Calderdale People’s Assembly members march against austerity

Deirdre O’Neill (Calderdale People’s Assembly) and Charlie Gates (Calderdale Green Party) report on the People’s Assembly march against austerity in London last Saturday

Members of Calderdale People’s Assembly were among the fifty thousand people who marched in London last weekend against the swingeing cuts imposed on the most vulnerable people in society by the coalition government, in a demonstration organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Calderdale People’s Assembly are clear about the impact the ‘austerity’ agenda is having in our area, including the government’s Bedroom Tax, benefit cuts, reductions in standards of living, increase in food banks, no pay rises for workers, and a serious threat to the Halifax A&E.

As well as members of Calderdale People’s Assembly, the Calderdale contingent included people from Calderdale Against the Bedroom Tax, the Public and Commercial Services union, Calderdale Trades Council, school students, and Calderdale Green Party.

There were plenty of union banners on the March, especially the Fire Brigades Union, Unite, Unison and the National Union of Teachers.

People from all over the UK – young, old, trade unionists and community groups – gathered outside the BBC in Portland Place on Saturday 21st June, and marched through the heart of the capital to Parliament Square. They heard speakers, including the comedian Russell Brand, condemn tax cuts for the rich, tax evasion, spending on weapons and war, and privatisation, while ordinary people experienced attacks on their living standards and vital services, such as health, education, housing and disability support.

Speaker after speaker pointed out that the ‘austerity’ agenda pushed by the political elite and their friends in the media was a fig leaf to attack hard-won workers’ conditions and rights that had been achieved over centuries of struggle. Owen Jones reminded people that Britain has the sixth biggest economy in the world; yet the government is deliberately choosing to attack working people and the poor.  While finding the money to replace Trident, handouts to the banks and tax breaks fro the wealthy and big business, it is opening up education, housing and the health service for private profit.

Charlie Gates added,

“It was a brilliant day out in London, with brilliant speeches from the likes of Owen Jones, Caroline Lucas, Russell Brand and many others. There is an alternative to austerity and the People’s Assembly march expressed this with humour, intelligence and commitment. The Coalition Government’s robbery from the poor to give to the rich and powerful can be defeated but we need to refute their arguments for austerity and not meekly accept their economic narrative as the leadership of the Labour Party does. The lack of Labour party banners on the demo says much (I can’t say I saw one and I let the entire march walk past me, although Labour MPs Diane Abbot & Jeremy Corbin spoke).”

Photo credit: Charlie Green

Calder Valley Labour Parliamentary Candidate Josh Fenton Glynn (not on the March)  said,

“Labour members fight this government’s harmful cuts throughout the country, from leading the fight to save Halifax A&E to speaking in parliament to save the Independent Living Fund. I’m proud of that. We can’t all go on every march, but the biggest thing we can all do to stop attacks on the NHS and struggling communities is make sure we have a Labour, not Tory, government in 2015.”

Media has largely ignored the March

Like the 50,000- strong march in Manchester last September, where the Tories were having their conference, the London demonstration was largely ignored by the national media (the Guardian and Independent gave it coverage), who are colluding in the ‘we have no choice but to make cuts’ narrative currently being pushed by all the main political parties. This was despite the march deliberately assembling under the noses of BBC staff outside their offices. By the standards of any journalistic criteria, this was an event that was worthy of coverage. The BBC is failing in its duty to be impartial, and appears to be bowing to political pressure. If you are angry about the media blackout, please contact media outlets, especially the BBC, to complain.

In addition, please sign the 38 Degrees petition protesting about the lack of BBC coverage on austerity.

Action will continue, with big unions such as the NUT and PCS organizing for strikes in July.

Charlie Gates said,

“People need to get involved in their local People’s Assembly group and put forward an alternative view for Britain and its citizens, that includes a decent standard of living for all – a living wage, benefits that don’t mean having to choose between heating or eating, a commitment to keeping public services like health and education in the public sector, creating a million green jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our message is simple – an end to austerity, a decent living for everyone.”

The Calderdale People’s Assembly meets monthly in Halifax at The Last Drop Inn on Bull Green on the third Monday of each month at 7.30pm, and all are welcome.

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