The Labour Assembly Against Austerity saw over 200 party activists come together to discuss the cost of living crisis being caused by coalition austerity and the need for Labour to present an inspiring alternative vision that will win the 2015 election and then go on to change people’s lives for the better.
Owen Jones kicked off the Labour Assembly saying polls show a majority want radical policies to defend living standards. He set the tone when he stated those who oppose the Tories ideological attack on the public sector are are the moderate and the mainstream against the “extremists of austerity’. Steve Turner from Unite said that to win back labour’s 5 million lost votes the key issue is policies that deliver for the majority. John McDonnell MP talked about the real human impact of privatisation, bringing down living standards, through increased prices increasing beyond individuals ability to pay. Katy Clark MP emphasised the link between austerity and the cost of living crisis and said defence of living standards needs Labour to offer an economic alternative.
In the ‘Keep Our Services Public’ session, Frank Dobson MP said the privatised utilities have failed to invest sufficiently but dividend payments booming – he called for a London referendum on taking Thames Water back into public ownership, while Tosh McDonald, from ASLEF, echoed him and said it is time to speak positively about public ownership. Lucy Anderson from the National Policy Forum said Labour must seek to re-establish a form of local authority control over schools and Heather Wakefield from UNISON said that local government has been the biggest victim of the coalition’s austerity binge and that, with privatisation, huge amounts of public funds were wasted when local government contracted out public services.
In the ‘No to Scapegoating’ session, Murad Qureshi AM said the Home Office ‘Go Home’vans demonstrated Lynton Crosby’s dog-whistle politics, while NUS Black Students Officer Aaron Kiely said Labour would only lose votes in ceding to the right on immigration.
In the ‘Economic Alternatives to Austerity’ session, Michael Burke said there is no less money – austerity is transferring income from the poor to the rich. Ann Pettifor said that Labour needs to set the agenda and challenge the idea that public sector is to blame for the crisis and Michael Meacher MP urged Labour to advocate greater public control of banking. Ken Livingstone said Labour should increase public investment and we should build the best part of 250,000 homes every year for a decade and ensure they are energy efficient. With runaway prices he said one response could be to raise the minimum wage to living wage levels
In the ‘Policies to win in 2015’ plenary, Jeremy Corbyn MP urged an emergency budget if Labour is elected in 2015 to lift the minimum wage to a living wage level, and to reverse benefit cuts, the introduction of private sector rent controls and public ownership of energy. Mike Hedges from Unite said we must defend migrants and claimants from those who would scapegoat them. Shelly Asquith said that privatisation is destroying education from fees, to rents and the threatened sell-0ff of the student loan book.Throughout the day, working closely with the trade unions was a recurrent theme, with a session outlining the Tory agenda to weaken the unions and discussing how Labour’s response must be to strengthen our links.
And if you missed the event, why not have a look at the thoughts of those who attended?
— Steve Turner (@SteveT_Unite) November 9, 2013
— Mohamed Harrath (@MohamedHarrath) November 9, 2013
Standing room only now at #labourassembly. Encouraging to see so many people saying that’s enough of austerity!
— Marian Craig (@MarianCraig) November 9, 2013
Some very thoughtful and well informed contributions from the floor at the #labourassembly
— Brnch Sec (@Unite785) November 9, 2013
— Paula Simpson (@plsimps) November 10, 2013
— Arvind Parmessur (@Omen100) November 9, 2013
— Daniel Blaney (@danielblaney) November 9, 2013