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Taking a broader perspective…

Labour should oppose the cuts with more bite…

Jamie Potter is a graduate in Journalism and Politics, a member of the Labour Party and his blog can be found here.

Mark Ferguson wrote on LabourList on Sunday of Labour’s need to avoid engaging with the anti-cuts movement until it becomes clear what it is they stand for and what it is they hope to achieve. I couldn’t help but feel like this was a call to see what the anti-cuts protests mean for Labour in terms of numbers, votes and power rather than a recognition of the necessity to fight the cuts.

Labour’s intransigence in engaging with the anti-cuts movement is doing itself no good. While I feel torn over whether Labour should or shouldn’t be involved with such campaigns (something which stems from my own radical nature but also recognition that it’s only really Labour who will put the Coalition out of power), having such mouthpieces pouring derision over those taking part and evaluating it on the basis of its electoral merit is going to do little to endear Labour to those out on the streets actually doing something.

Some of Ferguson’s criticisms of the protests are flimsy. Any seasoned activist would be wise to mask up, no thanks to the police’s love of surveillance  Similarly, protesters wearing helmets to a protest isn’t uncommon. If anything, it’s advisable given the Met’s predilection for weilding truncheons and the occasional horse. Neither are a precursor for violence. At least, not on behalf of the protester.

Ferguson then goes on to imply that the demonstration was only peaceful due to the police presence at Topshop and Millbank. Does he not trust protesters to act peacefully without the strong arm of the law watching over them? To suggest that the predefined endpoint and criterion for success of these protests is violence is to show a complete misunderstanding of their peaceful motivation and the countless successful protests that have taken place across the country. Police apologist springs to mind.

What particularly sticks out though, is the criticism of the protests for being unfocused and (I may just be misinterpreting this) a hint towards the lack of leadership, which then begs the question of why then do Labour not seek to take up this role? One could quite easily turn Mark Ferguson’s opening remark on its head as the anti-cuts movement ask what Labour MPs stand for at this point in time and what they hope to achieve?

That these actions seem to have no coherent focus isn’t necessarily a bad thing. First of all, ‘movement’ should be used loosely, as it is more a massive collection of groups and people motivated by different cuts and government policies, which in itself is indicative of the sweeping scale of Coalition cuts.

Secondly, what we’re seeing in some places is as much a venting of anger and frustration as it is a concerted attack, but it is through such actions that relationships and connections are made and the foundations for more thoughtful activism established. Bringing Egypt into the equation on Saturday wasn’t a smart move in terms of fighting the cuts, but I don’t think a single incident undermines the wider ‘movement’.

Likewise, the lack of a rally or speeches shouldn’t be mourned but celebrated. Rallies and speeches detract from the more organic and participatory actions such as blockading stores which give people the space to discuss ideas among themselves and, more importantly, talk to the public. Who listens to a speech at a rally point in Hyde Park apart from those already on the protest?

Meanwhile, in party political land, it feels like the major voices of the Labour party are more than happy to sit on their hands and make mumbling, stumbling attacks on the Coalition every now and then. The appointment of Ed Balls to shadow chanceller I hoped would inject a little bit of bite into Her Maj’s Opposition but he’s been somewhat muted thus far. The differences between the politicians and the people couldn’t be any more stark.

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Filed under: Labour, , ,

2 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Only just found this excellent blog.
    I think your analysis of what is going on in the managment of L/P is correct and is one of many reasons I dont support the Labour party anymore. I think its only focus is getting elected, when it should be joining and supporting the anti-cuts movement. It should be on the streets with the rest of us, not wasting time in suit filled meetings. It should be explaining that there are alternatives to cuts, that cuts are not necessary and explaining what the alternatives are such as Robin Hood Tax, which Ed supports, he says..though I personally think in rather a lacklustre way. But thats me.
    Ive worn a Robin Hood Tax mask at demos, would I fail the Mark Ferguson, wears a mask must be a troublemaker test? Blimey!

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