On Wednesday 16th March, there was standing room only at the launch meeting of Horsforth Against Cuts as over 30 people crammed into the upstairs room of Bar 166. Joel Smith, a local GMB rep introduced the main speaker, Hugo Radice, a retired economics fellow at Leeds University, who spelled out the devastating impact that the cuts package the Con-Dem coalition and the economic nonsense of their rhetoric these cuts are necessary, particularly pointing out that the way to the mass privatisations they are carrying out under the auspices of the big society was opened up by New Labour’s academies and PFI programmes.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Most there wished to discuss how the cuts were impacting the Horsforth area including Socialist Party member Andy Smith who explained about the campaigns of students at Leeds Trinity and that they had decided to stand himself anti-cuts candidate in the local elections. Others raised about cuts to the health service in Leeds and the threat to a mental health drop in centre on Clarence Road.
However, Labour councillor for Bramley, Ted Hanley, whilst initially correctly blaming the casino-capitalism of the banks for the debt, was there to both defend the £90 million+ cuts that the council he is part of are making but also the previous Labour governments policies including academies, much to the outrage of several teachers in the room.
In reply I stood up and explained just what was wrong with academies in terms of the handing of control over to private sponsors and attacks on staff conditions amongst others and that PFI projects cost several times more than publicly funded schemes. Whilst I agreed that the banks were in large part responsible for the crisis, I pointed out that it was the very government that he was defending that bailed them out. But most importantly I explained that it wasn’t good enough for people who are going to be the victims of the cuts to hear him cry crocodile tears whilst cutting jobs and services. As I commented to applause from around the room, its not enough for councillors like him to say they oppose the cuts, they should be voting against them and using their position to organise a mass campaign of resistance to the government like was done by Liverpool council in the eighties.
Unfortunately, in his closing remarks, Hugo Radice advocated the same dented shield approach of councillor Hanley, arguing that all the Liverpool councillors acheived was to let the Liberals back in there (actually Labour’s vote went up in 1987 after Thatcher has removed the councillors with the complicity of the Labour right-wing around Neil Kinnock). This was after Hanley had attempted to thrown the usual slander of right-wingers at Liverpool City council, yet the real lessons of the Liverpool struggle will need to be discussed and dissected by anti-cuts campaigners up and down the country, and undoubtedly will do in Horsforth in the near future.
However, the meeting did discuss what campaigners in Horsforth should do next, including assisting people to get to the TUC’s anti-cuts demonstration in London on March 26th, which led to one woman recounting her experiences of the poll tax demonstration. Also discussed was the possibility of calling a ‘UK-uncut style’ protest outside one of the banks in Horsforth and it was agreed to keep in touch and organise a further meeting in the next month.