By Ben Folley.

Labour’s response to next Wednesday’s Budget will be the starting pistol for the next election.

That is why Labour activists are gathering at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity meeting on Monday night, with Katy Clark MP, Steve Turner, Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee, to discuss what positive alternative to cuts Labour should offer.

The Tories general thrust was set out by Cameron speaking from his golden throne at the Mansion House in November last year: an ideological charge for a permanent reduction in public spending.

The signs are that George Osborne’s fourth austerity budget will make good on that pledge and extend his projection of public spending cuts by another year, to 2020. That means more job cuts, lower pay and a growing role of private business interests in the provision of public services.

The results of this policy are clear. People are suffering because of public spending cuts with those on lowest incomes and reliant on social security hit hardest. Other potential Budget announcements to shift tax thresholds whether on the personal allowance, as Lib Dems favour, or the higher rate, which their Tory partners want, will ignore the five million suffering on the lowest incomes and already living with less than £10,000 a year.

Ed Miliband’s message on the cost-of-living crisis needs to be developed into a real and positive alternative to the Tories austerity agenda, as Labour responds to this year’s Budget and sets out its election pitch.

The leader has previously shown willing to set the political agenda. Previous announcements on the bedroom tax, freezing energy bills and building homes have struck a chord. Labour now needs new policy announcements that will reverse the cost of living crisis, identifying cuts to reverse, market failings to correct, areas for public investment.

The public will identify with clear policy pledges on new council homes, on a universal childcare system or a national insulation scheme to further bring down energy charges – and polls show they are more supportive than ever on returning industries to public ownership, particularly in transport where ever increasing fares and reduced services only damage the economy, which gives Ed Miliband space to manouevre.

But opposed to this positive message, some on Labour’s right are on an offensive to push policy that accepts the Tory framework, with some now advocating an end to ringfencing of health and education spending. While such sentiments are aired in public, Labour’s opinion poll lead will remain vulnerable.

And Labour’s policy announcements must demonstrate we can succeed in government. With increased focus on Europe, it is only too apparent that a centre-left government imposing cuts on a vulnerable population will lose support as in France, and be forced from power, as we have seen in Greece.

We must drive a positive alternative to the Tory budget.

Policy documents recently released for consultation before the next National Policy Forum fall short of setting the framework that can solve current problems.

It is vital that widespread opposition to austerity amongst Labour Party members is discussed in Westminster and our policy-makers are encouraged to set out the policies we need to succeed in government.

Join us on Monday as we set out our alternative to Tory austerity.



Ending Austerity Budgets:
Labour policies to win in 2015

– Katy Clark MP
– Steve Turner, Unite the Union
– Owen Jones
– Polly Toynbee

6.30 – 8pm, Monday 17th March
Wilson Room, Portcullis House

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