Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate
A Coventry Socialist Party member and active trade unionist in the city responds to the letter supported by local Labour MPs and Jeremy Corbyn
Anyone walking through Coventry will see the impact of austerity. Empty shops, a visible increase in people being forced to sleep in doorways and under bridges. Public services stretched almost to breaking point. An NHS in crisis. Students taking on tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt just to get an education.
It seems like a long time since George Osborne said “we’re all in this together”.
It is very welcome that local Labour MPs are supporting the letter to Prime Minister Theresa May highlighting the damage being done by cuts to local government funding. Any and all pressure that can be put on the Tories is a step forward.
At the same time, we need to think about what is the way forward in the fight against austerity, and what our MPs and local councillors can be doing to put the maximum pressure on this weak and divided government to force them out of office at the earliest opportunity.
With the Tories in such a crisis, we think if even a small number of Labour councils said to the government that they would not continue to implement austerity cuts, it would add to the pressure immensely. As we have consistently argued, we think it was mistaken that since the formation of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition in 2010 and then the Tory government of 2015, our Labour council has consistently passed on local government cuts to the people of Coventry. This has seen school transport charges levied on families of children with disabilities, cuts and closures in youth services, thousands of jobs lost at the Council, attacks on the terms and conditions of staff that provide vital services in our city to name but a few.
Our elected representatives should work with the people of Coventry, the trade unions, local communities, anti-cuts campaigns, and all those affected by Tory austerity to demand more money for our city. Letters will not be enough. The Labour council, with the support of the MPs, where possible linking up with other Councils doing the same, should say to the Tories we demand the restoration of all funding stolen from our city. The reserves that the council have built up, more than doubling since 2010 to over £90 million could be used as a temporary measure to set legal no cuts budgets to “hold the line” to allow time for a mass campaign to be built. And with May teetering on the brink, a future Labour government should pledge to restore all funding as soon as it was elected.
It is timely that at both Labour and Tory conferences, the spectre of Liverpool City Council was raised. Labour MP Dawn Butler invoked a frenzied response from the Blairites for remembering in a positive fashion that conference was taking place in the city where in their 1980s battle with Mrs Thatcher, the councillors said it is “better to break the law than break the poor.” Esther McVey of the Tories in her conference speech compared the left-wing group Momentum to Militant.
Liverpool City Council won back the equivalent of £60 million in today’s terms from the Tories. Despite the lies of the right wing, not a single worker was made redundant. Decent housing, leisure facilities and public parks were created.
We need our public representatives to show some of the audacity and determination of the Liverpool councillors.
To build on the letter sent to the Tories, words should be turned to action. Our MPs should call mass public meetings in conjunction with trade unions in the city which would bring together union members, campaigners and all those hit by austerity to hammer out and discuss the tactics and strategy needed for us to win.
The trade union movement also needs to discuss what demands we should be fighting for.
For example the letter that MPs and councillors across the West Midlands signed finishes by demanding “complete reform of local government funding to make councils more sustainable and more accountable to the local electorate. Local authorities should be given the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue, allowing the proceeds of growth to be kept locally“. The letter doesn’t actually specifically call for the cuts of the last eight years (which now amount to over £100 million a year in Coventry) to be refunded, but for “government to reverse the disastrous policy of austerity” which is not quite the same.
Without a restoration of national government funding then “the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue” might be okay for some richer boroughs, but not for poorer.
We think mass meetings organised by our public representatives would take the struggle forward in terms of the fight for public services, but also help build the movement that can drive the Tories from office, and bring Jeremy Corbyn to power. Socialist policies are what are needed to end austerity, which is a direct result of the capitalist crisis triggered by the collapse of the banks. We are still paying for it. Working class people have paid enough. Time to stop all the cuts, get the Tories out and fight for socialism.
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