25 people attended a meeting last night to discuss the need for anti-cuts candidates in the local elections in Leeds. The meeting was jointly organised by Leeds Socialist Party (who contested last years elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalitio, TUSC) and Leeds Alliance for Green Socialism.
Iain Dalton, Leeds TUSC agent
This follows last years elections where between ourselves and an independent candidate we had 9 candidates opposed to all cuts contesting the elections in Leeds and we held a joint rally just prior to polling day. This year we are attempting to build upon that by contesting more council wards in the city and encouraging other groups that oppose all cuts to do so too.
The meeting was chaired by Leeds AGS Vice-Chair Malcolm Christie, who gace apologies for Leeds AGS Chair and NASUWT executive member, Celia Foote, who was due to be chairing the meeting.
Ian Pattison from Leeds Socialist Party spoke first, describing the huge resistance that is building up to the cuts being forced through. He mentioned that last years local elections saw many people vote for parties that might sheild them from the cuts, whether that was the Labour Party, the Greens in Brighton or the SNP in Scotland, but instead of using this support to build mass campaign of opposition to the cuts they are carrying out the Con-Dems dirty work.
He contrasted this with the heroic resistance of ordinary people, last week saw 2 million trade unionists strike against cuts, and over the last week Leeds has been graced with the presence of Occupy Leeds in City Square. Ian argued that councils should be helping organise this around mass campaigns in local areas for needs budgets and fighting for the resources to carry this out.
Mike Davies, national chair of the AGS, agreed with the points Ian made and concentrated on the environmental consequences of the cuts. Various initatives to increase the use of renewable energy have been scrapped by the government, that Cameron had claimed would be the ‘greenest government ever’. He also focussed on the urgent question of global warming that has slipped off the radar in recent years as the economy has deteriorated.
The final speaker was Brian Caton, former General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA). Brian explained how when he was younger he’d joined the Labour Party as a party that stood up for ordinary people, but a few years ago after the then Labour government took away the right of prison officers to take industrial action he ceremoniously decided to hand back his Labour Party membership card to Jack Straw in front of his annual conference and join the Socialist Party.
Brian emphasised the need to take up the issues affecting the day to day lives of ordinary people, and relentlessly explain how the main parties constantly fail to provide a decent standard of living for them. He praised the example of the National Shop Stewards Network in trying to organise rank and file trade unionists as well as calling for those in Labour affiliated unions to campaign to stop funding a party that represents the bosses interests and start funding one that supports those of ordinary working people.
Following the meeting, we hope to finalise an anti-cuts pledge that members of Leeds AGS and Leeds Socialist Party will sign pledging us to oppose all cuts, voting against them if elected, but also being part of local campaigns to oppose them too whether elected or not. We hope to circulate this round the local anti-cuts movement and trade unions to encourage further debate on how we resist this onslaught.