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March 28, 2013 / politicsbitesize

The People’s Assembly

PeoplesAssemblyThe author and political commentator Owen Jones has been championing the call for a much needed reform of the way in which Government operates for many years now. His disappointment at the lack of opposition that the Labour Party presents to the Coalition is palpable in the numerous articles he has written for the Independent.

On Sunday 24th March, this chagrin toward Labour, who were once a truly left-wing/Socialist option for voters, reached its peak.  In his article, How the People’s Assembly can challenge our suffocating political consensus – and why it’s vital that we do,  Owen Jones outlines the need for a change to the ‘cartel of modern politics’.  The anger that many of us feel at the attack on our living standards thanks to cuts to in-work benefits, VAT rises and the introduction of policies such as the spurious new ‘bedroom tax’ is evident throughout this piece.  But, Owen Jones goes on to explain, there is more to it than that.

The public’s anger is being manipulated and redirected by the Government in a classic ‘divide and rule’ tactic.  On almost a daily basis reports appear in the newspapers vilifying the people who claim benefits as ‘scroungers’, while the Chancellor opines about the unfairness of the working person ‘going out to work [only to] see the neighbour next door with the blinds down because they are on benefits’.

The truth is that the ‘many’ people who are supposedly ‘languishing’ on benefits for generation after generation only account for around 1% of all claims on the welfare state. An article in Red Pepper last autumn exposed the myths surrounding benefits payments, including the commonly held belief that income received by those claiming off the state is too generous.  However, it seems that none of the research conducted by the groups cited in this illuminating piece, such as the Labour Force Survey, found its way into the mainstream press.

And so in order to counteract this deficiency, Owen Jones, along with many other like-minded people, has decided to take up arms against ‘the great British political cartel’.  On Tuesday 26th March, he and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, fellow Independent columnist Mark Steel, disability rights campaigner Francesca Martinez, Labour MP Katy Clark, and other leading trade unionists will be helping to further the reach of The People’s Assembly.  He tells us that:

The aim of the Assembly is to unite all opponents of the horror show being inflicted on this country. On 22 June, there will be a 3,500-strong meeting at Westminster Central Hall, but in the meantime, I and others will be touring the country, encouraging local groups to be set up in every town and city.

Here’s the rationale for the Assembly. It is unacceptable that – five years on from the near-collapse of the global financial system – there is no broad anti-austerity movement. In a week’s time, the British poor will face the biggest organised mugging in generations, with the bedroom tax, cuts to working people’s tax credits, council tax benefit, housing benefit, and so on. Each year, the average Briton is poorer than the last.

The People’s Assembly was initially launched in February 2013 with a letter to The Guardian that served as a call to arms ‘to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government’. It reassured the people that the movement will provide an ‘opposition [to the current Government] broad enough and powerful enough to generate successful co-ordinated action’.

The more of us who join this movement in resisting the austerity measures being imposed upon us, the greater its power will be to oppose unfair cuts.  To register to attend the first meeting of The People’s Assembly on Saturday 22 June 2013 at Central Hall Westminster, London, please visit the Coalition of Resistance website.

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