‘The electorate will choose growth over austerity’

‘Recessions hurt, but austerity kills’. This was a title from the Guardian newspaper a few months ago that really carved into my mind.

Austerity has equated in a two tier society and class divide has truly impersonated Lazarus and come back from the dead. It is without doubt that austerity is hurting many and even killing some, and the response to austerity has been positive but far too divided to challenge these bunch of posh bully boys. We have had the People’s assembly, trade union response, UK Uncut, Occupy and the 99% movement but it can be argued that the Labour Party is the only opposition that can counter this government and their austerity agenda.

The spirit of the Labour Party, the real Labour Party, is in some form starting a revival; and it is each and every one of us who can pressurise the leadership to adopt opposition to austerity stance and be pro-growth. That is growth for all. Next Generation Labour has kicked things off with the ‘Labour Assembly Against Austerity’ event to be held on the 9th of November.

300,000 more children in absolute poverty than last year, real wage value down 8.5% since 2009, slowest economic recovery since the great depression, savage cuts to the welfare state that many gone before us fought hard and long for, co-ordinated attacks and demonization of welfare recipients and immigrants. The list of this government’s failure is endless but at the same time they have cut taxes for the rich, ruled out a mansion tax, refused to co-opt into an EU wide cap on bankers bonuses and Robin Hood tax, cut HMRC staff and let tax avoidance/evasion flourish and overall, let the rich get richer.

Yet despite all of this, the Tories have pretty much ruled the day and won the economic argument so far, even though they are profoundly wrong. This is because Labour, sadly, has yet failed to chase the Con-Dems on their wrong-doings, shout from the roof-tops and most importantly; orchestrate the debate. Because of our lack of direction, the debate has always been orchestrated by the Tories therefore subverting the real debate with their war on ‘scroungers’ and immigration. We need to organise, unite and find our voice to decide the topic of debate i.e. falling living standards, workers’ rights, exploitation by the rich and corporations and incomes.

The economy is starting to grow and this growth is being dressed up as successful and sexy and the Con-Dems are doing their best to sell this to the public. Just look at PMQs where endless amounts of Tory MPs try to occupy the debate by spouting the rhetoric that the Government was right after all regards to growth and austerity. The sad fact is that this growth is in many parts artificial and has grown in a way which it doesn’t distribute proportionally and is passing the majority right on by. We need to scrap any commitment to austerity and focus primarily on growth, the growth of income, jobs for all, meaningful infrastructure, re-distribution, prosperity, manufacturing. This is what will win us the election. The electorate will choose growth over austerity, but if we adopt (like we have been previously doing) a Tory-lite austerity offer then we are destined to lose. Furthermore, Miliband should focus more on his pre-distribution idea with private rent caps, Living Wage, controlling the costs of utilities.

For all of you who joined the Labour Party (of which I believe we are the majority) for passion of the Labour movement, social justice and socialism; then it is time we unite and assemble. We have had positive calls for a day of co-ordinated strike action from the TUC. Let them hear our ferocity and anger, let’s awaken the sleeping giant.

We can start by attending the Labour Assembly Against Austerity on the 9th of November. We can make change by showing the leadership the direction its membership wants to head towards. This is one apple we can’t afford to wait for to get ripe, let’s cause it to fall now.



Labour and the People’s Assembly

Standing out at the People’s Assembly was the energy of new community campaigners who are now opposing the impact of austerity on living standards and public services in their local area. From local hospital supporters, to anti-bedroom tax campaigners, single mothers organisations and disabled groups, the day brought them all together with a unifying theme of opposition to austerity.

The TUC’s General Secretary Frances O’Grady set the scene with a combative speech, remarking, ‘Austerity is failing. Its failing ordinary people and its failing Britain too. It’s destroying growth, its devastating living standatrds, and its holding back recovery. Let’s make it clear, and make no mistake, they are waging class war on ordinary working people. Enough is enough.’

The Tories attack on the state, chopping vital services and cutting loose vulnerable people is not only destroying living standards for those not responsible for the crisis, but preventing the economy growing again. Austerity is stagnation.

So it was with disappointment that many read the media reports of Ed Miliband’s speech to the National Policy Forum. News headlines that ‘we won’t reverse cuts’ and Labour will accept ‘falling public spending’ should it be elected in 2015 will predictably depress support for the party ahead of the next election.

But Labour activists were there in large numbers. Ken Livingstone discussed the economics of anti-austerity with UNISON’s Heather Wakefield, London Assembly member Murad Qureshi discussed cuts to London’s emergency services. This was not the anti-Labour event some on the right of the party claimed, but it was opposed to Labour accepting and implementing austerity.

The mobilisation of 4,000 people for the event demonstrates the growing opposition to spending cuts. Following Saturday’s People’s Assembly, that opposition is set to become a serious alternative mobilising force to the austerity dogma which has held sway since 2010.

The event was the culmination of weeks of planning and discussion, involving thousands more attending local rallies around the country – 200 in Newcastle, 400 in Nottingham, 700 in Manchester were just a few over the past month. Those activists have now been tasked to go away and establish local People’s Assemblies and provide a voice to those affected by the cuts.

Those of us in the Labour Party should play a role in these, but we must also discuss how our party can represent that opinion – because it is failing to do so. With many Labour MPs and members actively opposing cuts in their constituencies – to local hospitals, fire stations and other vital public services – and many calling on the government to scrap the bedroom tax, we need to hold a national discussion on this.

It was Owen Jones, who stated, ‘There’s no shortage of anger out there, there’s no shortage of fear, but there is one thing missing, which is hope.’ If Labour is to provide hope, it must reach the logical conclusion that as well as condemning Tory austerity, it will pledge to end it, if and when it is elected. Pledging to do so can only make that election more likely.

That is why Next Generation Labour is calling for a Labour Assembly Against Austerity in October 2013.

The Assembly is open to all party members opposed to austerity – nearly 400 have already signed up – please sign up to the statement and get involved.


Position (if any)

We need a Labour Assembly Against Austerity

Talk of ‘tough decisions’ and ‘iron discipline’ on spending demonstrate the dominance of Tory thinking over economic policy in Westminster, even as its effects cost them support in the polls. Labour needs to start thinking and acting for itself and for the people it represents.

The Tories are tanking as the impact of austerity, trashing the economy and tearing up lives, hits home with voters. As I have previously written, the austerity agenda which has dominated the UK’s economic debate since 2010 is increasingly seen as inseparable from a stagnant economy and growing poverty and unemployment. But the response from Labour has been to triangulate and trim to this unpopular message which will not help build our support.

The Tories now propose to extend spending cuts into the next parliament and despite austerity failing, the right wing argue that Labour should accept Tory spending limits. Some senior party members are accepting a framework of economic stagnation and even Ed Miliband talks of delivering ‘with less money around’, rather than seeking to inspire voters with an alternative vision of growth.

There have been attempts to gloss over concrete commitments to maintain cuts with suggestions these could fund new projects. Labour will not convince people if its message is so clearly confused and the talk of welfare cuts and caps suggests to voters a policy framework similar to the Tories.

At the same time, our affiliated unions are campaigning against the cuts on a daily basis and urging stronger opposition to the Tories in Parliament. Many Labour MPs and members are actively opposing cuts – to local hospitals, fire stations and other vital public services – plus 36 Labour council leaders are calling on the government to scrap the bedroom tax, which has itself generated a large number of local protests.

The growing movement opposing the government’s attacks needs a forum to discuss the way forward – which the People’s Assembly Against Austerity on the 22nd June will provide. Many Labour Party activists will be in Central Hall Westminster to join in discussing the economic alternative to austerity.

This campaign against austerity needs to step up a gear within the Labour Party. Labour’s right-wing is pressing for the leadership to adopt the Tories’ austerity policies. This can only lead to the economic and political failure of a Labour government, which is why a radical alternative is needed.

Only a progressive economic policy can succeed for Labour. It is also the best way to reach out to secure a broad coalition of support. Voters living standards have dramatically declined under this coalition government. Sticking with Tory spending limits in the next Parliament would ensure their further decline and cut Labour support.

That is why Next Generation Labour is calling for a Labour Assembly Against Austerity in October 2013.

We will discuss rejecting cuts and look at the alternative policies that Labour should advance in its manifesto. The priority must be to stimulate growth, jobs and better living standards. Labour Party members are an important part of a growing broad based national movement against austerity so we should play our part in supporting the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

The Assembly is open to all party members opposed to austerity – please sign up to the statement and get involved.