On 30 January around six hundred people joined the first major protest against the latest round of cuts in Brighton on 30 January.
They were trade unionists and seasoned campaigners. The one group notable by its absence was the local Labour Party. Just a couple of weeks before, a lively debate at a meeting of around two hundred Labour members voted for a weakened motion to campaign agains the “Tory” cuts, but fell short of committing to opposing them at council level.
The Labour administration is proposing a budget that will make £68 million of cuts to vital services, shedding jobs and contracting out along the way. Although the Labour meeting unanimously agree that Labour should oppose the government’s cuts, only a minority of that meeting joined this demo.
Not absent though was Green councillor Phelim MacCafferty, who made a long speech condemning the Labour Council’s cuts programme. He failed to propose an alternative strategy or admitting that, whilst in power, the Greens did the exact same thing, using the exact same logic — “if we don’t make these cuts the Tories will take over and make them. And that will be even worse”.
This muddled argument will be tested over the coming years as Tory/Labour/Green cuts start to bite. It will also reveal the deep confusion and division that exists in the Labour Party as members are encouraged both to oppose cuts and to support Labour councillors and maintain unity. The Labour Party leadership’s letter insisting that councils must set legal, i.e. cuts budgets, doesn’t help. We need to develop a strategy to confront these cuts, build a movement that can challenge the warped logic, and defend the interests of working-class communities.