Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How can we make an alliance with our employers against Tory cuts?

It’s good to be on leave. A change is as good as a rest and the different sort of busy is a restful change. I am pleased to have time to step back and look at what is going on at work.

I see that someone claiming to speak on behalf of Lambeth Council is in denial about clear evidence of a racial disparity of the incidence of redundancy in one Department, where job cuts are being proposed which go well beyond what is required to achieve budget reductions.

Labour Councillors wanting to mobilise opposition to Tory cuts need to reflect upon how senior officers who are accountable to them go about implementing their decisions. In Lambeth we have at least the outline of how to answer this question, but it is a question that will arise everywhere where Labour is in office.

We cannot expect an early return to Poplarism (more’s the pity) but – equally – Councillors and Party members cannot realistically expect that the local government trade unions will swallow “Labour” cuts quietly in the interests of unity against Tory cuts.

Labour groups are caught on the horns of this dilemma (or contradiction, as we Marxists like to say). It is easier to see what isn’t the answer than what is – and clearer what won’t happen than what will.

Clearly the answer is not for Labour politicians to celebrate their contribution to public spending cuts whilst denigrating opponents of the cuts (a la a certain South East London Mayor). Whilst we aren’t of course heading back to 1985 in Lambeth any time soon we do need to articulate a strategy which enables the labour and trade union movement to mobilise the opposition to public spending cuts which does exist and will grow.

Those who call for Labour Councillors to adopt tactics which would place them outside the law are destined to be disappointed in the immediate future – but those upon whom such calls are placed need to listen and think carefully about how to respond.

I don’t have an answer just now – but I do have one suggestion.

One positive contribution would be for Labour Councillors to assert political control over senior local government officers – some of whom believe that the election of a Tory Government is an opportunity for them to run reactionary riot.

I, however, won’t be party to the necessary discussions for the next couple of weeks, as I shall be in other places.

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