Yesterday evening, anticipating the breathtaking backwardness and class warfare of this afternoon’s budget, an important meeting in Parliament put forward the alternatives to cuts.
Chaired by Jon Trickett MP, Opposing the Cuts Agenda featured contributions from MP Jon Cruddas, economist Ann Pettifor, New Statesman senior politics editor Mehdi Hasan and CND’s Kate Hudson.
Trickett opened by articulating the economic illiteracy of the Coalition’s government’s plans. The slump in public investment cannot be made up by the private sector – such thinking is neoliberal delusion. Cuts will simply damage the livelihoods of the poorest and remove demand from the economy. Significantly, he said a broad coalition must set out to ‘build a movement of resistance’ to the cuts.
Whilst I find Ann Pettifor grating, tonight she was grating and very good. ‘This is an ideological assault on the poor’, she said, warning of the certainty of spiralling unemployment. Whilst inadequate, she reminded the audience that Darling’s mini fiscal stimulus had created growth and supported jobs – a fact now ‘spun away’ by the Coalition government. Kate Hudson made a concrete suggestion that a move away from a nuclear defence policy would easily free up investment to become a competitor on the world stage for renewable energy industries.
Mehdi Hasan was good value, as per usual, and more sophisticated than the other speakers in putting forward a vision of the alliance that it is possible to forge against the cuts agenda. For example, he pointed out the warnings made by the Financial Times against cuts as a means to reduce the deficit, and Barack Obama’s caution to Europe against cuts. Congratulations were due, he observed, to the Tories and their friends in the media for turning a crisis orginating in the banking sector into a problem with an allegedly bloated public sector.
Quite rightly Mehdi had a tough message for the representatives of the Labour party on the panel, saying that it had been Brown’s capitulation to the Tory (and Blairite) framework of cuts that had led inexorably to today’s Budget. His contribution made me think how much better the New Statesman is today for Martin Bright’s departure and his arrival there.
Jon Cruddas was the last and weakest speaker. Less willing than Trickett to acknowledge – or even demonstrate an understanding – of the mistakes of the Labour government, he focussed on the impact that the government’s agenda would have on the people of his constituency. Worryingly, he also made reference to what cuts ‘we’ should propose, suggesting that he had been napping for the previous ninety minutes.
The contributions from the floor, bar a few nutcases, were very constructive and centred on how we build the resistance that Jon Trickett had spoken of in his opening remarks. Billy Hayes of the CWU stressed that we must be open to the threat posed to many sections of business by a ‘double-dip recession’ and the withdrawal of investment.
With today’s Budget confirming everyone’s worst nightmares, it is clear that there is much work to be done.