Monday, 29 February 2016

'Rather an illegal Budget than an immoral one'

by Andrew Wastling

' Swingeing cuts of £22 Million were agreed by Rochdale Council as its
leader dubbed the Tory's austerity drive “ morally bankrupt “. The
town will have suffered £200 Million worth of cuts by 2017 – including
£1 million next year'
, the  Manchester Evening News reported last week , and added that this
was to include :

'Plans put forward include cuts to HIV prevention and support
services totalling more than £2.5 million. Funding for specialist HIV
prevention & support services is set to be cut  by £110,000, while
money spent to help drug and alcohol abuse sufferers could be slashed
by £1.2 million over the next two years'

' Rochdale Council agrees swingeing cuts but leader slams "morally
bankrupt" Tory austerity drive'

[ Manchester Evening News , 24 February  2016 ,

Yes he's quite right it is a 'morally bankrupt' Tory austerity drive
- but to agree a " morally bankrupt " budget surely raises questions
of Labours role as a functioning  opposistion party ?

Lets hope Councillor Farrnel is just the first of many Labour Council
Leaders to speak out about this vile Tory government whose financial
diktats and slash & burn austerity would not be out of place in Franco
s Spain or post Allendes Chile. He at least wasn't taking  Tory slash
& burn austerity lying
down - but what happened to the rest of them ?

We already know it's the same old Tory Story from the remote
so called Tory elite in  Westminster - We never expected anything
different from them – they are after all Tories.

However local people certainly do want and expect something different from
Rochdale Labour Party .

They did not vote in Labour Councillors only to have them meekly
“rubber stamp”  Cameron & Osborne’s  policies through the back door
of Labour Town Halls .

They voted Labour to stand against Tory Policies and their pernicious
,evil right wing ideology  and their savage attacks on ordinary
workers , the frail & vulnerable in our Northern towns .

They did not vote Labour in to play role the collaborator or to act
the role of second understudy to the Blue Tories or for the Labour
Party to facilitate the most
concerted political attack on our local working class communities
since the 1930's to adopt the guise of  quisling Red Tories.

If Labour Councillors are not going to take a stand against the worst
cuts to Local Governments Public Services since 1974 when will they
finally get a political vertebrae, and at last take a principled
political stand and say enough is enough ?

" Jerusalem " ,Sir Hubert Parry's , rousing anthem for the labour
movement,has rightly been in the Labour Party song book for many years
. At home sung anywhere from a church congregation to a union picket
line this hymn encapsulates much of why the Labour movement was

The Party's very raison d’etre set to music many people feel.

Perhaps the remaining majority of those Labour Councillors who pointedly failed
to speak out , and the others who failed even turn up to the Budget
fixing meeting last Wednesday night , might like to skim over the
last verse for a timely reminder ?

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

It will be noted that very few if any other than the hand picked
spokesmen out of 48 Labour Councillors were moved enough by righteous
anger at the " morally bankrupt "  Budget to bother to speak out in
opposition to this Tory imposed Austerity budget and instead of
attempting to defend the walls of Jerusalem they meekly collaborated
with the Tory Government in their brick by brick demolition of the
Welfare State, the NHS and Public Services – most appeared to me to
have thrown in the towel before even breaking into a few drops of
perspiration never mind a proper sweat.

A case more of demolishing - than building -Jerusalem - a more total
near - capitulation  of the hard won victories of the reforming 1945
Labour Government it’s  difficult to find.

There was very little  " menatl strife " in the Council Chamber on
Wednesday evening  and as for  " swords not  sleeping  in hands" - the
protestors looking down on the assembled Labour councillors  struggled
to hear what most said and to work out  if indeed they were even
actually awake or not ?

It was abvious to all watching from the Public Gallery that not only
were most Labours Councillors swords  " asleep "  in their hands they
were self evidently too blunt and rusty to defend Jerusalem, and
probally little use for even fighting their way out of a soggy paper
bag -   " pathetic ", " cringe worthy " and " spineless " were among
the most common words describing most Labour councillors  performance
in the post budget autopsy at the bar.

“Our hands are tied “ , bleat Labour , “there is nothing we can do to
stop them!”

“Then what is the point of voting for you  at all ? “ , the local voters
will soon start responding .

Anti austerity protesters have a few suggestions to our Labour
Councillors of what could be done by way of opposing the Tory Cuts
rather than  simply "rubber stamping" them without a struggle:

For example minutes from some Northern Councils show “ No Cuts Budgets
“ have been discussed by some Greater Manchester Councils at official
level .

If Labour councillors mounted a serious campaign alongside the other
120 Labour councils they could demand what they need to avoid a cuts
budget .The  Government couldn't find enough retired civil servants to
replace them all. Northern Councils acting in unison could force this
government with its wafer-thin majority to back down. In the meantime
they could continue to fund services using reserves, as 82% of
councils already do, and borrowing powers, especially given the
extremely low interest rates being charged currently.

Rochdale Labour Council have so we are told  £169.6million  in usable
reserves. Could these reserves not be  “front-loaded “ to keep our
communities & vital front line services from being devastated by Tory
“ slash & burn “ Austerity measures and then repaid back from
Westminster once we get a financially saner Corbyn premiership Labour
government back into power at Westminster in two years time ?

Such a course of action would not be illegal and councillors no longer
face the risk of being surcharged or banned from office But if they
really want to fight to save services this is just one course of
action open to them.

And of course as a tactic of last resort – good old fashioned
,peaceful , non-violent civil disobedience - rather than collaborate
in implementing an immoral budget those Labour Councillors still in
unions could for example ask their union reps to ask their membership
to refuse to implement cuts legislation, take industrial action ,
adopt go slow policies, walk outs and worker occupation in departments
forced to implement brutal cuts by a reluctant Labour Council.

A united front between Labour Councillors and Council workers about to
be made redundant would be a better response than just timidly rolling
over and giving up without even a struggle as many appear to have done
this week.

Those Labour councillors of faith could refuse to participate in
actively facilitating a Tory Budget that breaches their individual
consciences and runs contrary to deeply spiritual ,religious faith or

Christian Councillors for example could make public statements to the
effect that refuse to participate in the implementation of the Budget
on the grounds it runs in direct contradiction to the Christian
parable and Jesus ministry to the poor and vulnerable :

“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the
needy in court”  Proverbs 22.22

I'm equally certain Muslim, Hindu and Socialist councillors in the
local Labour Party should if they are men & women of true conscience
be able to easily find a reason not to willingly participate in such a
divisive and socially destructive piece of legislation if they choose
to do so .

After all as the great Martin Luther King Jr,  pointed out in the sixties :

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust,
and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to
arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in
reality expressing the highest respect for the law”

In the end when  all is said and done It is surely better to
peacefully break unjust laws than to break the backs of poor and
vulnerable people  .

If our local Labour party and our elected councillors are not prepared
to take a moral lead and resist this vindictive Tory imposed Austerity
others are prepared to do so .

Yours faithfully


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