Labour council leader under fire
Report by Paul Feldman
The Labour leader of Southwark Council Peter John got more than he bargained for at a meeting called to organise opposition to public spending cuts.
Speaker after speaker attacked his speech, in which John described how the council would implement the Coalition government’s cuts while attempting to minimise their impact on the local community.
Earlier in the day, the largest meeting of the south London council’s Unison union branch for some time overwhelming voted to reject all cuts and to defend every single job. A similar stand has been taken in neighbouring Lewisham Council, where cuts are already under way.
Ted Knight, the former leader of Lambeth Council who led a prolonged struggle against Tory cuts in the early 1980s, was loudly applauded when he accused John of refusing to take a stand against the government.
John’s apology for the record of the outgoing New Labour government was also condemned by speakers from the floor at the meeting, which was organised by Southwark Trade Union Council.
A range of contributions from teachers, pensioners’ groups, students, migrant workers and activists pledged to act against the cuts.
The nature of the crisis came under discussion. Some speakers suggested the Lib Dem-Tory attacks were purely “ideological” while others stressed the depth of the crisis of capitalism.
It was pointed out that the cuts in Spain and Greece were being implemented by New Labour-type governments. One speaker expressed concern that cuts were being implemented in Greece despite a series of general strikes.
Fight the cuts
A platform speaker who had returned from Greece noted that People’s Assemblies were springing up in response to the struggle. A call to create a People’s Assembly in Southwark came from the floor.
There was also an appeal to reach out to workers outside the public sector who were also facing unemployment and worsening conditions.
The meeting agreed to reconvene in the near future to develop a united opposition to the cuts.
20 July 2010