Monday, 29 March 2010

The Ahmed Hussain Manouevre

Remember former Welsh Assembly Member Dr John Marek? Formerly an AM for Labour, he was deselected in 2003 and successfully defended his seat on a John Marek Independent Party ticket. For a time he was seen as a useful vehicle for the left Welsh nationalists of Cymru Goch to develop a left regroupment vehicle not unlike the Scottish Socialist Party. After some shenanigans aimed at excluding the "Brit left" from the eventual lash-up (which got a bit of coverage in the Weekly Worker at the time), CG and JMIP dissolved themselves into Forward Wales.

In its brief existence (FW disbanded earlier this year) the party didn't really achieve a great deal, beyond recruiting former Labour minister Ron Davies and polling a stunning 17,280 votes (1.9%) in the 2004 European election. Clearly Marek and Davies thought the party label was more a hindrance than a help and elected to stand as independents in the 2007 Welsh Assembly elections. Neither were successful.

Nonetheless FW was part of the far left, standing for a democratic socialist Wales (while, strangely, not officially ever calling for Welsh independence). You can read its statement of principles here.

I was therefore tickled to learn "comrade" Marek had performed the Ahmed Hussain manouevre. i.e. Jumping straight from the far left (in Ahmed's case, formerly a sitting SWP councillor) to the Tories. Well done, John! You can read his sorry statement here.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with some elements of Marek's statement. Sad to say, on some civil liberties issues the Tories do outflank Labour from the left, particularly on ID cards. Quite why the government continues to extend petty authoritarianism over more and more aspects of social life remains a mystery to me. But what worries me more is their ability to get away with rafts of repressive measures without so much as a ripple of mass opposition.

I digress. I wish John Marek all the best in his new home and hope his socialist conscience doesn't trouble him too much.


Proper Tidy said...

Ahahaha. If any further proof were needed of the bankruptcy of the political establishment!

FW actually did pretty well in the council elections in Wrexham prior to the europeans. Was always bound to fail mind you - only reason Cymru Goch jumped into bed with Marek was because he was the man with the golden cheque book. Done very well financially out of the politics game, has the Doctor.

His dubious dealings with the football club hardly endeared himself to the Wrexham masses either.

I have laughed my bollocks off.

Phil said...

Are Cymru Goch still knocking about?

Proper Tidy said...

No. A couple of them joined Plaid and are now part of the Plaid left but as a formal organisation they've long gone. Shame, I actually quite liked CG. I mean, they were wrong about a lot of things but in my youth they were the only active reds in the town. Sometimes people claim CG still exist and dress it up as an unofficial faction within Plaid, but I don't really buy that.

We've two decent councillors in Wxm who were part of Forward Wales though, one independent and one Plaid, so whilst FW was a lash-up at least it left some sort of positive legacy. Was quite exciting when FW was set-up as well, for a while they seemed a genuine threat to the mainstream until the cracks soon started to show.

Wrexham was really the only place GC or FW had a proper base - they were a local party rather than national, although both had aspirations. FW also left most of its members defeated and disillusioned though, which means there wasn't much to salvage in terms of building anything new. Left in the area is only now really picking itself up and getting active & organised again, and even then there are only a few CG'ers who are still active, mainly the ones who joined Plaid.

Marek is was and always will be an utter shit, by the way. His 'turn to the left' was always artificially born by his de-selection by the CLP. He was a Labour MP for ages, then became an AM in 1999 (for a while both MP & AM), then deselected by the CLP and re-elected to the assembly as an independent in 2003 but soon formed FW. Despite being the sole representative of a new 'socialist' party in the assembly, he retained his role as deputy presiding officer, meaning he couldn't actually participate in debates. It was never about the politics, it was always about the ego and the money.

He was hammered by the LP candidate Lesley Griffiths in 2007, and rightly so. Griffiths is pretty good to be fair, shame our MP Lucas is bloody awful. Whip with 0.03% 'rebel rate'.

Wrexham fans loathe Marek. Okay, we're not Man United but in a small working class town it probably isn't the best idea to completely piss off the supporters of the local club.

Not sure the Tories know what they've taken on here. He's pretty much burnt his bridges in Wrexham and has a tarnished reputation throughout Welsh politics, so what they've got planned for him god knows. Was only a few months back there were rumours that Marek and Ron Davies were on the verge of joining Plaid (despite both being anti-independence) so assume they told them to bugger off.

Interesting bit of trivia - Marek was selected by the local CLP in 1983 over a slimy young whipper-snapper by the name of Anthony Blair.

Callum said...

"I wish John Marek all the best in his new home and hope his socialist conscience doesn't trouble him too much."

Do you really think you're in a position to be waxing sarcastic about "conscience" giving where you are just now, Phil?

Looking forward to campaigning on a Manifesto of cuts deeper than Thatcher?

Christ almighty. Forward comrades!

Phil said...

If you cannot see the basic difference between a party with a million and one links to the organised working class, and the organic party of capital, you're more of a dunderhead than I thought.

Phil said...

That's interesting, Proper. How did FW get on with other lefties in Wrexham?

Proper Tidy said...

Okay. They were the bulk of the lefties anyway, save for the odd attempt at setting up an SWP branch - usually by advertising for socialists in the local paper, would you believe. Only the SWP. Nowadays the left in Wrexham is pretty much a handful of ex-CGers, a handful of SPers and a couple of unaffiliated lefties. One or two anarchists about but they never do fuck all except criticise. The LP is hostile to all of us, with the exception of one decent LPer. Mind you, the local LP are atrocious so no bad thing.

Obviously big debate then and now tends to be about 'the national question' - we get derided as the 'Brit Left' or even brit nationalists, they get derided as nationalists and reformists. Never really gets bitter though - Wrexham is too small for sectarianism, and we have worked closely together to build up the shop stewards network and the anti-racist network in recent times. Besides, we have a common enemy in the CLP, which helps, and the bulk of activism is done by one SPer and one ex-CGer now in Plaid so we can't really afford to fall out. Anyway, us on the 'Brit Left' around here don't tend to be as hostile to left nationalism as our english comrades, even if we don't agree with it. Welsh nationalism and English nationalism is usually of a very different character and there does need to be more recognition of this by the English left. There is a lot to criticise Plaid for, mainly because they wrap centrism up in social-democratic language, but nothing makes me cringe more than fellow lefties from England comparing them to the BNP or Ukip. Most of the youngsters in Wales are pro-independence, it is something we have to learn to understand, and to be fair SPW are doing a good job on this. Difficult position though, because the oldies are pretty hostile to it all, so bit of a balancing act.

Short answer - in the barren wastelands of the North Wales hinterland, you work with what you've got!

Callum said...

"If you cannot see the basic difference between a party with a million and one links to the organised working class, and the organic party of capital, you're more of a dunderhead than I thought"

You hurt my feelings, Phil.

I mean, you raised the point about 'socialist conscience'. Are you saying that it won't hurt you to campaign for cuts worse than Thatcher because the campaign for cuts worse than Thatcher is funded by Unite?

If so, you're more of a dunderhead than you ought to be.

Phil said...

My politics are unchanged, Callum. But I've set out exhaustively on this blog that the political opportunities or objective circumstances have changed. That's what the real argument's about. If you can't engage with that and prefer to moralise from your position of revolutionary purity, all power to you. In the mean time I'll be carrying on propagating socialist politics and helping rebuild the local trade union movement.

Kit said...

Nice post Phil. Proper Tidy is right to mention Marek's involvement in Wrexham AFC - the story of which, is absurd. Marek got in bed with the Mark Guterman (the man who tried to destroy Wrexham AFC so that the land it occupies could be 'developed' for housing or commercial use - and was subsequently disqualified from acting as a company director for seven years). When the shit hit the fan (due to deliberate mismanagement, the club almost ceased to exist), Marek loaned the club a chunk of cash and found himself 'given' a position at the club. Marek is - to say the least - a dodgy character