Five years ago – when 750,000 people marched against the cuts

Five years ago  – when 750,000 people marched against the cuts

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Enormous show of strength against the cuts

Saturday 26th March is the 5th anniversary of the mass TUC march through Central London that saw up to 750,000 people protest against the cuts of the ConDem coalition government. It showed clearly that people were up for the fight against austerity. Unfortunately since then the leaders of the TUC and many of the trade unions have squandered opportunity after opportunity for a co-ordinated, sustained fightback.

We are pleased to republish two key articles below. The first is from the issue of our newspaper The Socialist printed a week after the demo. As you will see from the headline on our paper we fought for the next step being a 24 hour public sector general strike.

The second article was published in June of 2011, and looks back at the months following the mass demo, examining the role of the trade union leaders whilst posing the need for a political alternative – in our view socialist policies to break with capitalism.

With major battles looming, being headed by the courageous junior doctors, the need for a militant and combative response from the unions combined with the fight for socialism assumes even greater importance.


 

We said: NO CUTS!

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Front page of The Socialist

From every direction they poured onto London’s Embankment, from up and down the country, a magnificent surge of workers, their banners and placards, transforming London for a day.

Previously the governor of the Bank of England expressed surprise that there has not been greater anger against the cuts from those affected. Even some trade union leaders, the very organisers of the demonstration, had estimated that ‘up to 100,000’ would march.

But the number on the day was six or seven times that as the opposition to the government’s cuts was made clear. This was a reflection of the rage that has been building up, not having found a national expression until 26 March.

Not only was it huge, but this was unquestionably the working class on the march.

Firefighters, nurses, teachers, civil servants, transport workers, carers, young people, and their families surged through the city.

Trade unions

Union t-shirts, bibs and flags made blocs of purple, of green, of blue, orange, yellow, red and white. They marched against job cuts, against library closures, for a future for young people, for decent pensions, against the whole spectrum of suffering that the Con-Dem government intends to rain down on us.

But marchers drew confidence from their sheer number and also knew that more has to be done to stem the flow of cuts. Only days before the march the budget had granted further tax breaks to the richest and spelt greater suffering for the most vulnerable, such as the cuts in the winter fuel allowance.

Vince Cable has made the government’s position clear. “Certainly we’re listening, and I talk regularly to the trade union movement. I think [it’s] important we have a dialogue with them, but we’re not going to change the basic economic strategy.” But that’s what they think! Leaders of two of Britain’s biggest trade unions called for coordinated strike action to follow the demo.

They are absolutely correct: this demo must form the platform for an almighty and powerful campaign of action, of occupations of threatened services and, especially, of coordinated strike action, so the cuts can be defeated.


 
TUC demonstration biggest in decades
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General Strike!

On 26 March 2011 the British working class rose like lions and took to the streets in an immense show of strength. The massive TUC demonstration against public spending cuts was well over half a million strong, possibly 700,000 or more.
 By Hannah Sell

The capitalist media has attempted to completely downplay the importance of the demonstration, concentrating overwhelmingly on the clashes with the police at far smaller protests on the same day.

And the turnout on the main demo was far bigger than has been reported. The BBC, for example, claims there were just 250,000 attending.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the TUC itself has also underplayed the turnout as between a quarter and half a million.

This was the biggest trade union organised demonstration in decades.

It had widespread support from the working class and from wide sections of the middle class.

As a TUC-commissioned poll showed, a majority of the population – 52% – support the aims of the demonstration, with only 31% opposing them. Several Socialist Party members got free or reduced price taxi rides to catch early trains from sympathetic cabbies.

On the journey to London even first class passengers bought copies of the Socialist out of sympathy with the demonstration.

The potential power of the trade union movement was graphically demonstrated as a tidal wave of humanity flooded the streets of London. Among the protesters were pensioners, community campaigners and students, the latter veterans of their own movement before Christmas.

The overwhelming majority of marchers, however, were trade unionists, many taking part in their first ever demonstration. The Unison contingent alone took an hour to pass and it seemed as if every trade union – from the largest to the smallest – had its own lively and colourful contingent.

All of those capitalist commentators that have written off the trade union movement today as a spent force were decisively answered by this demonstration. The power of the trade unions was undisputedly established.

But the question on demonstrators’ lips was ‘what next?’ How can the trade union movement use its power to stop the cuts?

Clearly rattled by the size of the demonstration, Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable has declared that marching will not stop the government, which he laughably described as “one of the strongest the country has ever had”.

In reality this is a weak coalition government, far weaker than the Tory governments of Maggie Thatcher – the Iron Lady. Yet the Iron Lady was reduced to iron filings by a mass movement of 18 million people refusing to pay the flat rate tax (poll tax) that her government had introduced.

That movement ended the tax and brought down Thatcher. Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, was right when in his speech he called the anti-cuts movement the Con-Dem’s poll tax.

This government is already rattled and can be decisively beaten by the huge power of the organised working class. Nonetheless, few demonstrators imagined that this savage government of millionaires will be stopped in its tracks by one demonstration, no matter how big.

Correctly, it was widely understood that the demonstration needed to be a springboard for further action.

What alternative?

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight   (Click to enlarge)

Alongside the vital question of how to stop the cuts, the other issue of the day was what the alternative to cuts is. The march was officially called the ‘march for the alternative’.

For some right wing trade union leaders ‘the alternative’ is code for New Labour.

Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke at the demonstration. A small minority booed him, but in the main he was politely received.

He was very careful, however, not to put Labour’s real programme, of supporting massive cuts in public services albeit carried out at a slightly slower pace than that of the Con-Dem government. Instead he made an empty speech.

He made no concrete promises that a Labour government would reverse cuts. He compared the anti-cuts movement to the struggle of the suffragettes, anti-apartheid and civil rights movements without once mentioning the history of trade union struggle in Britain, or for that matter the anti-war movement against the New Labour government.

Unsurprisingly, the man who has said he “opposes irresponsible strikes” did not say a word about what action workers should take to defend their jobs and services from attack.

Many workers on the demonstration will undoubtedly vote Labour in the elections on 5 May in the hope that Labour will, at least, cut more slowly. A significant minority, however, are too angry at New Labour’s record in government and the way Labour councils have willingly implemented government cuts at local level to vote Labour again.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – which is standing anti-cuts candidates across the country in the May elections – received a good response.

And those that will vote Labour understand that doing so will not stop the cuts and that therefore further strikes and demonstrations are essential.

All the platform speakers were in the main greeted warmly by the crowd, but the loudest cheers came for those who called for the demonstration to be followed up by strike action.

Len McCluskey declared that the demonstration would have to be followed by coordinated industrial action. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, summed up the mood of many demonstrators when he said: “Today we’ve marched together; next we’ve got to strike together”.

The Socialist Party’s call for a 24-hour public sector general strike as the next step in the battle to stop the cuts received wide support from the crowd.

At the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) stage many hundreds of workers stopped to hear speeches about how such a strike could be made a reality. If the TUC was now to start seriously building for a one-day public sector general strike it would receive enormous support from trade unionists.

It would also attract millions of non-unionised workers and sections of the middle class towards the trade union movement, as the force in society with the power to stop the cuts.

Such a strike would terrify the Con-Dems and give enormous confidence to the working class. Unfortunately, other trade union leaders speaking from the main platform did not put forward a strategy for strike action to defeat the government.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, put forward local demonstrations against cuts. While such demonstrations can be an important part of the movement they are not a substitute for strike action – both locally and sectorally and coordinated on a national basis.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, rightly declared that the trade unions would not allow public services to be destroyed but did not make any concrete proposals on what the next step should be.

Before the demonstration he had emphasised the role of “peaceful civil disobedience”. As the Socialist Party warned at the time, we agree, but not if community campaigns and civil disobedience are used as an excuse to avoid strike action, rather than as an addition.

Civil disobedience

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight

TUC demo 26 March, photo by Peter Knight   (Click to enlarge)

It should be added that Barber’s call for civil disobedience does not seem to have translated into supporting it when it took place on Saturday. It was only a small minority of Saturday’s demonstration, mainly young people, who organised sit-ins in shops and other civil disobedience.

Such actions were secondary to the huge power shown by the main demonstration, despite the capitalist media’s inevitable concentration on them.

However, unfortunately the TUC has been reported in the media as just giving a blanket condemnation of ‘violent protesters’, without a word about the role of the police.

We do not support the smashing up of shops as a method of protest, and unfortunately it gives the government, the media and others a way of trying to detract from the magnificence and size of the main demonstration.

But in the main it was the police, not the demonstrators who were violent on Saturday. It seems that the majority of civil disobedience which took place around the demonstration was peaceful, but faced kettling and arrests.

The Guardian website shows film of young people – many singing the international revolutionary workers’ song ‘the Internationale’ – being kettled and manhandled by the police for taking part in an entirely peaceful protest.

Len McCluskey was right when he supported the student protests and demanded “the police keep their grubby paws off our kids”. The fact that so many students attended the TUC demonstration shows that they are rightly looking to the trade union movement to take the lead in the fight against the cuts.

If that is to remain the case it is essential that the trade unions support the youth’s struggle, including against police repression, but also take decisive action against the cuts.

Opposition to cuts in pensions is one issue around which there is a clear prospect of coordinated strike action. The UCU have already taken strike action and is considering more, and the civil servants union, PCS, is discussing balloting for strike action on pensions to take place in May or June.

The NUT is also discussing action before the summer. To have these three unions – one million workers – strike together over pensions would be an important step forward in the battle against cuts.

However, we need more. Unison has also promised national action over pensions, but unfortunately Prentis made no mention of it in his speech.

Unison members, however, want to see action on this issue. There was support among Unison members and others on the demonstration for the Socialist Party’s call for a national midweek demonstration on the day of the next national strike against cuts and attacks on pensions in order that workers from across the public sector can show their support for strike action and to increase the pressure on other public sector unions to build for a one-day public sector strike.

The political alternative

From the platform there was little explanation of the economic alternative to cuts. Much emphasis was put on the need for job creation but without explanation of how that can be achieved.

Almost every speaker criticised the bankers although from the most right wing, like Usdaw general secretary John Hannett, this was no more than a plea for the bankers to “lead by example”.

This is like asking Dracula to lead by example in refraining from drinking blood!

Several speakers called for a Robin Hood tax on the finance sector which is estimated would raise around £20 billion a year. Mark Serwotka rightly opposed all cuts and very effectively pointed out that tax avoidance by the rich is equal to £120 billion a year, which is almost as much as the total government budget deficit, £143 billion, to be eliminated over four years.

Therefore, at one fell swoop, it should be possible to cut the deficit!

The problem that was not addressed is how to collect the money. As the unpaid £120 billion indicates, the capitalist class is not prepared to pay even the puny levels they are currently taxed.

To collect the money is virtually impossible unless the government uses wide economic powers. This poses the question of the complete nationalisation of the banks and finance houses under workers’ control and management.

Even this would need the cooperation of workers throughout workplaces and industry with the powers – workers’ control – to really open the books, discover the scale of tax avoidance taking place and bring offenders to book.

In other words, socialist measures are needed even to eliminate tax avoidance and evasion, which the overwhelming majority of ordinary working people would support.

Unfortunately, speakers at the main platform did not raise the case for socialism; for a society run in the interests of the millions rather than the billionaires.

However, more than 50 Socialist Party campaign stalls put the case for socialism to the demonstrators. For many of them, on their first demonstration, socialism was a completely new and very interesting idea.

Hundreds wanted to join the Socialist Party, several thousand went away with a copy of the Socialist and many tens of thousands went away determined to struggle, alongside the socialists, to go in the coming months from a massive demonstration to a massive public sector general strike.

Thank you for voting Socialist!

Thank you for voting Socialist!

Vote TUSC!

We’d like to thank all the people across Coventry who voted against austerity and for a socialist alternative yesterday. TUSC candidates received 4388 votes in the council elections and 3052 in the three parliamentary seats – a total of 7440 votes for Socialist candidates.

A full analysis of the election results will follow. TUSC candidates will continue our campaigns against the cuts, and we urge you to get involved!

Did you vote TUSC? Let us know! 

Dave Nellist responds to Michael Gove on union ballots

Tories plan further anti-union laws – Dave Nellist responds

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and TUSC

Michael Gove has followed Boris Johnson and other right-wing Tories to demand tighter new rules for strike ballots, which they believe would put an end to virtually all public sector strikes.

The Daily Mail reports – see here – if the Tories win the 2015 General Election that a strike could only take place if it was supported by a majority of the entire membership of the union in the sector concerned voting Yes in a postal ballot.

Dave Nellist, who was an opposition member of Parliament 30 years ago when Tories Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit first introduced postal ballot requirements, comments:

“There isn’t actually a legal right to strike in this country. There are tighter and tighter rules which define whether a strike can lead to employers suing unions whose members take strike action, or not. The current law on postal ballots already makes it hard for unions to conduct a legal ballot, and if all those rules are not complied with employers can sue a union. The proposal of Michael Gove is to set a bigger trap to make it harder for unions to remain immune to that legal action.

At the moment what is required in a ballot for industrial action is a simple majority of those voting. That’s the same principle, as Paul EmberyFBU London secretary, has said, as is required in virtually all votes from elections, through company shareholder meetings, to the X Factor Grand Finale.

It’s not a question of union strike ballots lacking a ‘democratic mandate’. There are few politicians who could pass Michael Gove’s test of only being legitimate if they receive over 50% of those eligible to vote – including Michael Gove himself.

Boris Johnson was elected as London Mayor in 2008 on 19% of those eligible to vote and some Tory Police Commissioners won their elections in 2012 on votes as little as 7% of those eligible to vote! The Tory Party itself in the 2010 election got less than 25% of the 45 million people eligible to vote. Yet they want to impose on trade unions a higher threshold than applies to themselves in elections to public office.

Trade Unionists always want a maximum turnout and a maximum yes vote for any action. And we had much higher turnouts and votes when decisions were made either at mass meetings at workplaces or by ballots issued and collected at workplaces.

The Tories in the 1980s brought in postal ballots to break up the solidarity of workers discussing at work whether an issue demanded strike action (always a last resort) and whether a particular form of strike action could win. They wanted workers atomised, making the decision individually at home, where the influence of the Tory press and mass media could weigh down on workers and their families.

The Tories brought in (and Labour never reversed!) a raft of requirements (to do with nominated addresses, time of ballots, class of worker who could be involved in the balloting, rules on questions, statements warning of breach of contract, separate ballots for separate workplaces and so on) all designed to make it easier to trip up unions.

And employers have been quick to go to court on the tiniest technical detail (including one famous case when, despite a turnout of 78% and a yes vote of 87%, train drivers’ union ASLEF was taken to court, and employers initially won an injunction, because ballot papers had been given to 2 drivers who it turned out were not entitled to vote!).

TUSC is currently arranging trade union delegations to Labour Party prospective parliamentary candidates to see whether any of them are serious about reversing the austerity agenda.

On the issue of trade union rights we will be asking them whether they support the provisions in the Labour MP John McDonnell’s ‘Trade Union Rights and Freedom Bill’, on reintroducing protections for participating in industrial action, unfair dismissal, complaints to employment tribunals, automatic reinstatement, agency labour in industrial disputes, definition of a trade dispute to include associated employers etc (and on other union issues such as the reinstatement of facility time and check off rights removed by the Con Dem coalition).

The nature of their replies on that, as well as on other issues including restoration of public services and benefits, the immediate introduction of a Living Wage, the lifting of the public sector pay cap, and renationalisation (for example of rail and Royal Mail), which are all policies widely supported the trade union movement, will help decide whether local TUSC groups add those constituencies to the list of possible challenges in the 2015 general election.

On Thursday, July 10, 1½ million workers, possibly the biggest number involved in industrial action since 1926, will be sacrificing a day’s wage to make a stand against years of pay freezes; of pensions costing more, paying out less, and arriving years later; and of hundreds of thousands of jobs gone, and many more to come as all politicians seem to accept that austerity in the next Parliament will be sharper than even what we have had so far.

Those on strike will represent millions more who feel the same anger towards the Con Dem government, and who will take heart by those standing up on July 10.

As the prison officers have shown (whose right to strike has been completely removed) when that anger boils over and action is taken it will take more than a new rule from Michael Gove to stop working people challenging austerity.”

Dave Nellist

National Chair, TUSC

 

Coventry Tory Brands Food Bank Users “Selfish”

Coventry Tory Brands Food Bank Users “Selfish”

A Coventry food bank

A Coventry food bank

In 2013-14 almost a million people in the UK were supported by food banks, over 17,000 of them in Coventry. The majority of people using food banks had been affected by benefit cuts or sanctions imposed due to Government austerity measures. Despite the numbers of people forced to rely on food banks, at a recent Coventry Council meeting, Tory councillor Julia Lepoidevin claimed that some food bank users in Coventry are “selfish” and choose to spend money on drugs or alcohol rather than food.

However, when 50 Coventry people a day are being referred to food banks, there are clearly issues other than addiction causing people to go hungry. Labour cllrs angrily heckled Cllr Lepoidevin’s remarks – however, the welfare policies advocated by Labour leader Ed Miliband, such as cutting benefits for under-21s and an overall commitment to stick with Tory spending plans, would lead to far more people relying on charities for food. Coventry used to be a city renowned for its car factories – now we’re renowned for our food banks. People across the country are being left to starve as a result of austerity policies – we need to organise to fight for decent jobs and homes for all.

Miliband Joins Tory Onslaught on Young People

Miliband and Labour have once again joined the Tory onslaught on young people

david-cameron-ed-miliband

Not content with seeing hundreds of thousands of young people on the dole or drifting in and out of low paid, insecure zero hour contacts. Miliband has today announced plans to ‘out Tory the Tories’, by setting out plans to cut benefits 18-to-21-year-olds who do not have qualifications equivalent to one A-Level. Replacing them with a means-tested payment dependent on training if Labour is elected in 2015.

The overwhelming majority of young people out of work and on the dole today, aren’t there out of choice. They have been forced through the dire lack of jobs across Britain today as more jobs are cut and more people thrown on the dole as a consequence.

Instead of fighting for the millions of young people thrown on the scrap heap of austerity in 21st century Britain. The Labour Party have once again shown their blatant support for more Austerity and the idea that ordinary working class people should pay for the crisis of the banks and free market system.

The solution to youth unemployment is not ever harsher and more punitive treatment of those who are out of work; it’s the creation of millions of secure, well-paid socially useful jobs – jobs that can provide the foundation for stable and happy lives for the next generation, as well as homes and services for those who need them.

Coventry Socialist Party members on youth demo

Coventry Socialist Party members on youth demo

Not one of the mainstream political parties currently offers us that. For young people facing unemployment – anger, frustration, stress and even despair can be normal responses to the bleak prospects austerity offers. But a concerted fightback, by young people working alongside trade unionists, socialists and other campaigners, can challenge the cuts consensus and help secure a decent future for the ‘99%’.

We say:
• A living wage that’s enough to live on – fight for a £10 an hour minimum wage and no youth exemptions
• Scrap workfare and all unpaid work schemes
• For secure jobs with guaranteed hours – scrap zero-hour contracts
• For government investment in well-paid socially useful jobs with full trade union rights for workers
• Prevent job losses. Stop public sector cuts
• Share out the work. For a 35-hour working week with no loss of pay. No increase in retirement age

Unison member in Coventry responds to Kevin Maguire’s call for unions to break link with Labour

Unison member in Coventry responds to Kevin Maguire’s call for unions to break link with Labour

Cartoon used in the Mirror newspaper

Cartoon used in the Mirror newspaper

Following the article in today’s Mirror newspaper by Kevin Maguire, we have received this comment from a Unison activist in Coventry. We welcome responses which can be made on this site using the comments function or by emailing us – see details at the bottom

The trade union – Labour link, time to end it

Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire has made a very interesting contribution to the debate about the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions. His article which is available online here makes some very telling points about the reforms being carried out by Ed Miliband and what the unions and their members actually get out of the link with Labour – which is not very much at all.

Maguire’s columns regularly make some very good comments on the situation facing working class people in the face of Tory austerity – he also prominently supported the Youth Fight for Jobs re-creation of the Jarrow March in 2011.

He outlines the situation facing the unions today with regard to the relations with the Labour Party

‘Rather than enduring a thousand indignities, organised labour should take its money and people and abandon institutional links with the party it fathered, nurtured, saved and continues to sustain.’

However Ed Miliband dresses up these far reaching reforms, which were triggered by his blind panic over the selection of a parliamentary ­candidate in Falkirk, the truth is he wants union cash but not the unions.’

Time to end the link

Many Unison members, as well as many members of other affiliated trade unions have been calling for an end to the Labour Link for some time. As we have pointed out on many occasions – it is an abusive relationship where we hand over millions of pounds in affiliation fees only for Labour to attack us. Whilst in government Labour did little or nothing for the trade unions, including failing to scrap Tory anti-union laws.

Any thought that Labour would move to the Left in opposition was quickly dispelled. In the dispute in the Falkirk constituency Labour called in the police to investigate Unite for fighting for trade union policies within the party, opening the way for Ineos to attack the Unite convenor which had a negative effect on the outcome of the struggle at Grangemouth.

‘Sticking a red rosette on austerity’

Labour are as committed to austerity as the Tories. Much fuss has been made about the announcement that Labour will push up the top rate of income tax from 45 per cent to 50 per cent – however as the pro capitalist journal The Economist points out ‘The 50 per cent rate is a political sop, thrown to Labour’s electoral base by Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, to make up for the austerity measures that he has also, rather more vaguely, promised, many of which will hit poorer Britons.’

Maguire makes the excellent point later in his column with regard to the cuts in the Environmental Agency following the recent floods.  He states

‘At a private meeting, GMB union reps urged Labour frontbencher Maria Eagle to promise she’d halt Environment Agency job cuts blamed for flooding.

She wouldn’t. Labour attacks on the ConDems are a wet blanket when the party just sticks a red rosette on austerity.’

Council cuts

Maguire talks about the leaderships of Unison, GMB and Unite not being happy with the relationship. This is very timely given that these three unions represents millions of workers, many of whom work for local authorities. For example here in Coventry which is Labour controlled we face the prospect in the coming weeks of Labour Councils setting budgets which will see union members lose their jobs and vital services in working class areas slashed. Damn right the unions aren’t getting value for money!

However particularly in Unison the pro Labour leadership have attempted to stop any debate or discussion about the Labour Link, including witch-hunting Socialist Party members who amongst other things have called for a break with Labour. Too many times has the Unison leadership put the interests of the Labour Party before its own membership.

Activists in the affiliated unions will have to continue to push hard and build further organised support within the workplaces to break the link.

New party of the working class needed – TUSC prepares for May challenge

The Socialist Party has consistently called for a break with the link with Labour. We welcome Kevin Maguire’s article as a contribution to the debate in the trade union movement and the working class more generally about the future of working class representation.

However in itself the breaking of the union – Labour link will not be enough. We believe what is urgently needed is the formation of a party for working class people and trade unionists, an independent political voice that will oppose all austerity, that will put the needs of the 99 per cent above that of the 1 per cent. A party that will restate and articulate the need for socialist policies to fight capitalism.

With that aim, we are a key part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, TUSC, which has the support of the RMT union and many other leading trade unionists from PCS, POA, FBU, Unison, Unite, CWU, GMB and many other unions. Already we know there will be at least 400 TUSC candidates across the country, including 18 here in Coventry where we will be standing in all 18 seats. TUSC and the Socialist Party will be the only anti austerity option for voters in May. We encourage anyone who is sick of the 3 establishment parties to contact us and to help us with the tasks ahead.

Questions, comments, want to get involved? Please email coventrysocialists@googlemail.com or fill in the form below

Nellist calls for halt to Bedroom Tax evictions

Former city councillor, Dave Nellist, has called for an end to Bedroom Tax evictions. The call came as the Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, was reported, by the Sunday People (01 Sept), as planning to announce later this month that a future Labour government would scrap the Tax.

Dave Nellist speaking on a Anti-Council Cuts Protest

Dave Nellist speaking on a Anti-Council Cuts Protest

Mr Nellist said:

“If the announcement takes place, and if it is honoured, that would be welcome. But if Labour now finally agree that the Bedroom Tax should not exist they should immediately take measures to shield people from its consequences.

Firstly, where councils own housing stock, or where councillors sit on housing association boards, they should immediately halt enforcement measures against tenants in arrears.

Secondly, councils should step up discretionary housing payments to all affected tenants so no one goes into arrears because of the Tax.

And Labour nationally should announce a future Labour government would reimburse any council for spending, using reserves, or borrowing to protect tenants between now and the abolition of the Tax.

Anything less than such a robust response and some might think the Labour leak is less a genuine proposal than a cynical attempt to shore up Labour’s weak opinion poll position in the run up to their Conference.”

Mr Nellist has been speaking at a number of meetings in the Midlands setting up ‘anti Bedroom Tax’ groups following the suicide in May of 53 year old grandmother, Stephanie Bottrill, of Kingstanding, Birmingham.  The groups have set up networks to support people in arrears, and to organise community opposition to evictions.

Mr Nellist added:

“Whilst this Labour announcement would be welcomed, on its own it’s not enough to reverse the savage attacks which have taken place on working people in general, and on the poorest sections of society in particular.

Ed Miliband needs not only to promise to scrap the Bedroom Tax, but announce policies to end the indignity of the need for food banks, to reverse the cuts in the real value of benefits, to lift real wages and pensions, and to end the growing scandal of zero hour contracts which for many hundreds of thousands of young people are the only alternative to long-term unemployment.

It’s to tackle those wider issues, which Labour is still ignoring, that needs a new political party, one that will challenge all the pro austerity parties at the ballot box. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition intends to stand 600 candidates at next May’s elections highlighting all the attacks on working people and their families and offering a break from the austerity coalition which still unites all the big four parties.”