Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
Dadansoddiad a thrafodaeth radicalaidd o wleidyddiaeth yng Nghymru
Subscribe to our RSS feed

Richard Bertin, Independent Socialist

Interview with Richard Bertin, Independent Socialist sitting candiate for Barry (Court ward) in the Vale of Glamorgan local elections on 3rd May.

They used to say in parts of Wales a donkey could get elected if it wore a Labour rosette, but in recent years as Old Labour has become New Labour, we have seen Labour support often melting away in their heartlands, equally though we have seen a number of ‘True Labour’ ex-Labour independents winning elections. This week I caught up with Richard Bertin who is standing for the council in Barry. Richard was first elected as a Labour councillor, but then served Court ward as an independent.

Hi Richard, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I work for Cardiff Bus as a bus driver driving around Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan which is good because I get to meet people and find out the public opinion on issues that affect their day to day lives. 
I am a socialist because I believe in public ownership, working together and equality. We are not seeing this and need to do more to ensure we get it. I am also a pacifist and against all war and will do all I can to resist it.

My political background is in the trade union movement and I am committed to fighting for fairness and social justice. I signed up as a union member at the age of 16 and have held various posts before becoming a Labour Party member in the 1990s.

Could you tell us more about why you joined Labour and why you left?
I was upset with the divisive cuts of the Tories and the problems they were causing to families, communities and society and decided I needed to go out and fight these cuts and the best way to do it I thought at the time was to join Labour. I joined in 1997 on the wave of what I thought was going to be a much needed change for this country. I was taken in by Blair at the time as were many others, but apart from the minimum wage, I struggle to remember what good they did for us and they certainly failed in terms of not repealing Thatcher's anti-trade union laws.

I left in 2010 because I was angry with the Iraq War, we had an all-women’s shortlist unfairly imposed on us and I was bullied out of the party for standing up for my trade union beliefs. Since the advent of New Labour they have shifted more and more to the centre ground and I feel I no longer fit in with what they stand for as they have lost their way. They are a party of business and the middle class, they are totally out of touch.

What we need to see now is a united Left emerging hopefully under a new party standing up for the good ordinary folk of this country.

You are standing as an independent, but you also mention the need for a new political party?
I am standing as an Independent because at the present time people still connect with Labour and think they are best to represent them. Although TUSC is one group that has been formed for the Left what we really need is a new party to represent the ordinary person and fight for them and stand up to the cuts. We must not lose sight to the fact that Labour currently supports the cuts and a freeze for public sector workers. 
We need a new party that is radical and one that people can connect with. I think it will be a low turnout at these local elections because people are losing faith with the mainstream parties but have yet to find a real alternative that they would support and feel comfortable with. The recent Bradford by-election showed that there is an alternative and people are prepared to accept change and I hope this will be emulated elsewhere. We need to get together and start talking about a way forward.

We need to address the issues such as unemployment nationally, affordable housing locally and globally the banking crisis. These are the issues that come up time and time again with people who I meet. I have to agree they are right yet little is being done about it by the mainstream parties.

What do you think local councillors can do to resist the cuts?
I am against the cuts, I will oppose the cuts and I will vote against the cuts. I cannot support cuts whilst bankers continue to get off scott free and continue to have bonuses. As a local councillor you can be vociferous and speak up for families and those affected by the cuts.

I am offering to take a 10% pay cut as an election pledge because if my constituents are finding it tough then so should I. Times are really hard and I feel sorry for people and want to help them as much as I can. 
We need more and better leadership from councillors as too many are in a comfort zone and do not want to rock the boat. Well I am sorry we just cannot sit there and take it any more we need a voice, we need fighters and we need action!

How would you respond to those who say there is no alternative?
There is an alternative. The Robin Hood tax, stop tax evasion and make those who can afford it pay a little more. We need to protect jobs and services and we need fair play because at the moment we are not getting it. We need to tap into other areas such as borrowing and we need to mobilise an anti-cuts movement to fight against all cuts.

Are there any books, people or events that have influenced you politically?
Karl Marx, Robert Owen, Tony Benn and Nye Bevan are or were good socialists and did a lot of good for the working man - it really is a great pity that Tony Benn continues to remain in Labour as they are now letting the working man down! 
A book that has influenced me is ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’a great read and a socialist bible. The event that most springs to mind for me is ‘The Tolpuddle Martyrs’, I recently visited Tolpuddle, it is well worth a visit!

Thank you for speaking to Radical Wales, any final remarks for our readers?
If anyone feels they are able to help with my election campaign as an Independent socialist please get in touch. I am against capitalism because it is the cause of poverty, low wages, unemployment and inequality. We need to work together for change, for a better society and I hope that you can join me.