often being paid far less than a living wage.
A local example of insecurity at work is the “fire-and-rehire” policy of the Go North West bus company, resulting in the drivers going on strike in Manchester.
The Communist Party in Manchester has given its full support to the striking workers and been present at many static demonstrations and marches, following Covid safety restrictions.
The government’s mishandling of the pandemic and Britain’s deepest recession in 300 years have led to a renewed interest in socialism.
So far in the UK, we have experienced more than 126,000 Covid-related deaths, 400,000 have contracted long Covid and hundreds of thousands of people are on NHS waiting lists.
Even before the pandemic hit, the people of Longsight had a lower life expectancy than most of their peers in the Manchester area.
There are alternatives.
Millions of people voted for change in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 and 2019 general elections.
They wanted new politics and economics and an end to the richest 10 per cent of the population owning more than half of Britain’s personal wealth.
The Communist Party, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, advocates radical political change which includes activity in and reform of local, regional and national governments in England, Scotland and Wales.
It advocates a devolved, federal Britain with proportional representation and other changes to make politics genuinely democratic, accessible, representative and accountable.
The party and its independent youth organisation, the Young Communist League (YCL), have both seen large growths in membership and activity in Greater Manchester and the wider north-west of England.
Communists have bold and progressive ideas to move Longsight forward — and the rest of Britain.
We propose that all social housing should be brought under direct and accountable local authority control.
In Manchester, we would work with a local housing co-operative to increase affordable housing and support the rapid expansion of the building of affordable housing across Greater Manchester.
Official statistics suggest that nationally, 325,000 new houses need to be built every year just to keep up with changing demographics.
We are calling for radical reform of the housing and planning system, regeneration, affordable homes with secure tenure, local caps on private-sector rent levels and the removal of incentives for private equity firms to make large profits with property developers and landowners.
There is a huge imbalance in Manchester between luxury apartments in the glitzy city centre and housing in the suburbs.
To further redress the wealth imbalance, the Communist Party advocates a minimum £10.40 per hour living wage, along with retaining the £20 uplift of universal credit beyond September.
We also want an above-inflation pay rise for public-sector workers, particularly for NHS staff who have borne the brunt of the pandemic so far.
This is set against a backdrop of an increase in military spending. Isn’t it strange that the government has no money for public-sector pay rises, but manages to find £205 billion to replace the Trident nuclear weapons programme?
Young people should also not be left behind. We would ban zero-hours contracts, which affect under-25s more than any other age group, and ensure all workers have full employment rights from the first day.
The Communist Party believes all education should be free at the point of use and should not saddle graduates with debt.
The YCL has been at the forefront of student protests and the occupation of buildings at the University of Manchester, resulting in a £12 million rent reduction for students.
In-work training is also vital. Apprenticeships should include the learning of real skills and a real living wage with a guaranteed placement for everybody up to at least the age of 25.
We should also use the expertise of people who have recently retired or been made redundant to share their skills and knowledge with youngsters.
Longsight is an area of huge cultural diversity. The Communist Party opposes racism and knows that capitalism cannot exist without racism to divide and rule.
In some ways, the pandemic has brought people closer together, which must be built upon.
Black and ethnic minority communities have suffered greatly, having an above-average number of Covid-related deaths and job losses.
Factors include the higher probability that people in these communities have low-paid jobs in the care and retail sectors, and live in overcrowded housing.
We would end the exploitation of migrant workers. We strive to bring working-class communities together in a common fight to create a more equal society.
The Communist Party will be holding its all-Britain manifesto launch on Tuesday April 13 at 6pm. It will also be streamed live on the Communist Party and Young Communist League Facebook pages. Speakers include general secretary Robert Griffiths (South East Wales), Lorraine Douglas (GLA London), Johnnie Hunter (Glasgow) and Mark Jones (Felixstowe Coastal). Register at mstar.link/CPManifestoLaunch.
Visit communistparty.org.uk for more information.
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