REAL LIVES People’s Assembly People
Unite has joined campaigners and communities nationwide, joining together in a mass movement against the cuts. The People’s Assembly is on the move
Campaigning against the government’s welfare policies is no laughing matter, especially with so many controversial changes, affecting millions of people.
But with comedians like Mark Steel speaking out, at least the task isn’t as hard going as it could be. The left wing broadcaster, columnist and stand-up comic is standing up for workers, the sick, disabled and unemployed being hit by the austerity measures.
Mark joined an unusual line up of speakers at Unite’s London head office to help launch the People’s Assembly, which brings together unions, MPs, protest groups, celebrities and campaigners to form a single, very loud, voice against austerity.
Meetings and rallies have been held across the country in recent months, culminating in a national event in Westminster Central Hall on June 22. Unite is fully behind the venture, saying it supports a mass movement against the cuts.
“Only by providing genuine popular opposition rooted across the country can we hope to bring an end to the coalition’s reckless slash and burn policies,” said Unite director of executive policy, Steve Turner.
Mark Steel said he believed the mood had changed in recent months, which had motivated people into wanting to “do something.”
He told uniteWORKS, “The severity of what the coalition has been promising to do since it came to power, has become real in a way that wasn’t there before.
“People now know someone who is being hit by the bedroom tax, or the other welfare changes. Lots of people on the left have felt frustrated that no-one has been able to pull things together. There have been the odd moments, like the unions organising strikes against pension cuts, but we have not really taken this government on properly.
“I sense that the moment has arrived when we can actually do something.”
Mark believes that past protests have achieved successes, such as maintaining a welfare state and a National Health Service.
“Whatever we do is better than doing nothing. If we can get small groups of people in towns and cities across the country, taking action against fire station closures or other cuts in public services, it will change the climate. Just think what this country would be like if there had been no protests.”
The idea of stepping up protests in the run- up to the next general election appeals to Unite, especially as the new alliance will bring together a wide range of groups, including the National Pensioners’ Convention and Stop the War Coalition as well as politicians, actors, singers, comedians – and individuals like Bianca Todd.
28 uniteWORKS May/June 2013
The 36-year-old grand-daughter of former Transport and General Workers Union general secretary Ron Todd is hugely enthusiastic about what the People’s Assembly could achieve.
She said that if he was alive today he would be heavily involved in the assembly.
“We are talking about action, not words. We don’t want any more debates, which is why the People’s Assembly is so exciting. It has grown from the grass roots, finding new leaders and new voices.
“People often don’t know how to react to the welfare changes or cuts in public services, so a structure is being drawn up to help them get involved.”
Meetings and rallies are being held in town squares, halls and other centres in a growing number of towns and cities, including Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle, Glasgow, Southend, Brighton, Nottingham, London and Northampton, while unions will be pressed for their support during the summer conference season.
Steve Turner believes there is a strong message for the Labour party in the level of anger welling up against the government’s policies on welfare and public services.
“There is an opportunity for Labour to stand shoulder to shoulder with initiatives like the People’s Assembly.
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