An inspirational selection of speakers joined forces for the Labour Assembly Against Austerity on Wednesday evening. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell rose onto the podium to thunderous applause from the packed hall as he spoke in depth about the real issues facing our local communities due to a failed austerity Tory agenda.
With not enough seats for those in attendance, men and women, young and old stood at the back and down the side aisles.
The evening began with NEC member and Islington Councillor, Claudia Webbe speaking of the relentless attacks from this Tory government on her community. “Women, young black and disabled people bear the brunt of this Tory agenda” she told with authority, to cries of ‘SHAME’ from the audience. This set the tone for more to come as we awaited MPs on their way from the HOC after another pointless public address from Theresa May – we had all rather optimistically hoped she might resign, as per media suggestions.
Liam Young (writer) spoke of how “working class people had never felt so detached from its MPs in the houses of parliament.” How we need to change the hearts and minds of people as we may only have 1 last chance to get Jeremy Corbyn into power. This was to be repeated later in the evening by John McDonnell and others. I think this is an important message that should be taken to the doorsteps of the nation to stop this Tory austerity agenda wreaking more havoc.
Murad Qureshi, Chair of Stop the War coalition followed. He made an excellent point about how “money is always available for war and intervention” but not for the people who need it most in our communities. £9 billion spent on the Iraq war and £350 million on the Libyan war. This is a national disgrace as foodbank use sits at over 1 million as per recent statistics.
Next, up stepped John McDonnell as the crowd fell to silence and were likely surprised to hear him speak of his optimism about an upcoming General Election, when he himself admitted to regularly feeling pessimistic of a Tory collapse. He raised the statistics that we hear and read all the time which shame our nation as the 5th largest economy in the world. “1 million pensioners in severe poverty, rise in infant mortality, 5000 sleeping on our streets” all due to a failed austerity programme.
Finally, some optimism arrived as McDonnell spoke of the Tobin tax plans on the city of London, a National Education Service – from cradle to grave, and a scraping of tuition fees. These are policies that are desperately required for us to build a society for the many, not the few.
Dan Carden, MP for Liverpool and Walton was next to the podium. A man I admittedly did not know much about until recently, however he spoke passionately about being a ‘proud scouser’ and how he was born into the Labour and trade union movement. His dad was in industrial pursuit for 2 years, fighting casualization on Liverpool docks.
Recently appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development he argued how “Labour in power is committed to building a better world, using aid to promote our public services such as the NHS and those values worldwide.” Most importantly though, recognizing that Labour will use “Diplomacy to advance progressive rules based action system” and how this will “apply to the strong, just as much as the weak”.
Following Dan was MP for North West Durham, Laura Pidock, Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (easy for you to say) since 2018. I had been an admirer of her public speaking since the failed front bench coup attempt in 2016 thrust Laura into the limelight and onto the front bench. I was so impressed with the energy and passion that transcribed in Laura’s speech as she spoke of “the drowning of social issues up and down the country by Brexit.” Applause and cheers rang around the hall as she spoke of the young people of McDonalds prepared to strike for better wages. The young that are prepared to walk out of school to force action on climate change and how she is not prepared to see 1 more person die due to being declared fit for work.
There will be a “fundamental shift of power from employer to worker” she mentioned, when Labour takes office under Jeremy Corbyn. Laura plans to tackle these issues by setting up a Ministry for Labour when she takes office and joked of how Jeremy does not like the name, encouraging audience members to tweet her some new suggestions! Finally, she re-iterated a message we had heard all night, “this cannot be our wasted opportunity, we must realise our opportunity”, I for one stand in solidarity with this message on the doorsteps, online or wherever necessary.
Last but not least was Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East. He galvanised the crowd as the clock ticked towards 9pm, explaining that “the argument is not a case of who supports 48% or 52%” like so many want to frame it. However, the real argument is “who supports the 99% against the privileged 1%”.
The answer to that is unquestionably a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government for the many, not the few.
By Charlie Zhara
You can see Laura Pidcock’s tremendous contribution below:
#StandWithCorbyn, Unite to End Tory Austerity – the next steps
At Wednesday’s rally with John McDonnell, Laura Pidcock and many more, we launched the statement below and accompanying tour. In a day, 2000+ members from 400+ CLPs signed up. It was great to see Richard Burgon tweet he was “proud to speak at the event.. with so many inspiring members” at what was the biggest, most significant Labour Left event in London outside the context of a leadership campaign for some time.
Please join us in these next steps:
2. ORGANISE A LOCAL EVENT: Following the call to organise local meetings supporting the statement, already over 15 events are being organised in association with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity. If you can help put one on or a speaker to another meeting, please reply to this email. Leading figures including MPs, trade unionists, writers and others have said they will take part.