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The Grass Roots Speak: “Our Labour Party, Our Future”. August 2012

People“Our Labour Party, Our Future” An Unofficial Meeting of the Grassroots. Saturday 17th August Artlink Princes Ave, Hull

The meeting was attended by a wide cross section of Party members and supporters. There was a range of ages, backgrounds and experiences which led to a multi faceted discussion rather than focussing on narrow interests. Trade Unions, the Co Op Party, charities and various campaign groups brought their ideas to a wide ranging debate.

This was an absolute pleasure to chair and showcased the considerable talent and life experiences that are available to the Labour Party in our City and region.

The points raised are in no order of importance and represent the feelings of those present rather a coherent programme for Government.

Nevertheless I urge those to whom this paper is presented to take it seriously as it is the voice of the activists, those who deliver leaflets in the November rain, bang on doors when they would rather be with their family and canvass the votes that put our MPs in Westminster and our Councillors in the Town Halls all over this country. They do it because it is important, because politics is important and because they believe that only the Labour Party can deliver the changes our Society so desperately needs.

Housing: We desperately need to build 2 million new homes. The Co Op Party has a concrete plan which sees houses built at cost, and for every five new homes delivered a “free” one comes online. The initial pot of investment is never touched because the new affordable homes, or homes for rent are self generating financially. We can employ our young people, and they can benefit from the homes built.
Home developments must be mixed type and sizes to create social cohesion. These would be truly homes of and for the people, democratically run by the people. Liverpool Council delivered mixed stock in the 80’s winning worldwide praise for promoting civic pride.

The NHS This is Labour’s greatest legacy and achievement. NHS workers, as nationalised industry workers such as British Rail did in the past, take great pride in belonging to an organisation that serves the community. It was commented on that outsourced, and private companies were using the NHS logo which is disingenuous and misleads the public.
The Guardian reported that the world economy has $900 trillion slushing around un invested. As there is not the money to be made elsewhere, this leaves NHS services vulnerable. Profit has no place in the NHS and all services should be delivered by a state funded NHS free at the point of use. PFI must end and the Health and Social Care Bill must be repealed (in full).

The Message: The Labour Party has to decide whether it is one the side of the Market or on the side of the working class, youth and those vulnerable members of Society who do need a helping hand. Many feel isolation and that there is no one to speak for them against harassment by ATOS and the IDS inspired cruelty of the Benefits system.
Above all the Party needs to be forward looking, offer hope, and generate a feeling of optimism that a Labour Government will make a difference.
Young people don’t know that the Party stands for their interests due to the New Labour years of tuition fees and the Iraq War. The Lib Dems profited, betrayed youth and turned them off politics, “they are all the same”.
Labour should fight inequality, not be “relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.
Polices flow naturally from values and a clear message (clause four).
There is a disconnect between the Front Bench, the PLP, some Councillors, Officers and the members. Some campaigns on “soft issues” such as aspects of the NHS (though not cuts) are seen as acceptable, whereas “hard issues” such as local government cuts, the Bedroom Tax etc are seen as not being deserving of support when the going gets tough (we are now not saying we will repeal the Bedroom Tax).
Members feel isolated and that our many varied experiences in the real world are not tapped in to or indeed valued.
The Far Right is threat because they, along with the Tories offer a clear programme. The Tories fight for their class. So should we.

Austerity: This is making the people pay for the mistakes of the Banking system. All the risks were taken by unelected financiers, but all the consequences are being borne by the majority.
This is not a deficit crisis, it is as much of a tax crisis.
Labour must be prepared to break with austerity. We said in 2010 that we would invest to protect the recovery by borrowing. What are we saying now? Tory Lite programme.
A 20% asset tax ( as proposed by Prof Danny Blanchflower) sees the deficit wiped out with £650 billion to spare. Abolish VAT, stimulate growth, build houses, employ our workers and invest in education, clean energy and the NHS.

Elected Representation: Careerist politicians are a massive turn off for the public. We must have a Parliament that looks and sounds like the UK.
Parliament must represent the the people, not sectional interests.
Selections are often fiddled. They are often not transparent and erode public confidence. (East Riding is an example of good practice).
There must be transparency in selection processes.
Elected representatives must act more as delegates, and be held to account by their BLP/ CLP and LGC or LCF’s where they exist.
Mandatory re selections must be the norm.
There is no sense of democracy in the wider Labour Party. How can we expected to swallow mass privatisation of services resulting in trashed pay and conditions for staff.

Other Issues: Legal Aid, or lack of it is becoming a massive issue for vulnerable people. Samaritans are training housing association workers in suicide awareness. WONGA and other lenders are a blight on our communities. Mothers are becoming sex workers to feed their kids.
How long do we have to wait for this inertia to stop? We are losing members, activists are battle weary and the public apathetic. The EDL march in Hull today, although badly attended by locals, is a direct failure of leadership from the Labour Party.

The Leader: Some of us have faith in his values. “We did not lose the last election by being too Left wing”. “Cameron has declared Class War”, plus his promise at the 2010 Hustings to strengthen the TU link and promise to deliver a minimum wage. Some in the room campaigned for him and believe that he can deliver if he breaks free, find his own voice and work with the members. We can win in 2015. We have to win. The victory of the Tories is unthinkable.
He must promote an alternative and create an air of optimism.
Nationalise the utilities and have them work under democratic workers control. The Co Operative Party can have a big role in this.
He needs to be inspirational.
There is no focus from him.
Promote socialism and not be Tory Lite.
Either deliver or leave the stage.
Sack Progress from the Cabinet and speak with his own voice.

Dermot Rathbone 17th August 2012.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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