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The Race To The Bath Constituency: An interview with Matthew Alford, Bath’s Workers Party of Britain candidate

Correction [30th June 2024]: This article was published on the 29th of June 2024. As of today, certain typos that distorted the meaning and articulation of Matthew’s arguments and viewpoints were brought to light. These have now been remedied.

This is part of an election series with all of Bath’s parliamentary candidates – all interviews can be found on our website. Some answers have been edited for legible clarity.

Monday 17th June 2024

Interviewer: Elliot Rose (in bold)

Interviewee: Matthew Alford, Bath’s Workers Party of Britain candidate

Hi Matthew, thank you for doing this interview with Bath Time. So, why would you like to stand as an MP, and why Bath in particular?

It’s my home. It has been for a long time. But the main thing is that there’s a massive international issue at the moment, the possibility of World War Three, as raised by Rishi Sunak, Grant Shapps, and many other senior members of the British, American and other European countries establishments. It’s an extremely dangerous situation.

They’re trying not to make that an election issue, but it is, and it should be. There’s also a massive moral issue which is completely hidden from the mainstream electoral discussion, which is Gaza. And Gaza itself could still spiral into a third World War. It’s less likely than Ukraine, or indeed China, but there’s still the possibility of that going so horrendously wrong that we all die. I think that is something that we must oppose in every way possible and that’s why I’m putting myself on this platform now.

So, for those who haven’t heard of the Workers Party, could you tell us what it is, as well as where you broadly stand on the ideological slash political landscape? 

The Workers Party A.K.A the Socialist Party, is very much what the Jeremy Corbyn movement was and still is. Jeremy Corbyn himself, despite being friends with George Galloway, our leader, has not tied himself politically to that party, which I think is a shame.

Jeremy Corbyn was the reason I joined the Labour Party several years ago, and I left on the day that he did. I believed in what Corbyn was doing, but I think he had weaknesses as a leader. George Galloway somewhat amusingly described himself as the “older, rougher brother” to Jeremy Corbyn, which I think is not a bad strategy. I think Corbyn had his moments, and at some point, maybe Galloway can flow with that kind of success.

George Galloway is seen by lots of people as actually quite a controversial figure with many bringing up his controversial comments towards the LGBT community. In one interview, he actually claimed members of the LGBT community ‘aren’t normal’, also suggesting he thought his children shouldn’t be educated on gay relationships. As a member of the party he leads, do you agree with him? 

I’m not George Galloway, so I don’t have to, and the party discipline is not such that I must, and frankly I wouldn’t put it in those terms. I did listen to that interview at the time, which was a while ago, so forgive my imperfect memory. I think he was specifically talking about the specifics of educating people in school with sex education and the extent to which heterosexual families should be represented as being normal rather than just one option of many. Now, like I say, I wouldn’t put it that way, and I think teachers should have the scope to do what they want anyway locally rather than having to follow a particular curriculum. But, I’d push back against the idea that he was saying that there’s something abnormal about people like that. 

It’s all well and good saying that Galloway’s words were misconstrued, but issues that specifically impact the LGBT community were noticeably absent from your party’s manifesto.  Should the manifesto have contained more of an emphasis on minority groups such as the LGBT community?

That’s a good question. At the risk of sounding a little bit hesitant, please bear in mind that I’ve been in in British politics now for 9 days and this is the first thing I’ve done for the campaign since I started on Wednesday morning!

If I was personally writing a manifesto, I probably would address that a bit more prominently. But let me put it like this; there are very, very serious problems internationally, worse than ever in my lifetime. There are also huge social cleavages in our country at the moment, with probably the most important being to do with the economic division between rich and poor housing and a whole range of rights. So, I think I can understand why when they were putting together a manifesto like that, certain things just don’t get covered. The party is currently prioritising international peace and security.  

Galloway also faces a fair share of anti-Semitic accusations, and one might argue he is quite a divisive and controversial leader. Is it wholly beneficial in terms of the party to have someone like that as a leader? Does it leave the public discussing Galloway’s latest remarks rather than the Worker’s Party’s actual policies?  

When Jeremy Corbyn first came into office in 2015, he was on a wave of popular support with very little opposition to him, and even a lot of conservative members of Parliament were like, ‘Ohh, that’s Jeremy, he’s the nicest person in the House of Commons, even if many of his policies we don’t agree with’. And then suddenly there was a rather high possibility in 2015-17 that he might become Prime Minister. It was only around that point in 2016-17 that the allegations of anti-Semitism started to manifest, and that had an extremely serious effect on his ability to win power. 

If you’re a divisive figure in any way, of course it’s going to have an impact. But on the flip side of things, all successful politicians were also divisive. Maggie Thatcher was divisive; Nelson Mandela was divisive. 

And then going onto a local issue, Wessex Water just announced a huge price rise in their water bills of up to 50%, after a recorded 41,000 sewage spills in like the last year. How can we provide residents in Bath access to reasonable and clean water? 

I mean that’s quite an easy one. The Workers Party are committed as you would imagine to the well-being of workers, and ordinary people and also to nationalisation. They (The Workers Party) want significant infrastructure investment, and renationalisation of major services and industries which I believe off the top of my head includes water and rail. As you know, this is a socialist party! 

And many students feel quite pessimistic when it comes to the major parties and their environmental policies. There’s been a history of the Conservatives and Labour reneging over and over. So my question is what’s the Workers Party’s ‘New Green Deal’ and why should students trust that you will actually follow through with it?

At the moment, the 2030 net zero targets provided by politicians are perhaps not realistic and they are saying them because they’re not gonna have to deliver. By investing in British industries and renationalising, you end up with a society with much better communication and transport networks, which is the way to get more cars off the road, and I think we will work towards a country with better infrastructure, which means a more climate friendly country. The Workers Party will also call for a referendum on who profits from net zero and who pays for it.  

One other thing I’d say, which is kind of overarchingly important is that my primary concern about international politics is being for internationalism, which means that the priority of working not just within your own country but internationally. The importance of internationalism is that we work with other countries on things like bringing down CO2 emissions. If you look back to the banning of CFCs to fix the hole in the Ozone layer or more political issues like apartheid in South Africa, these were both fixed primarily through international solidarity and agreement. These things can and need to be done, and I’d argue that Galloway is exceptionally good at working on the internationalist front. 

First Bus once again increased bus fare prices last year, the primary form of transport for students. What can be done to make public transport more reasonable for both students and residents of Bath? 

I’m not gonna pretend to know enough about that. I personally walk absolutely everywhere. I’ve not had a car for five years. But I can personally say the party is committed to stronger transport links and the nationalisation and improvement of industries. We are committed to an integrated and greater investment in transport. 

OK, and then our SU denounced the state of our university housing as being ‘deplorable’. Student homes have been described as mould-infested and poorly insulated. How can we ensure that landlord in this country provide adequate living conditions for their tenants?

I think that the Conservative Party has repressed the building of homes quite badly over the past 15 years. I think it is well known that there needs to be a massive house-building initiative of something like a million homes. That’s certainly what Corbyn was calling for. I haven’t seen a specific figure from the Workers Party, but I do know that they talk about building a lot of new homes. When students leave university, they want to be able to buy a house, even if they’re buying it with other people, whatever it is. But if you want to be able to buy a house you wish house prices to be driven down significantly and that only comes through building another million homes. I think that that is something we would do, and I think that’s something that Corbyn would have definitely done. I think that Galloway is on board with that and I’m on board with that.

The Trussel Trust has reported that food bank usage has arisen by a quarter since 2019. What can be done to actually make day-to-day life more affordable for working people. Is tightening inflation as they as say enough, or should we do more?

I’m trying to remember the exact language in the manifesto on this. Still, obviously this is a Socialist Party that puts working people, as well as those who have retired, are unable to work etc. first. That does mean greater spending on infrastructure and a safety net that benefits everybody. And I would say the fact that we are in the top 7 countries in the world while so many rely on food banks is frankly disgraceful and disgusting, but also wholly avoidable and unnecessary. I mean, we’ve not actually discussed how atrocious the Conservative government has been. I have zero faith that the Labour Party will be any better and I think similarly about the Liberal Democrats. 

Do you actually think the Labour Party are a party for the working class? Do you think we should trust those words by them? Is a vote for Labour going to help the working class? The Labour Party is not promising to spend any more money than the Conservative Party and nor have they except for the blip under Corbyn. Nor have they for 20 years. So how can they provide an alternative in any way, unless there’s some major issue where they could make a clear stand? Oh, there is Gaza, there is Ukraine, there is China and Taiwan, but they’re not of the same mindset as these lunatics who are currently in power. Particularly on climate change and certainly on foreign policy, I would say, although it’s not medically lunatic, I would say the Conservatives shown an inherent underlying irrationality of human beings, it’s the madness of “group think”, just like there was a kind of madness to the Vietnam war and similar things. Our view of war as a panacea, as a solution to everything, is a form of insanity. 

I’ll now move on to the Workers Party’s foreign policy. George Galloway once hosted a tv show on Iranian state television. This is accompanied by the fact that your party’s foreign policy might be considered as quite radical; you want to have a referendum on our NATO membership, a national conversation on our collective security relationships and want to eradicate nuclear weapons. Obviously, there are going to be a few people from the British public who might be quite uneasy about that, and they might think this leader has a history as the friend of our enemy, and very much wants to put us in the den of hostile foreign powers. So, what would you say to ease the fears of those people that electing the Workers Party to Parliament would be against the national interests of the country?

One thing I’ll pick up from that question is that regarding an eradication of nuclear weapons, what Galloway and the Workers Party are talking about is multilateral disarmament. That means disarming in agreement with other countries, Russia, China, Israel, where they eliminate their nuclear weapons programs. 

Now that is an incredibly important distinction. Britain is a rich and powerful country and should be using its wealth for the benefit of everybody. We are strong allies with the United States, and we have nuclear weapons and should be using those strengths and assets as leverage to encourage countries like Iran and North Korea, Russia to all dismantle their nuclear weapons programs. This could be a way to bring success and peace to the planet, because one you have agreement with a range of other countries, this opens the possibility for huge environmental improvements, international improvements, economic improvements and so on. So that’s one of the main things I’d pick up. On what you’ve just said there, you’ve mentioned various other things as well. But I and I won’t go through every single one. There’s only so much space you’ve got!

Fair enough. And then in your manifesto, you say that socialist policies are for everyone. Yet, you’re also willing to maintain strong relationships will all nations regardless of their traditions and values, even if those happen to involve discrimination, or forms of oppression against certain groups in some of these countries. Is that not somewhat of a double standard? Why should we only stand up for the rights of people here in the UK but not in other countries too?

Well, I think we must look at the world and treat it as it is. We can’t just sort of blithely say, well, we won’t trade with anyone at all because they did something bad once, that’s just not realistic to live like. The worst country in the world is Saudi Arabia and that’s the one that we’ve had a very, very close relationship with for decades. Is that right? Is that wrong? I certainly don’t think they should be one of our best clients for arms sales that we sell for their internal repression. But should we have relationships with countries that we don’t entirely agree with? Yes, we have to live in the real world. But yeah, I mean, just to elaborate on that, Britain is consistently and always has been, for decades and decades in the top five arms selling nations in the world, sometimes in the top three. The United States has always been first. Britain is a major arms seller and that’s just not acceptable.

So your position is that the Government is just a massive hypocrite, basically. 

I mean, I think that’s been true for probably 10,000 years.

In your manifesto, you argue the solution to the Gaza-Israel conflict is one state for all. But could you bring in any more detail about how this policy might actually happen? 

It’s obviously not something that I can solve on the back of a sugar packet, but I’d say that the principle should be that we want to stop the death there. We want to stop a racist regime there and we want to stop aggression from any side. To do that, we need to take small steps. I think one step that has gigantic consensus is that Benjamin Netanyahu needs to go as Prime Minister of Israel. I think there’s also a gigantic consensus that we need a ceasefire and that has been a position that mainstream parties haven’t held, except for actually the Liberal Democrats, they’ve not been that bad on that particular thing. But we need to end arms sales to Israel and exercise our influence over them. 

And one last question for you. Lots of students feel they are disenfranchised by our current political system. So, what would you say to encourage students to actually go to the polls? 

Vote with your conscience and vote thinking about the rest of your life and the wider world, and the key things for that are these massive international and environmental issues that if we don’t solve, will encroach upon and maybe end all of our lives sooner rather than later. 

Thank you Matthew for taking the time to speak to me! 

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