Friday 10 January 2014

Lewisham speaks out against cuts and racism

The protest outside 'Question Time' last night
Last night, BBC's 'Question Time' came to the London Borough of Lewisham. It was a night when the people of Lewisham did themselves proud - in stark contrast to most of the Question Time panel.

A noisy crowd gathered outside Goldsmiths College before filming started to make our voices heard - above all about the threats to the NHS. The successful campaign to defend Lewisham Hospital has shown that, with a bold campaign, victories can be achieved. Lewisham teachers have also achieved a recent success over pay and appraisal policies through the threat of strike action. These kinds of local successes need to be celebrated - and publicised. Above all, they need to be built upon to build a national campaign of action to oppose cuts and defend services - in the NHS, education and across public services.

The successful RMT ballot in support of strike action to oppose the cuts to jobs and ticket office closures on the Tube opens another campaign that needs our full support. These cuts are an attack on a vital transport service for all of us who live and work in London and an attack on an important section of our trade union movement. Two 48-hour strikes have been called for the beginning of February.  Let's hope that we can join together with a coordinated campaign of strike action to defeat cuts and defend jobs, conditions and services.

These cuts - like the fire station closures which saw the shutting of Downham station in Lewisham yesterday - are part of an agenda of yet more 'austerity'. The attempts to justify swingeing spending cuts by the politicians on the BBCQT panel were immediately answered by one Lewisham campaigner in the audience, Helen, who rightly pointed to the billions that could be found if the Government were to seriously tackle tax evasion and avoidance. 

Nadine Dorries and the UKIP representative then tried to hide behind the racist fog of blaming problems on 'immigration'. Again the good people of Lewisham were having none of it. In one clip, already on youtube on, one resident lambasted Dorries in particular for using immigration as a 'smokescreen' to hide the real agenda of privatisation.

The weakness of the professional politicians on the panel was in stark contrast to the anger and determination that came across from the public of Lewisham in the audience. It's up to the trade union movement to harness that anger and lead a campaign of strike action that can stop the cuts - and also to start to use its resources to provide an alternative.

The RMT are, to their credit, as well as backing strike action, also backing the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in standing candidates against all the pro-cuts big business parties in this year's council elections. I will certainly be supporting TUSC candidates standing for election in Lewisham in 2014. 

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