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We must unite to end Tory austerity

steve-turner11-13094In recent years, “Economic credibility” has laughingly been defined as an economic policy that has delivered neither sustainable economic growth nor improved living standards for the overwhelming majority of people. Indeed, the Tories’ austerity has even failed on their own very narrow definition of success of reducing the debt to GDP ratio.

Yet, defined it had been. While the trade unions, MPs and campaigning organisations under the umbrella of the People’s Assembly continued to provide a counterpoint to what the government was doing, “austerity economics” dominated the political narrative for years. The Con-Dems were able to systematically target and scapegoat different groups in our society, slashing benefits and privatising services in their wake, and David Cameron and George Osborne were carrying on.

But this started to change last summer with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader – what began to break through, with Jeremy as leader and his avowedly anti-austerity shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, was the idea that there was an alternative.

Taking “anti-austerity” as its starting point, we have seen the Labour Party leadership staking out a different economic policy. Behind it lay the understanding that austerity has been a political choice — not an economic necessity — that was only going to deliver for the very wealthiest.

By setting out a clear alternative — one that rests on driving up public investment in our creaking infrastructure, including public transport, manufacturing and building council housing — Jeremy and John have started to open up a broader discussion on what type of economy we want as a society.

It is beginning to embrace what we should invest in, and how we can tie this to the creation of decent work, how we can improve wage levels and reduce wealth and income inequality through strengthening trade unions.

U-turns have been forced from the Government. Strong opposition forced concessions that have made a real difference to people — the 400,000 disabled people who were to suffer further cuts in their personal independence payment after the March 2016 Budget now will not do so.

With Theresa May promising more austerity, it is vital that the campaigning continues of movements such as the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, and campaigns such as the Labour Assembly Against Austerity that brings together Labour activists on this agenda, alongside our electoral campaigning for a Labour victory.

In this way we can unite to defeat Tory austerity – let’s make it happen.

  • This article originally appeared in the LRC’s Labour Briefing magazine.
  • Steve Turner is the Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union and Co-Chair of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity. You can join Steve, Diane Abbott MP and others at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity Conference on Saturday October 22 at Student Central (ULU) – register online at


  1. Stephen Bellamy says:

    There can be no unity before justice for the purged.

    1. Stephen Bellamy says:

      And for Jackie Walker

  2. Robert Green says:

    Another vacuous call for unity. These are becoming treacherous in their own right.

  3. Bazza says:

    There are perhaps 3 forces in Labour – the majority; all of us behind Jeremy on the Left – the BOLD who say we should stand for what we believe in.
    The cautious – the centre/soft left THE TIMID and a minority on the Right (Progress) the BLAIRITE NEO-LIBERALS.
    We say have faith and unite with us in being bold.
    I was looking at the excellent information on the Hope Not Hate website onThe Battle of Cable Street (which I highly recommend) and I loved what an elderly Jewish man said who took part in stopping the Facists: “If you stand up for what you believe in, you make history!”
    Theresa May was funny today saying: “It was not the wealthy who made the biggest sacrifices after the financial crisis, it was ordinary working class families.”
    Yes Theresa and it was you the bloodyTories who forced them to make the bloody sacrifices!
    But of course austerity was never for the rich and better off – Tory tax cuts for millionaires, corporation tax cuts for their big business friends, tax cuts for private landlords with multiple properties, £150m tax cuts for hedge funds (who gave £50m to the Tories; few if any cuts for Tory Southern Councils – so don’t worry about this austerity stuff rich and powerful and better off – it will not effect you!
    It seems to paraphrase someone else that it was only the little people who faced (and face) austerity cuts.
    Hundreds of millions of cuts for Northern etc. non-Tory Councils, austerity, welfare cuts, bedroom tax, outsourcing for cheaper labour, privatisations, bedroom tax, VAT increase 17-20%, wage freezes for the public sector and below inflation pay rises, zero hours etc. etc. etc.
    Yes the Tories Talk Soft whilst Acting Hard Right!
    As JC said they can talk the talk but not walk the walk.
    But one Labour critic said: “Labour has to deal with the public as it is not how they would wish it to be” but people forget we are a political party and we should fight to politicise working class/working people to change public perceptions in a positive and progressive direction; we are not passive market researchers!
    The Tories are the Party of the rich and are just trying to con the working class/working people.
    So unite by being with the bold as we fight for working people and also try to make May’s Masque of Pandora slip!

  4. David Pavett says:

    It is difficult to make much sense out of the opening paragraph of Steve Turner’s article. Insofar as it means anything at the case it makes is very weak.

    In 2010 Osborne declared the aim of balancing the budget i.e. eliminating the “structural current deficit” by 2015/16. That target has been missed but the goverment is on course th achieve it having reduced the deficit each year from 2010 to now. As a percentage of GDP it was 10% in 2010 and is 2% now. It follows that it is also on course to reach the aim of reducing the debt to GDP ratio but a couple of years later than the original aim. That ratio is now flattening out and with the current rate of GDP growth is expected to start falling in the next year or two.

    It should be added that Labour always argued that the programme of deficit and debt reduction should be slower than the Tory’s projections. Labour argued that we should borrow to invest at the same time. That is what Theresa May said the Conservative government intends to do.

    When we criticise the Tories it should be on the basis of a good understanding of the facts and of what they actually say. I see liitle point in the uninformative generalised anti-Tory rhetoric of article like this.

    Steven Turner says that “the Labour Party leadership staking out a different economic policy” and that it has set out “a clear alternative”. Where has this been done? All I am aware of is some very brief statements of objectives which amount to know more than back of an envelope stuff. Where is the detail?

    We are also told that “Jeremy and John have started to open up a broader discussion on what type of economy we want as a society” and again I would like to know where this discussion is taking place. It certainly doesn’t appear to be happening anywhere accessible to LP members.

  5. Verity says:

    Since this looks like an article forwarded from another source, we may not get an answer to questions about its content, but so far McDonnell has not so far provided m(any).

    My understanding was that McDonnell’s break with austerity lay with the release of spending for investment not for the government current spending, be that in the form spending on adult social care to relieve the health service, for example; or allowing a vast immigration impact fund to (attempt) to add to elements of supplemented welfare spending. If current expenditure is not to increase where will we anticipate reductions to allow for each and every single (expenditure breaking) measure that we no doubt hear about over the next four years?

    One possible answer must be that we are intending to raise more through taxation from the anticipated growth. However since it takes (sometimes considerable) time for the benefits of growth to emerge, in the meantime we are asking for quite a couple of quarts to arise from the pint pot of increased corporation tax and (highly optimistic, elimination) of tax evasion schemes. In seeking to undermine Labour, the Chris Normans, Rachael Reeves, Neil Kinnocks, of this world, will continue to queue up at television and radio studios to talk of the lack of a convincing strategy. Since we can easy project the likely events, should we not flush out the anti- Tory prejudices now, instead of waiting for a more difficult time on the eve on another ‘Citizen Smith’ outburst, or even a real election.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      The leadership has been remarkably reluctant to talk about tax increases. I’m sorry, but if you want a Scandinavian welfare state then you need Scandinavian taxes. (To be fair, this is a problem common to populists of all nationalities–I had the same issue with Bernie Sanders.) Obviously we want the rich and the corporations to be paying the most, but the middle class and even the upper portions of teh working class are going to have to contribute as well.

      1. Verity says:

        I agree that what you say is quite possibly true. However my main concern is a possible current tendency to keep (casually) adding to current expenditure, i.e. on Corbyn’s spontaneous say so. The (necessarily) massive migration impact fund, for example, will in my opinion will be spread so thin; subject to multiple bureaucratic negotiations; and in any case will reach many who are not the ones seriously impacted by highly motivated low skill market entrants. I would be happier if I felt he had had a conversation with McDonnell saying, hey John, “Will we raise a previously unannounced tax? Will we reduce a previous area of current expenditure? or will we reduce the infrastructure investment previously announced? I suspect none of these.

        I am concerned that he casually states what his subjective humane radical liberalism believes should be done with no responsibility to plan for its delivery. Additionally, being surrounded by similarly minded London humane radical liberals (tremendous supporters as they have been) will leave the rest of trying to find answers.

  6. Terry McCarthy says:

    The post-war Labour government faced economic and social problems much greater than those accounted today. They solved these by radical economic measures, I’m afraid so far Labour has been rather
    timid in embracing real radical alternatives . Quantitative easing under any guise is not the solution the solution lies not in quantity money but in purchasing power .
    Labour should reintroduce Retail price maintenance, including rent controls reintroducing schedule A . This coupled with the nationalisation of utilities would raise the purchasing power of pensioners and those on benefits and those on work. Corbyn team should also take a leaf out of Attlee’s book and abolish all anti trade union laws with the reintroduction of the closed shop where the majority of workers were in favour, this would result in better terms and conditions plus higher wages. Which is why the Tories abolished all the above

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