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The People’s Assembly goes to Labour conference

panel-1024x657This year’s Labour Party conference was truly a turning point in the anti-austerity movement. That day when I introduced Jeremy Corbyn on stage at the huge People’s Assembly march in June he was greeted like a rock star- so while many of us were optimistic about how his leadership campaign would unfold over the Summer I am not sure many of us guessed how successful it would be.

Securing an election mandate of nearly 60% is of course just the start. But on Monday conference listened to a Shadow Chancellor in John McDonnell who was putting forward the clear anti-austerity arguments and the alternative to what has been happening in this country. It is something that the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, the trade union movement and many, many others have been campaigning for and have laid the ground for.

john-mcWe have all been arguing for the deficit to be shrunk by dynamically growing our economy, not punishing people. Economic growth through investment that delivers for all our local communities, builds homes, provides good working standards, and action to tackle low pay and the gender pay gap  – in short an economic policy that delivers for society. It has rightly been described by Richard Burgon MP and others as “the speech that changed everything”.


Afterwards, in a large meeting room that was so packed many were turned away, I chaired the Labour Assembly Against Austerity – part of our wider People’s Assembly coalition – event. It was a platform for many of the new Shadow Ministers in one of the best conference fringe meetings for many years. Richard Burgon MP (Treasury), Cat Smith MP (Women and Equalities), Clive Lewis MP (Energy), Diane Abbott MP (International Development) and John McDonnell himself all spoke, alongside Owen Jones, Mark Serwotka, Katy Clark and Mark Steel. This was the People’s Assembly presence at the Labour party conference this year – hearing and seeing how Labour is being transformed by a mood of change, hope and optimism that policy in the future can be made by the communities it affects.


People left the meeting energised and committed to organising and building what my colleague Mike Hedges has rightly written is the birth of a new movement. It was of course followed up the next day with Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Leader – arguing not just for an end to austerity, but how we can build a better society. A tipping point has taken place, and now we need to rise to the challenge in supporting the new anti-austerity Labour leadership in the project to broaden out and deepen our alliances to make the whole of the anti-austerity movement stronger. The People’s Assembly and our campaigning were part of laying the foundations for what happened over the Summer and with the trade unions, such as my union Unite, we are going to continue to be at the heart of building the movement ahead.

Image credits: Mark Thomas


  1. Mervyn Hyde says:

    The Labour Party has now turned from using Neo Liberal rhetoric to policies for action and people agree with it.

    We need to build on the abject failure of Osborneomics to Jeremy’s mainstream economic agenda. Building for the future not tearing down and selling off our heritage.

  2. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    As afar as I’m concerned, “the speech that changed everything”. has probably changed absolutely nothing at all.

    It all very well, (but it’s also a bit sickening,) to have listen to the same kind of largely self congratulatory, self-important, self-admiration so often in evidence here, mitigated only by the obligatory bit of hand wringing about, “the Tories,” whilst so many other people’s lives, (right now,) are quite simply going to hell.,

    So an unrepresentative and inward looking, backward looking, narcissistic Labour party still out of touch with the electorate and obsessed with irrelevant trivia, (“gender balance,” I mean seriously,) riddled with incompetence, and dishonesty, (in practice the 2 are often all but indistinguishable,) and cronyism and, “favors culture,” as exemplified by the careers of embedded, self serving and apolitical low life such as Sean Wright, (and all his ilk,) at Rotherham, (for example,) is not a pretty sight, believe me.

    It’s been estimated that Blair alone cost Labour as many as 1 Million votes possibly far more: so contrast that with the measly 160,000 of us who have somewhat grudgingly and reluctantly returned, (at least for now,) in the hope that Labour might still be able to offer this country something actually worth voting for.

    Talk to us.

    Once again I’m reminded of that old adage that, “When the going gets tough, the middle classes fuck off,” which might also be as good an epitaph for the Anti Nazi League as any I can think of.

    Only last week I was talking to young, traumatized and obviously extremely vulnerable, unemployed young , (Black and British ,) mother; coping on her own with 3 young children, 2 girls and a boy, all under the age of 7, being subjected to a daily ordeal from the kind of unremitting racist abuse, bullying and threats from her neighbors that you have to have seen first hand or to have experienced directly, to fully appreciate just how horrible and damaging, emotionally, physiologically and even physically debilitating is the effect that it eventually has on even strong and basically decent people.

    But at least since she’s in a Housing Association property, (and her predicament were she renting privately would certainly be even more desperate still,) so she’s getting at least some, (but still almost nothing,) support and has been able to make some people aware of what’s happening to her family, (yes, here in the UK,) and ideally she’d be rehoused; but the reality is that the properties we need simply aren’t available, a situation now being compounded by all immigrants and asylum seeker that the Housing Associations, (always their first port of call after the immigration hostels,) are now expected to process as well, for example, in addition to young woman above, I have also spoken in the course of a single day with 3 Iranian refugees, all with their own stories to tell and all also seeking accommodation.)

    Personally I think that more than anything else Labour now need to win back both the trust and respect of the electorate, (to become something more robust and relevant to most people than another middle class talking shop and career opportunity for various politicians wives and, children etc,) and that one way to do this is not by making yet more fine sounding , well reasoned and compelling speeches, (to a complacent and like minded audience of the more or less converted,) or by sound and clever arguments or even by organizing protest; but by helping on practical level, by actually getting out of their sanitized and Bowdlerized little worlds of family, career, security and BMWs, etc and actually getting their effing hands dirty, (but now in a good way, for a change,) and by engaging directly with real people, (such as the young mother above,) to provide the kind of help and support and a real alternative, that has traditionally been part of Labour’s core remit, even from a certain perspective perhaps it’s very, raison d’être.

    Talk is cheap and action always speaks far louder than words.

    1. James Kemp says:

      Dear sir,

      Yes talk is cheep so is the law the person you was talking about been to the police? Because at least she may get action try being disabled not ONE single person has ever been charged under the discrimination act. Disabled people are attacked openly daily a few have been Killed while chanting vile abuse.

      Nothing is done this is supported by the rhetoric of this hateful Tory government at least with Jeremy i have some hope Britain may change back to a society where everyone is respected NO more dived and rule just simple respect for all..

      Oh and social housing providers have to provide support btw.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        I know all that perfectly well, nor was the example I cited an isolated or unique incident nor is this confined to people of race, it also affects the disabled and others as you correctly point out; however the people who are doing the abusing and the threating know perfectly well that nothing at will happen as result of their behavior most of the time, (and we’ve been there.)

        The law says one thing, but back here on planet earth the reality is quite different and the best and most appropriate practical course of action would be to get the woman and her family out of the firing line in insomuch as that’s even possible, but we can’t even do that, for the reasons I’ve described and for others as well.

  3. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    I fact I’m reminded of nothing quite so much as Nick Clegg’s famous last words to the Lib/Dem conference, “I urge you all to leave here now and to prepare for oblivion; bugger, I meant government.”

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