Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Broadening the fight against cuts

Having had to address Councillors about budget cuts I was late to a packed meeting last night in defence of one of our local fire stations (http://www.saveclapham.com/).

The turnout was impressive not just in numbers but breadth, and the leading role of local Labour Councillors, who had got the local MP and London Assembly Member down to speak alongside the FBU, was noteworthy.

Boris Johnson's plans to close fire stations can be stopped, and the widest resistance, uniting firefighters and the community, is clearly essential.

The support from Labour Party members and elected representatives for this campaign is welcome for three reasons.

First, Labour Councillors and MPs can play a positive role in helping to maximise community mobilisation, as we have seen in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.

Secondly, involving Labour Party members in a campaign as Labour Party members has a positive impact on the Party as it will tend to radicalise them (us!) It reminds Party members that there is a politics beyond elections and a purpose beyond proving our suitability for government.

Thirdly, the more the Party is mobilised to resist cuts, the more we can force comrades to consider the contradiction between resisting the cuts in the community and implementing them in the Council chamber.

Last night, in our Town Hall, senior Councillors tried to keep their spirits up whilst nodding through further cuts in a silent and almost empty room. A little over a mile away, three of their Labour Council colleagues were at the head of a packed and determined meeting, out to defeat Tory cuts.

With many more cuts to come over the next four years than we have seen since the General Election, broadening and deepening opposition to these cuts, whilst seeking to encourage the debate about what Labour office-holders should do, is clearly in the interests of public service workers (and all who depend upon our services).

In this context I'm pleased to report that sources close to the UNISON Centre suggest that UNISON will indeed be on board for the recently announced "Peoples' Assembly Against Austerity" (http://m.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/feb/05/people-assembly-against-austerity) which appears to be our best opportunity yet to draw together the disparate threads of opposition to austerity.

If we are to stand a chance of getting a significantly better Government after the next election we need now to draw those Labour Party members mobilising to defend their local hospital or their local fire station around the broader anti-cuts agenda. UNISON's backing for the Peoples Assembly may mean that we can fashion that into one of the tools with which to do that job.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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