Talk of ‘tough decisions’ and ‘iron discipline’ on spending demonstrate the dominance of Tory thinking over economic policy in Westminster, even as its effects cost them support in the polls. Labour needs to start thinking and acting for itself and for the people it represents.
The Tories are tanking as the impact of austerity, trashing the economy and tearing up lives, hits home with voters. As I have previously written, the austerity agenda which has dominated the UK’s economic debate since 2010 is increasingly seen as inseparable from a stagnant economy and growing poverty and unemployment. But the response from Labour has been to triangulate and trim to this unpopular message which will not help build our support.
The Tories now propose to extend spending cuts into the next parliament and despite austerity failing, the right wing argue that Labour should accept Tory spending limits. Some senior party members are accepting a framework of economic stagnation and even Ed Miliband talks of delivering ‘with less money around’, rather than seeking to inspire voters with an alternative vision of growth.
There have been attempts to gloss over concrete commitments to maintain cuts with suggestions these could fund new projects. Labour will not convince people if its message is so clearly confused and the talk of welfare cuts and caps suggests to voters a policy framework similar to the Tories.
At the same time, our affiliated unions are campaigning against the cuts on a daily basis and urging stronger opposition to the Tories in Parliament. Many Labour MPs and members are actively opposing cuts – to local hospitals, fire stations and other vital public services – plus 36 Labour council leaders are calling on the government to scrap the bedroom tax, which has itself generated a large number of local protests.
The growing movement opposing the government’s attacks needs a forum to discuss the way forward – which the People’s Assembly Against Austerity on the 22nd June will provide. Many Labour Party activists will be in Central Hall Westminster to join in discussing the economic alternative to austerity.
This campaign against austerity needs to step up a gear within the Labour Party. Labour’s right-wing is pressing for the leadership to adopt the Tories’ austerity policies. This can only lead to the economic and political failure of a Labour government, which is why a radical alternative is needed.
Only a progressive economic policy can succeed for Labour. It is also the best way to reach out to secure a broad coalition of support. Voters living standards have dramatically declined under this coalition government. Sticking with Tory spending limits in the next Parliament would ensure their further decline and cut Labour support.
That is why Next Generation Labour is calling for a Labour Assembly Against Austerity in October 2013.
We will discuss rejecting cuts and look at the alternative policies that Labour should advance in its manifesto. The priority must be to stimulate growth, jobs and better living standards. Labour Party members are an important part of a growing broad based national movement against austerity so we should play our part in supporting the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
The Assembly is open to all party members opposed to austerity – please sign up to the statement and get involved.