Sunday, 27 January 2013

Councillor resigns – Unison withholds funding. Labour meltdown in Stoke-on-Trent continues!

On 23 Jan Stoke-on-Trent Labour councillor Andy Lilley resigned from the Labour Party saying, “I cannot, nor will not support an administration that seeks to target the very people they claim to represent”

The following day Stoke-on-Trent Unison Local Government branch decided to suspend funding of Labour locally because of their attempt to push through more cuts against workers jobs, terms and conditions. Branch secretary Clive Rushton said,

“The Labour Party was born out of the trade union movement and is there to represent the working man. It is now attacking the working man.”
How true this is! Rather than discuss with the unions and council workers how the cuts can be resisted, the Labour council leadership has just forced them through.

Why should the hard earned cash of workers fund a party that kicks them in the teeth?

To many people locally and nationally these developments might seem to have come out of the blue but they reflect the seething resentment which is now felt by millions in Stoke-on-Trent and across Britain at the failure of Labour to fight for the interests of ordinary working class people. And in a predominantly working class area like Stoke-on-Trent, the feeling of betrayal has become widespread.

Recently this anger has reached fever pitch because of the city council plans to borrow up to £59 million to build another new council HQ after carrying out savage cuts of £56 million over the last two years with a further £21 million planned this year.

There is massive anger against this plan. Nearly three thousand people have signed Stoke Socialist Party’s petition against the new HQ which also calls on the city council to “Save our Jobs & Services Instead”. Other petitions are also ongoing.

What started as a ‘virtual march on Stoke’ on Facebook has now become a real “March on Stoke” taking place on 23rd February. Public meetings are taking place across the city.
In a local by election last July Labour’s vote plummeted by 17%. That was before knowledge of the planned new HQ became well known. If there were local elections this year Labour would face wipeout. It’s not surprising that rumours of other Labour defections are growing. But can Labour in Stoke recover from this meltdown? The choice is quite simple.

Labour councillors have to decide which side they are on - a right wing led Labour council passing on Con Dem cuts or their own workforce and the people of Stoke-on-Trent?
There are genuine socialist Labour councillors who want to fightback against the governments constant cuts in funding but such a fight is not being allowed by the right wing pro-big business leadership of Labour nationally or locally. 

Does anyone honestly think this is likely to change in the period ahead? Are the Labour leadership going to give up their stranglehold on the party?

It's extremely unlikely which means Labour will be party to the driving back of living standards to the 1930's.

There is an alternative to endless cuts!

Despite Labour council leader Mohammed Pervez denials, councils can legally borrow money and or use reserves to stave off cuts.

Nationally councils are currently holding on to “13 billion in reserves!

If they refuse to implement cuts they would get massive support from across the city and beyond.

They could set a budget that meets the needs of the 250,000 people who live in Stoke-on-Trent, as part of a mass campaign involving unions, service users and the local population, to demand more money from the government. Linking up with other local authorities, the government could be forced into granting more resources to the city.

If the city council launched a campaign of resistance to central government, TUSC would give our 100% backing and would help mobilise support across the city, in trade unions and in the communities through demonstrations , rallies and protest etc.

Is waiting for a Labour government an option?
The strategy of Labour and some trade union leaders seems to be; lets carry out so called ‘kinder cuts’ and wait for a Labour victory at the next general election.

But in Stoke-on-Trent in 2006 with a Labour controlled council AND a Labour government cuts of £21 million were launched!

In 2007 Labour formed a coalition with the Tories, Lib Dems and Independents and continued to carry out cuts and massive hikes in council tax. And this was in a period of prolonged economic growth not the economic stagnation that will face Labour if it wins the next general election. This poses a crucial question for Labour Party councillors, members and ordinary working class people locally and nationally.

If Labour is not prepared to launch a serious fight AGAINST cuts under a ConDem government or under a Labour government then under what circumstances will they ever again fight for the interests of ordinary working class people?
In fact Ed Miliband has said he supports government austerity measures and that a future Labour government would not reverse one spending cut! They condemn strikes and refuse to repeal the anti trade union laws. Quite clearly the Labour Party no longer represents working class people.

We applaud the efforts of lefts and other hard working Labour Party councillors and members locally and nationally trying to reclaim Labour from it’s right wing leadership. But we also think that your efforts are in vain.

Even if tens or hundreds of thousands of trade unionists, other activists and youth join Labour, the democratic structure no longer exists in the party to allow genuine Socialist ideas to prosper.

Two Labour councillors have already been expelled from Labour in Southampton for having the temerity to vote against cuts. Now in Stoke-on-Trent councillor Andy Lilley resigned to be able to speak out against cuts.

The lesson is becoming clearer by the day – if you want to fight against cuts you need to step outside of the Labour Party and trade union members should follow the example set by Unison in Stoke and demand that their money is no longer used to fund a party that continues to attack their jobs, pay and conditions.

We need to build from the bottom up a new party to fight for and represent the interests of ordinary working class people.

We believe that the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is a step in this direction – an electoral alliance standing candidates against cuts and privatisation. It already involves leading members of the PCS, NUT, RMT. POA, community campaigners and Socialist groups including the Socialist Party.

TUSC stood 6 candidates at the last local elections in Stoke-on-Trent and in 2015 we aim to stand more.

We want to discuss with Labour councillors locally who want to fight AGAINST cuts how we can work together to resist the Con Dems cuts onslaught.

You can check out TUSC here

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