LAAA conference report: Labour would lift living standards

A packed Labour Assembly Against Austerity conference on 22nd October heard stirring calls from Labour front-benchers for economic policies that improve the lives of working class people and cut inequality.

Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott MP, pointed out that we were living in difficult times but also times that presented a big opportunity. The mass influx of new members, enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, gave Labour an opportunity to speak to many more voters on important issues such as employment rights, housing and equalities. Labour was now clearly established as an anti-austerity party that would stand against stagnation, the long continuous fall in living standards, and the loss of hope among many young people. Diane warned that the Tories and their supporters in the media would try to deflect the anger and resentment at austerity towards racism, Islamophobia and hostility to The Other. Under Corbyn, Labour would stand up for migrants and focus on the damage Tory economic policies are doing to Britain.

Professor Ozlem Onaran from Greenwich University gave a very useful presentation on the effects of financialisation on the UK economy. There has been a trend in Britain away from long term planning and co-operation with the work force to prioritising speculation and paying dividends to share holders. A chronic lack of investment had led to falling productivity and greater levels of inequality. Falling union density in most workplaces had led to wages declining as a share of GDP. This was a trend across the developed world but was more pronounced in Britain.

Former Derby MP, Chris Williamson, pointed out that growing inequality is a choice by those with power. Financial institutions make greater profits out of poverty by risky lending, payday loans and credit cards. The richest states on the planet were busy working out ways of exploiting the very poorest and socialists must work together to offer a better alternative.

JC4PM social media co-ordinator, Marsha-Jane Thompson, outlined the importance of new forms of social media in putting across our message and pointed out the way important campaigns and the voices of women are often ignored by the mainstream media. Catherine West MP, who won Hornsey & Wood Green in 2015 and now has the biggest membership CLP in the country, spoke about the impact of in-work poverty and the cuts on young people. Food and housing costs are rising and constituents often have to beg for support just to get by. A Labour government could make a real difference to people’s lives by implementing progressive policies.

Roger McKenzie from Unison spoke about campaigns against low pay and the struggle of teaching assistants in Durham and Derbyshire who are on strike against Labour councils who are trying to cut their pay by 25%. Too many employers were trying to impose new terms and conditions on their workforces and trade unions must be willing to support their members whole heartedly when they are forced to take action to defend their incomes. Roger also spoke out against the rise in racism since the Brexit vote.

Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, closed the conference by setting out how Labour’s policy had changed from ‘austerity-lite’ to full opposition to austerity. A Corbyn-led Labour government would implement a package of measures, through the planned National Investment Bank, to ensure investment in the economy and growth. This growth would be used to implement policies for greater equality and to eradicate poverty. The Tories had failed in their own terms to grow the economy and eliminate the deficit and had overseen a shameful rise in poverty and reliance on foodbanks and benefit sanctions. Labour would transform the British economy into one that lifts living standards and benefits workers.

The 1-day conference was a great success, giving activists the arguments to support Labour’s new approach to economic policy.

The next LAAA event, planned for 29th November in Parliament, will hear from MPs Richard Burgon and Cat Smith, on the Tories plans to cut living standards and Labour’s response to the Autumn Statement.

 

Report by John Stewart, Hackney North and Stoke Newington CLP

Originally published in Labour Briefing

EVENT: Winning With Jeremy: Labour’s Alternative to Tory Austerity

Winning With Jeremy: Labour’s Alternative to Tory Austerity
The 3rd Labour Assembly Against Austerity

10am – 5pm
Saturday 22nd October 2016
Student Central (formerly ULU)
Malet St, Central London

REGISTER YOUR PLACE NOW

With confirmed speakers:

Diane Abbott MP
Jon Trickett MP
Catherine West MP
Richard Burgon MP
Kelvin Hopkins MP
Shelly Asquith, Vice-President (Welfare,) NUS
Caroline Hill, Chair, Young Labour
Huda Elmi, Labour Students BAME
Danielle Tiplady, People’s Assembly Against Austerity & #bursaryorbust campaign
Professor Özlem Onaran, Director of Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre
Professor Victoria Chick, Emeritus professor of economics, University College London
Liam Young, writer for the Independent & New Statesman
Cllr Alice Perry, Islington Councillor & Labour NEC
Christine Shawcroft, Labour NEC
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Labour NEC
Cllr Emine Ibrahim, Haringey Labour Councillor
Denis Fernando, Stand Up To Racism
Don Flynn, Migrants Rights Network

Marsha Jane Thompson, Momentum Steering Committee
Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary
Roger McKenzie, UNISON Assistant General Secretary (invited)
Peter Kavanagh, Unite the Union London & Eastern Regional Secretary
Steve Turner, Unite the Union AGS & People’s Assembly Against Austerity

The third major national Labour Assembly Against Austerity conference brings together parliamentarians, trade unionists, community and anti-cuts campaigners with grassroots Labour Party members to discuss how we end austerity and popularise our progressive alternative.

REGISTER YOUR PLACE NOW

Owen Jones: Come to the Labour Assembly

 

I’m Owen Jones. I’m a journalist and activist.

I just want to call out for everyone to come to the Labour Assembly Against Austerity on the 9th of November.

We’re going through the longest economic crisis not since the Great Depression but in modern history. The longest fall in living standards since Queen Victoria sat on the throne.

A Britain being built on foodbanks, legal loan sharks, zero hours contracts and ever falling living standards while it remains boom-time for those bank-rolling the Conservative Party – hedge-funds, banks, legal loan sharks and so on.

What we need is a Labour Party, a Labour leadership, that fights for the people it was set up to represent – working people – at a time when they’re being made to pay for a crisis they have absolutely nothing to do with.

So we need as many people there as possible, to build as broad a movement as we can, to win over public opinion and win over the Labour leadership.

So let’s get cracking, let’s build that movement, and I’ll see you on the 9th.