It's official - in Stoke-on-Trent only TUSC will fight against cuts!
Over forty trade unionists, community campaigners and students heard Nick Gore from the Lib Dems explain why cuts ‘were necessary’ that ‘it was Labour’s fault’ etc.
Much more important however was the clear difference between TUSC’ s opposition to all cuts and the position taken by Mohammed Pervez, Labour leader and leader of Stoke-on-Trent’s Cuts Coalition. He defended Labour’s and the Coalition’s savage cuts of £36 million as being necessary because of government funding cuts and that there was nothing we could do.
Scialist Party member and TUSC candidate for Meir North, Andy Bentley, speaking from the platform, explained that, “this was not true and that some of the £61 million reserves that Stoke-on-Trent city council has along with legal borrowing powers could have been used to prevent these cuts linked to a citywide campaign to force the government to provide extra resources”
In response, Mohammed Pervez lamely told us that he had sent letters of protest to government Ministers but they had still not budged! Approaching the use of reserves and borrowing as a bank manager he ruled this out because it would cost more in the future. But this is to ignore the linking of such measures to the building of a campaign to demand more money from the government.
Most of the Labour councillors, election candidates and members present had nothing to say about actually fighting against cuts. Labour Party member and North Staffs TUC President Jason Hill who is spearheading a so called ‘relaunch’ of North Staffs Against Cuts with a new constitution whose first aim is “To stop all public sector cuts” was silent at this event. (For the background to this divisive attempt to set up a rival anti-cuts alliance to that which was officially launched at a Conference on 21 January 2011 see http://www.stokesocialistparty.org.uk/?p=796 )
Most bizarre contributions from the floor came from Socialist Workers Party members. Rob Cartlidge posed a question to all those on the platform, “why should young people vote?” Andy pointed out to him that, “as your Party, the SWP, are a component part of TUSC and are also standing TUSC candidates across the country I would have thought you would be calling on young people to vote for TUSC and that your help with the TUSC campaign in Stoke-on-Trent would be welcome”
SWP member Abigail’s only contribution was to ask Andy, “Why do you keep attacking Labour?” This, despite the fact Andy had already pointed out that, “Labour said they wouldn’t introduce Tuition Fees and they did, they said they would repeal the anti trade union laws and they didn’t, they made the gap between richer and poorer greater, took us into two wars, increased the casualisation of labour, attacked pay and conditions of workers and are now carrying out savage cuts in jobs and services – need I go on?”
Mohammed Pevez’s statement that Labour ‘had saved Children’s Centres’ was met with disbelief and anger by Alan Lear who has been one of the Save Our Children’s Centres’ campaigners who forced Labour and the Cuts Coalition to remove the threat to seven of the sixteen centres across the city. To read Alan’s written response click on link below
This was an important event in the city and special thanks should go to PCS youth rep Jo Mee for organising it because it provided an important opportunity to discuss publicly a serious alternative to the usual diet of ‘we must make cuts’. More than fifteen thousand TUSC leaflets given out across the six wards where we are standing and events like this one have forced the issue of a real alternative to cuts on to the agenda.
In summing up Andy told the meeting that these were
“the most important local elections in Stoke-on-Trent for decades. Why? Firstly, because we need to stop this cycle of cuts, cuts and more cuts. Secondly that councillors elected will be in place for four years and we can’t afford four more years of cuts.
On 5 May people in Stoke-on-Trent are faced with a clear choice, you can vote for Lib Dem, Tory, Labour, BNP, Community Voice or others and you will guarantee job losses, cuts, closures and privatisations or you can vote for TUSC for a fight against those cuts”
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Apparently Labour Party members during the PCP hustings event were tweeting about TUSC and the Socialist Party wanting to “take us back to the 1980′s”.
The reality is that the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem’s plans for savage cuts, if not stopped, will take us back to the mass poverty and unemployment of the 1930′s. But they are right about the Socialist Party wanting to rebuild the 1980′s fighting traditions of the miners, Liverpool’s Socialist Council and the victory over Thacher’s Poll Tax.
Nothing less will suffice in the struggle against the three main parties attempt to make ordinary working class people pay for a crisis created by big business, top bankers and successive governments.