Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The real enemy is at Westminster

Today is a day when I expect to learn details of the way in which the Labour Group on the Council which employs me have chosen to be the political equivalent of human shields for the Coalition Government as the Tories (blue and yellow) force through cuts for which they have no mandate.

This is a depressing state of affairs which will tend to set the growing anrti-cuts movement against many Labour local authorities - and therefore against the only available vehicle for a challenge to the Coalition.

Labour Councillors are responsible for their actions. Those who implement cuts for George Osborne and Eric Pickles are not an opposition to those cuts. The argument that "Labour cuts are kinder cuts" is shallow, unpersuasive and - in my quarter century of local government experience - utterly unproven.

However, the reason why the demand that Labour Councils should not make cuts fails to find more than the faintest echo where it would matter is that there is (as yet?) no massive and influential anti-cuts movement which is sufficiently well-established to alter the parameters of political debate for the better.

In building that movement we need to ensure that we are not distracted from a clear focus on the source of all these cuts - the Coalition Government which is spearheading this unprecedented assault upon our welfare state.

This week the Tories unveil their plans to smash the National Health Service. To defend this historic gain we will need the widest unity (http://www.lambethunited.org/index.php/2011/01/lambeth-activists-plan-to-resist-health-cuts-report/).

Tomorrow Parliament will vote on the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance, which will close of life chances for thousands of young people in low income households. Again we must rally all those who would oppose this retrograde measure. (If you can get to the lobby of Parliament check - http://emacampaign.org.uk/files/2011/01/How-to-lobby-your-MP.pdf; if not go to - http://action.unison.org.uk/page/speakout/EMA).

Soon we will learn what fate - and Hutton - decrees will be the fate of our pensions, already devalued by some 15% from 1 April by statistical sleight of hand. If we want our trade unions to force the Tories back we need to focus ruthlessly on an issue where we can inflict a national setback upon the Government - and that is pensions.

For now though, like many local government trade unionists trying to save jobs and services, I find my immediate problems arise from the decisions of local Labour Councillors placing themselves between the Tory attacks upon our services and the anger which these will provoke.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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