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Posted on 24 August 2010 at 18:22 GMT

Stoke socialists condemn 'sham consultation'

100 community campaigners and trade union activists attended the North Staffs TUC (NSTUC) public meeting , photo by Stoek Socialist Party

100 community campaigners and trade union activists attended the North Staffs TUC (NSTUC) public meeting , photo by Stoek Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Despite the holiday period, around 100 community campaigners and trade union activists attended a North Staffs TUC (NSTUC) public meeting on 18 August to launch an anti-cuts alliance.

Stoke Socialist Party

The meeting was initially proposed by Socialist Party members because of the urgent need to organise a serious fightback against the Con-Dems' savage cuts.

North Staffs TUC president Jason Hill, photo by Stoke Socialist Party

North Staffs TUC president Jason Hill, photo by Stoke Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

NSTUC president Jason Hill stressed: "The trade union movement needs to be at the forefront of the fightback against the government's cuts and its attack on our communities."

Much anger was expressed at the Con-Dem cuts but also at Stoke-on-Trent City Council's own 'cuts coalition cabinet'.

Despite Labour having 26 of 60 council seats they have cobbled together an unholy alliance with the Tories, Lib Dems and Independents and agreed to pass on government cuts of 32 million without a whimper of opposition.

They even have a version of the Con-Dems' "Big Conversation" publicity stunt, but in Stoke it's called "Lets Talk".

Grotesque spectacle

Andy Bentley, Stoke Socialist Party

Andy Bentley, Stoke Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

This means we now have the grotesque spectacle of the council paying people to walk around the city asking working class people (who will suffer most from the cuts) where they think cuts should be made! According to the Sentinel (9 August), they have spoken to 700 people.

Socialist Party member Andy Bentley, speaking from the platform, told the NSTUC public meeting that this was a sham consultation and was a waste of money because: "Members of Stoke Socialist Party have already carried out a much more extensive survey.

"In the last 12 weeks we have held 60 campaigning stalls in Hanley, Longton, Shelton, Stafford and Crewe.

"We've spoken to over 4,000 people and over 4,000 people say 'no to cuts', over 4,000 people support a mass campaign to defend jobs and services and over 4,000 people call on the TUC to organise a national demonstration against the cuts!"

Despite the fact that many Labour activists will want to participate in this anti-cuts alliance based on serious opposition to all cuts, the position of the local Labour 'machine' was a disgrace.

Labour councillor, Kassem Al Khatib, argued that if Labour had only a few councillors then they could vote against cuts because it wouldn't matter but as they were the largest party then they had to vote for them!

In response to Kassem Al Khatib, Liat Norris from Youth Fight For Jobs, speaking from the platform, said: "What an anti-cuts alliance needs is councillors who are opposed to cuts not just in words but also in deeds - we need councillors who will join the campaign of opposition and vote against cuts".

Despite two other 'cuts coalition cabinet' members being present (both Labour) they made no attempt to speak at this public meeting.

Nothing to say

They are only too willing to spend council tax payers' money on carrying out their "Let's Talk" consultation about cuts but when it comes to fighting against cuts they have nothing to say.

Newly elected Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour MP Tristram Hunt was at the meeting and was asked directly by a PCS member if he would alter his pre-general election support for cuts and join with PCS members fighting against them.

Tristram Hunt's response? - a deafening silence quickly followed by him leaving the meeting with his 'minders'!

Fortunately, the massive opposition which will develop in Stoke-on-Trent and across the country to the Con-Dems' savage cuts will not rely on the Labour 'machine'.

The anti-cuts alliances here and those which are springing up around the country will be built by those who are prepared to fight against all cuts.

Increasingly it will become a question of: "Which side are you on?"

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