Thousands will descend on London today for the People’s Assembly Against Austerity to launch a united opposition that will mobilise co-ordinated anti-cuts action at national, regional and local level.
The event is Britain’s largest political conference in recent history – outstripping the combined attendance of the annual conferences of all three main political parties – and is backed by Britain’s major unions.
The assembly will give a voice to the millions of people who oppose failed coalition government policies which are wrecking the economy, forcing down wages and decimating public services.
The assembly has been hailed as a big breakthrough in creating a united front against the Tories and their Lib Dem accomplices.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The People’s Assembly is the most significant step yet in building a nationwide opposition to the government’s policies of social devastation.
“Unite is proud to stand with all those demanding an end to the cuts which are pushing millions into the abyss of despair and in standing up for an alternative of social justice.”
The People’s Assembly has been endorsed by over 100 organisations including Unison and Unite, which between them represent almost three million workers across the public and private sectors.
It is also backed by thousands of individuals and groups, including academics, pensioners’ organisations and campaigners fighting to save the NHS.
Green MP Caroline Lucas, who is speaking at the assembly, said: “It offers a crucial opportunity for civil society to come together and take a stand against this government’s socially destructive and economically illiterate austerity programme.
“It is also a chance to challenge the harmful ideology which claims that public is ‘bad’ and private is ‘good’ and that everything from our health service to education is little more than a marketplace to be exploited for profit.”
With evidence emerging that austerity, pay freezes, tax rises and welfare cuts will drive seven million children into poverty in the next two years, she said: “It’s time to expose the lie that there is no alternative to austerity.”
The assembly will also launch two “People United” bus tours organised by unions Unite, Unison, GMB, PCS and CWU and the TUC to take the campaign against austerity into communities.
The tours culminate on July 5 at the NHS’s birthplace, Trafford General Hospital in Manchester, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of its foundation.
What does this man care about his fellow man it would seem not a lot
“Budgets are obviously very tight at the moment, but if the choice is between a $1.4m cruise missile or putting food on the table for the unemployed then that’s really no choice at all is it.”
“For a start unemployed people don’t make big explosions or, or use state of the art guidance systems.”
“I’ve suggest to the prime minister that we stop giving money to fat people, and in return the MoD gets to keep buying nice shiny bullets to replace all the ones we fire at foreigners.”
“He’s thinking about it.”
Hammond on MoD cuts
Unemployed Simon Williams feels some sympathy for the defence secretary, admitting he probably has a point.
“I look at the house and my two young kids and I think if they cut income support a little more we could maybe paint a few tanks.”
“I mean really, how warm does a family home really have to be? Surely anything above freezing will be OK, right?”
The remarks by Colm Keaveney TD comparing the group of protesters in Dundalk to Golden Dawn whilst describing them as ‘neanderthals’ -an expression that recalls precisely the fascist perspective he claims to oppose- are the latest salvo in the assault on truth conducted by the Labour Party.
Labour and its supporters have repeatedly resorted to describing loud and rambunctious -though not at all dangerous- protests as ‘anti-democratic’ and attacks on free speech, and so on. Frequent references are being made to fascism and Nazism. The shameless arrogance and ignorance of such a stance, in the context of brutal attacks on the livelihood of working class people -which Labour claims the government is conducting in the name of the Irish people in the ‘national interest’, is all too unsurprising.
It is important to bear in mind though that this isn’t just an attempt by Labour flunkies to shore up legitimacy for its actions in government, but an implicit call for the police to batter such protestors.
Given this context it is important to highlight and emphasise, in public, on the one hand, the seething hatred of democracy that such a stance demonstrates; and, on the other hand, the impeccable democratic legitimacy of protesters who disrupt and frustrate a regime bent on stripping away wages, benefits and public services in order to sate insatiable financial loan sharks.
Fifty per cent of voters now feel there is a need for a new political party on foot of broken election promises and widespread disillusionment with the Government, a new nationwide opinion poll reveals.
An undeniable feeling of discontent among voters has fuelled calls for a new party to be established, while angry voters are calling for the Government to rein in excessive pay and pensions in the bailed-out banks.
According to the latest Sunday Independent MillwardBrown nationwide opinion poll, conducted this month, the desire for a new party is strongest among women voters, young to middle-aged voters and those living in Connacht and Ulster or from poorer backgrounds.
Former Tanaiste Michael McDowell, writing in today’s Sunday Independent, says that falling satisfaction with the Government and the fact that the coalition partners have “fallen out of love” are driving factors behind the calls for a new party.
“There is at least 25 per cent of the electorate which would opt for a new party as an alternative to another term for the present coalition and as an alternative to a Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein coalition backed by the remnants of Labour,” he said.
Mr McDowell is predicting that while FG will lead the next government he thinks Labour will not be in power with them, and there is room in the gap for a new party.
“I cannot see any possibility of an overall majority FG government after the next election. It seems to me that many people in middle Ireland would support the formation of a new party which would give Ireland the opportunity to have a new government which would not include the Labour Party,” he adds.
According to the poll, 38 per cent of voters feel there is no need for a new political party, with opposition to the proposal higher among males, those aged over 55 and Dubliners, with many feeling a new party would not be able to offer any real change, given the country’s financial woes and our electoral system.
If don’t knows were to be excluded, a majority of voters feel there is a need for a new party.
When asked what strategies the Government should prioritise in 2013, 50 per cent of those polled said they want the Coalition to be more assertive when dealing with the issue of “bankers’ pay, pensions and lending policies”.
The drip feed of revelations about activities at the top of the banks, which to date have received €64bn of taxpayers’ money in capitalisation, have fuelled calls for more decisive action from Finance Minister Michael Noonan from the elderly and voters outside Dublin.
Voters are also frustrated with the lack of progress in terms of progressing Ireland’s bank debt deal with 23 per cent saying the Government should adopt a tougher approach when dealing with the troika, as a top priority.
Speaking this weekend, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said once the IBRC promissory note is restructured ahead of the March 31 deadline, he is expecting agreement on a deal by June on the cost of capitalising the “pillar banks”.
Mr Kenny said a full deal is not likely until 2014 after the necessary European structures are in place, but a signal will be crucial to enable Ireland to exit the bailout at the end of 2013.
“So while an actual transaction may not be possible until 2014 a clear signal of how this is going to be done will certainly strengthen market confidence and lower interest rates for Ireland,” he said.
– DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporte