Interview with Thaya Idaikkadar and Harrow’s new Independent Labour Party
What got you into politics in the first place?
T: I got into politics quite late. I joined the Labour Party as a protest against Margaret Thatcher. I thought she had destroyed the community. It was all money oriented. Margaret Thatcher asked if it was cheaper to treat a person, or to shoot and bury him? If shooting was cheaper- shoot him! The society is still suffering from these days everything was about money. Community and family values disappeared. A lot of people came to me with their problems because I knew the councillors. Some started saying that I should be a councillor. I was fifty years old when I became a councillor, and that was the start of my political career. Now I am sixty two ( “or sixty three, no sixty two”). In my school (at the age of fourteen-fifteen) one of my teachers was a communist. I became a member of the Communist Party. The system was very corrupt, everything was done by bribery. I shied away from politics. I thought politics was ridiculous. Later on I realised that politicians in the UK are not as corrupt as in Sri Lanka. But thank you to Margaret Thatcher. She brought my political career back alive.
Z: For me politics was a form of charity. My parents had brought us up doing things for the community. I used to give speeches at community events. Many MPs and councillors attended. They encouraged me to take my career further. I was happy to do everything in the background. When I met councillors I realised how much power they have to make a change. Then I thought it would be a good route to take in life.
How do you feel about socialism today? Is there something we can take from it?
Z: When looking back about forty years and my communist party life, I think everything was for the politicians. There are a lot of nice ideas in socialism, but the politicians do not care about people and often life luxurious lives. Power-grabbers. One of the American presidents went to visit Moscow. The schools were not in a very good condition, but the prisons were in first class condition. The president asked why the prisons were in such a good condition? And the party leader said “that is where we expect to end up”. That is the kind of mentality, like control freaks- that was the problem with communism. Like Mao in China, he was a total control freak. There are two extremes: corrupt by money or power hungry and controlling. The idea that everyone is equal does not encourage anyone to work harder than others. There must be an incentive for people to produce better things in life. The communist beliefs that I brought into politics is that everyone should have a roof over their head, sufficient meals and clothing… That means being civilized. Other than that we can go back to the caves and fight each other. There are a few million disadvantaged, disabled children. If I would disregard all the disadvantaged children, I could save a few million and give more tax free income to the rest, or more financial support. That would get me elected or re-elected, because the disadvantaged form only 5-6 %. That is democracy. But is that fair? I am prepared to do things that are not popular.
Should the political system be changed due to the party-whip followers behavior?
T: Often the truth of good decisions is that our children or grandchildren will benefit from the policy changes made today. That is the reality of it. If you look at the elections in 2014, I would like to see more people without political baggage to get elected. They have a fresh mind and new ideas. Having people from different backgrounds opens peoples’ minds.
Z: The MPs are very interested in getting and keeping young people in politics. I probably got the most phone calls, for hours, from several MPs. But I said that I will put my personal principles first and I refuse to follow the party whip and keep my mouth closed on certain issues. Principals over notes. Well, that could be a political suicide. But as long as I follow my principals and I am happy-if i do not get re-elected, so be it.
Why are young people so apathetic about politics?
T: The difference between the parties is too small. People ask me if my party would come into power -what difference will it make? There may be a 50 pence difference in taxes in a week. Overall there is no big difference. I asked a lady which party would she vote for? She said she could not care less. That is the problem with young people. Now the education fees and debts after graduating from a university can be up to £50 000. That is a very depressing way to start a life. Education is becoming a rich man’s facility. How can the poor be successful without education? A lot of money is being spent on wars to achieve a so-called peace. Where does this money came from?
Z: I was reading that in America over half of the population is living in poverty. It is a horrible world out there.
T: Yes. They use the rhetoric of national security to justify this and to mislead the public. They think that Russia, China or whoever is going to take over unless billions are spent on arms. I cannot see anybody taking over anybody in the modern world.
Z: People should still vote. And to take power away from the same old-same old. A lot of people do not take the time to investigate what or who they are voting for.
T: I want the youth to realise they have a lot of power in their hands. The revolutions have often started from universities. Wake up- realise you have power. Take over the councils and the Parliament. That is what I want to see.
Do you agree that the universities have been taken over by business-only attitude?
A lot of students have to work during their free time or weekends. The time to debate over politics or society issues have been taken away from them. It is a capitalism take over. The attitude where the youth would tell the government what they want has diminished. It is not right that the government decides over everything. A lot of people are working for the rich as slaves. Give them no free time and little food, so they will be slaves forever. The differences between parties never tackle this issue. I would support young people from the background, if they wanted to get into councils.
W: You only need to look at the current Labour Party in Harrow. Look at all of the people that have left them. And the ones that stay are the same old-same old.
Z: A lot of politicians stop youngsters from coming up. A young women has been one of the best cabinet members ever. She did not get the opportunity earlier because no one wanted to give up their position. When Tony Blair became Prime Minister he did not have any experience in being a Cabinet member. A long experience in committees etc. does not necessarily make good politicians.
Is there a lack of political education in schools?
T: Yes. When I was forty two- it was the first time when I knocked on a council door. I was scared to talk to the councilors and I did not know what to expect. But I got used to it. That is what is stopping young people. Some years ago the teachers used to have lunch with the students and discuss current issues. Now this interaction and debates are not happening anymore.
Z: A lot of schools are only focused on pushing up the exam grades. The general knowledge and understanding of the society is not important. This is a big problem.
T: The universities often do not know how many of their students get employed. The relationship between grades and employment is not paying off. Why is that happening? My next door neighbours are both teachers. I asked why some schools are better than others? One of them said that the difference is made by the parents.
Z: A lot of parents are very busy and they do not have time to focus on their children. Very few people sit down and take the initiative to teach their children. Most are busy working and making money.
Why do private schools offer a better education than many public schools? Is this the state’s failure to improve general standards?
Z: I would send my kids to private school. First of all because the political education is better. The teachers interact with children a lot more. I often hear stories about teachers not really teaching but just handing out books to children. I do not know what we are paying them for. In state schools teachers just do not care enough!
T: In the city of London everyone is competing and fighting each other. No one wants to cooperate or help each other.
ShoutOut UK: Well, the state could influence the teachers to work better. However the Ministry of Education has always said no to our interviews. We have contacted Channel 4 and the BBC Free Speech… But a lot what the channels put on is verified by the government.
What are your projections for the Independent Labour?
T: Obviously if you do not think that you are going to win- you would not waste your time and money. One of the goals for me is to make the Cabinet open. To let the opposition ask as many questions as they want. There should also be more interaction with the public.
Do you plan to have a party whip at all? What would make your party to stand out?
T: Well, you do need to have some sort of discipline. In the major parties few members make most of the decisions… If someone talks against me, I would not mind that. In some parties you will get kicked out of the Cabinet. We are not like that. We keep our door open to everyone.
Z: Yes, we discuss everything with each other. We give everyone a freedom to speak their mind. We are open to scrutiny. The leader’s decision is often final, but all decisions are open for debate.
When you left the Labour party it was claimed that you are too much to the left and you cannot accept democratic decisions. Is there any truth in it ?
T: I was actually a portfolio holder for property and contracts. I gave up a very comfortable life that I had. If I stayed with the Labour- my life would have been a lot easier. It was not about my position. The Labour simply cannot accept different ideas and often undermines their own party leaders or fellows.
Z: The reason why we left was because of pure unfairness. A lot of them are there for the money as they are elderly or have no other income. But I am in property development and I do not need the money. I am doing very well. So no, we were not there for the money. In the Labour Party many are typical politicians who stab their friends in the back. Some members wanted to get their own wives in. They are alright to let incompetent people to get into these positions. I saw this from year one and I thought I will never stand again.
T: Look at the deputy leader of Labour Party. …She got sidelined…
Z: Yes that is what happens. If you do not play by the rules of the bullies they will kick you out!