Will the ‘left’ throw the baby out with the bathwater?

By Councillor Jim Grundy

To friends and comrades: the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition is standing a candidate in Hucknall for the Nottinghamshire County Council elections on 2nd May.  I cannot tell you – do I need to? – how thoroughly depressing I find this to be.

Some people will never be content with the Labour Party as a party of the Left – and that is their prerogative.  Some within Labour can often appear to be somewhat less than ‘left-friendly’ but within Hucknall – where we have no county councillors (for the moment) but all nine district councillors – what are they opposing?

Hucknall’s Labour councillors have taken leading roles in ensuring that the District Council adopted the Living Wage.  Hucknall’s Labour councillors supported the moves to freeze, not only Council Tax but Council housing rents too.  We haven’t passed on the cuts to Council Tax Benefit and are currently developing a package to protect those affected by the Bedroom Tax.  We’ve also ensured that all low-paid council and Ashfield Homes’ employees received £250 when the Government vetoed a pay rise.  No other council can claim to have done more.  None.  I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

Services, such as the call monitoring service, one that the most vulnerable rely upon in an emergency, have been supported, filling the gap left by the Tory-run (for the moment) County Council’s cuts to the budget.  We are about to begin the construction of the first council houses in Ashfield for over 30 years, with more planned.

All of that, it seems, is not good enough.  We’ve worked – and continue to work – with local Trade Union representatives.  But we now find ourselves opposed by people we might have hoped would’ve supported the measures we’ve put in place to support those most affected by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition.

We won’t change course.  But, it seems, some will never abandon their position of opposing Labour whatever it does, wherever they find it.  One day they might discover the Tory Party and others on the Right but it seems, they’re far happier… much more comfortable attacking the evils of Labour without ever, even for a nanosecond, thinking they would have to do anything other than utter some empty rhetoric that they will never have to back up with action in the real world.

It is referred to in political circles as sectarianism.  I am sure that those trying to come to terms with what the Tories are doing to them, have other expressions that best describe it.  But, whilst they might claim my complaint is merely seeking to shut down criticism of the Labour Party – for they can have no other critique, rarely dealing with ‘real people’ – the reality is that they are self-indulgent, self-serving individuals who positively revel in ordinary people’s misery if they believe it serves as a recruiting agent for their own purposes.  That, I think, is shameful.  But, obviously, I will be proven wrong… triumphantly so… when that mass workers’ party otherwise known as the Socialist Party takes centre stage.

I have many friends on the Left and I value their friendship more than I can tell.  A lot of them would never dream of voting for, let alone joining Labour.  Few of them, though, would spend time attacking a Labour council with our recent track record.  They’d rather back what we were doing, whilst arguing… arguing very strongly, that there was still much more to do… but they would think it much more profitable to spend their time attacking Tories and Lib Dems rather than seeking to undermine what we’re trying to do locally.  But some people are not and never will be my/our friends.  Good luck to them and when they’ve proved that their red flag is a much purer shade of red than mine, they can go home, safe in the knowledge that they never have to actually do anything beyond writing a slogan to oppose what the Tories are doing.  I don’t doubt their slogans are better than ours.  But I do wonder how much they help those about to be hit by the Bedroom Tax.  I have to try to do something in the here and now for such people and not go back to Nottingham, smug in my political theorising and safe in the knowledge that I’ll never have to do anything in the real world to alter what is taking place to real people in the here and now, rather than the glorious future that is to come.

If that sounds horribly negative and angry, well, it is.  Except I and my fellow Labour councillors in Hucknall are taking action to help those on the receiving end of what is happening, and not simply proving to a very narrow section of society just how morally superior we are to everyone else.  We’ll carry on, working hard to ensure that real people receive real help now.  There is a difference.  And ‘real’ people can spot it a million miles off.

Yes, I am pissed off at finding ourselves opposed by people who, even if they will never be our friends, should at the very least recognise who is on the same side.  We might choose a different path and others will argue about the veracity of that too but there is a bigger prize to be won than a test of political theory.  Honest.

Related posts by Jim Grundy

This Ghastly Bedroom Tax spreads Fear… #bedroomtax

The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All?

How can pay rise be unfair when mega-rich get tax cut?

The Unnatural Death of Affordable Housing

Planning to Blame Immigrants? Get Your Facts Straight & Get Rid of Your Prejudices, Nick Boles

Arguments that every Liberal Democrat would do well to hear

32 thoughts on “Will the ‘left’ throw the baby out with the bathwater?

  1. “Except I and my fellow Labour councillors in Hucknall are taking action to help those on the receiving end of what is happening”

    – Well that’s great, but it seems like very few in the parliamentary Labour Party are doing the same. Colluding with the enemy more like, apart from the 40 or so MPs who voted against the retrospective laws regarding Workfare. I’m no fan of the SWP but I’m very disillusioned with the Labour party. I’d love to be proved wrong.

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    • I understand how you feel.. I feel equally angry/appalled by the 13 wasted years of neoliberalism. However, there are those 44 Labour MPs and great Labour councillors who are fighting this government every which way that they can. There are 1000s of grassroots activists who are doing their utmost to pull the Labour party back to the left. There are 1000s in the broad left who recognise that, no matter how disillusioning New Labour was, this Tory government is completely ruthless and out of control.. and that the only organisation that is capable of removing it, is the LP.

      Ed Miliband is not Blair or Brown in his politics, and is likely to move leftward (evidenced by David Miliband’s defection). IMO the only position is to pull, push, pressurise the LP to move. A Labour government is unlikely to be perfect but any comparison with this coalition government is puerile. Supporting, not attacking the ‘good guys’ in the LP seems the least to ask from the broad left. The alternative is another 5y of Osborne, Cameron, Gove et al and the increasing damage that they are wreaking on people and the economy.

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      • The alternative is for the existing parties to split, as they clearly should, into their neoliberal and antineoliberal factions. Then people could have some clear idea of who and what they’re voting for. There’s no point voting for Labour when the best they can suggest economically is they’ll be Tory Lite. Have you read any of Adair’s 70 pages on QE for the people? There’s a serious alternative that would greatly benefit the country and very probably get it back on its feet (I’ve suggested something similar myself), yet who do we see discussing this in politics? The Coalition? Labour? No! Well, if they aren’t going to address real-world issues with anything but their Toy-Town economics they can’t expect to get any votes at all from the people who understand them. We won’t have another five years of this nonsense, we’ll have a bloody revolution first. It’ll probably start in the next few months as it finally starts to sink in to the myopic general public what the bedroom tax and the Overall Benefit Cap really mean.

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      • Absolutely Sue. Labour is not going along the Blairite route. The mistake made by allowing Blair to kidnap the party was due to fear after successive Thatcherite governments, and of the press. A Labour Party who can present a manifesto for the people reversing the cuts can be reflected and have the greatest opportunity since 1945to improve the lives of the people. It will be tragic be if opposing and destructive voices prevent us taking that opportunity – and take it we must.
        No other party can do that.

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    • Well said Jim. You are doing some very good work in Hucknall. There are plenty of idiots as you describe who do none at all, but listen to the sound of their own voices.
      And there will be plenty of work which will need to be done in 2015 after the most cruel and extreme government in my lifetime. Labour must speak clearly its intent, and we need to hear that the dreadful attack on the vulnerable will be reversed, that the NHS break up will be reversed, and a plan for full employment will be put in place. I would like to hear much more too, that the break with New Labour and the Blairites is complete. There will be some who will not listen. There are socialists working for an end to this austerity and the neoliberal experiment, and there are those who say they are socialists who oppose us. There are others in small factions and parties within parties, individuals form groups yet exclude others, just like Blair did, they seek to control, but they are undemocratic, and do not demonstrate solidarity. A broken left is too weak and is impotent, but will be strong together. Remember, united we stand but divided we fall,…. And fail.

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      • No mistake .. I can safely say that we at Think Left find it difficult to support the LP as was, and the current lack of opposition to this government. The issue is that there is no hope with the Tory/LD coalition and that, until Bill’s revolution comes along, there is no other realistic option in parliamentary terms. However, Jim et al show that some local councillors can be supported without reservation whilst as Jayne writes others who cannot.

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  2. Very sad and its the tragedy of the left all over. Many Labour councils are doing a lot of good work. I’m a Fife Councillor and in Fife council we have taken a decision not to evict those tenants who can’t pay the bedroom tax, we’ve got a fund to help those who can’t pay which we’ve doubled, we introduced the living wage for all council workers, we introduced free care for disabled people and we;re building nearly 1800 council homes. And thats just some of what we’ve managed over the last year since taking office. This is what we;ve doen to mitigate the bedroom tax.
    NOTICE OF MOTION – In terms of Standing Order No. 30, the following notice of motion has been submitted
    E
    xecutive Committee
    1
    Notes:
    1
    .1 That from 1st April nearly 5,000 council tenants and 1,300 housing association tenants in Fife will be adversely affected by the under-occupation provisions of Welfare Reform – the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’. 1.2

    That Fife Council is concerned that the bedroom tax will lead to increased rent arrears, and considers that this represents a significant financial risk to the Housing Revenue Account. 1.3 That the Council has been making strenuous efforts to contact those tenants likely to be affected and to investigate all legal means of mitigating the impact of these measures. 1.4 That the Council has included a sum of £5.4m in its budget to deal with the impact of Welfare Reform. 1.5 That all tenants should continue to pay their rent but should contact the Council as soon as possible if they are in danger of falling into arrears. 2 Agrees: 2.1 An increase in resources available to support the application of the Discretionary Housing Fund to the maximum level allowed (150%) bringing the Fund in Fife up to a total of £1.087m, funded from the resources previously built in to the council budget to deal with the impact of Welfare Benefit Reform. 2.2 That for any tenant facing financial difficulties as a direct result of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ provided they have contacted the Council to discuss their financial position, are doing all they reasonably can to avoid falling into or escalating arrears, and where applicable have entered into an agreed financial arrangement, Fife Council will use all legitimate means of supporting tenants to ensure the collection of rent but will not pursue eviction measures. 2.3 That outstanding arrears will not prevent a transfer for any tenants wishing to transfer to a smaller property as a way of mitigating the impact of the ‘Bedroom Tax’. 2.4 That tenants who do not wish to accept the offer of a property that would result in under occupation and financial hardship under the Welfare Reform provisions will not be suspended from waiting or transfer lists under the current allocation policies. 3 Calls on: The UK Government 3.1 To reverse the under-occupation provisions of Welfare Reform or failing this to further expand the categories for exemption from these provisions. The Scottish Government 3.2 To continue to use its devolved powers under housing and social welfare legislation and in consultation with local authorise and other social housing providers, to mitigate the impacts of Welfare Reform and in particular the ‘Bedroom Tax’. 3.3 Specifically to further supplement the Discretionary Housing Fund

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  3. I totally agree with Jim, Sue & Pam with regard to Labour offering a REAL alternative to this destructive and dangerous Coalition. However I live in Leicester, where Labour have 52 of the 54 seat Council and here we are experiencing the full brunt of the Tory Cuts, with a Council Tax Levy + Bedroom Tax, and a refusal on the part of the Council to explain where ANY of the former Social Fund & Social Care budgets have gone.

    This is the type of behaviour that causes The Labour Party a problem and allows for the divertive tactics of other Political Groups; it also makes it very hard for grassroot members to argue for The Party!

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    • Make no mistake Jayne… I support the ‘good guys’ in the Labour Party .. the councillor Jims and Peters. I’m no tribalist for Labour right or wrong. My position is pragmatic. The priority has to be to remove this anarcho-capitalist government.

      But in what sense is there a Labour council in Leicester if it is simply implementing Tory cuts wholesale? We need to redefine what being Labour means.

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  4. The usual ragbag of “Anything Labour does is worse than anything the Tories and LibDems can do”. Which trade unions? None affiliated to the LP I hope. The problem for Labour councils is they are having to cope with the finances the Coalition allows them. But they need to be LISTENING and TRANSPARENT. It’s Devil-and-the-Deep-Blue-Sea, I suspect many about to take control after 2nd May are pretty worried at what they will find. Others will have to decide what to do in NoC situations which are likely to arise in many areas.

    On that, my own view is no arrangements. Let them do what they are going to do and vote issue by issue from a minority standpoint, and where we are the largest group, the same, no cosy deals. Or, if an NoC arrangement is to be concluded let it be to an agreed programme the public can see and where Labour principles and policies are not betrayed.

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  5. The debate over whether the future of the left is within the Labour Party or otherwise is one of the most taxing and important questions facing our movement today.

    The gravity of this issue coupled with the ongoing attacks against the working class dictate that answers can only be found through sober and objective political discourse. Sadly, Councillor Grundy has elected to argue his points in a manner that is neither sober nor objective, instead choosing a shoddy combination of self justification and ad hominem attacks. Such a course of action invariably generates more heat than light and it is hoped that after a moment of calm reflection Mr. Grundy will retract these comments and replace them with genuine arguments based on politics not personalities.

    In the meantime I’d like to finish off by raising a few points of my own which can hopefully be discussed in a mature and non sectarian manner:

    1)Judging the Labour Party as the sum of its parts rather than on the strength of a sizeable but significant minority of genuine left wingers, its current position within the political spectrum places it where it can no longer demand supplication in the guise of unity from left activists
    2)Those remaining in the party who desire to shift policy towards the left must come up with a credible plan as to how this will be achieved rather than simply throwing stones at those outside the party who highlight the absence of such a plan
    3)UKIP are also standing in this election. Whenever UKIP field a credible candidate, they are always able to shift consensus amongst all other candidates to the right. TUSC are unlikely to alter the outcome of the election (what TUSC takes from Labour UKIP will take double from the Conservatives), however, an opposite if not necessarily equal pole of attraction to the left may mitigate this UKIP rightward swing

    There are arguments both for and against a left of Labour party, but I urge all comrades, including Cllr Grundy to raise their arguments instead of their voices.

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    • I see little value in debating with a 19th Century pseudonymous individual. Given the tone of the contribution, I doubt it would take any of us one inch further forward.

      The point of politics is to change the world, not to interpret it endlessly. And something tells me the debate would neither be a ‘debate’ nor have an end. Or a point.

      I detect a claim to a moral high-ground that isn’t open to challenge. Enjoy the view.

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      • Dear Mr. Grundy

        Firstly, appologies for posting under a pseudonym, the resaon for this is not to hide my identity from comrades, but to protect my privacy from both the police and far right groups who regularly trawl social media in their hunt for left activists. (I have no problem in disclosing my identity to you, but not on a public forum)

        You state that “The point of politics is to change the world, not to interpret it endlessly”, and I agree, therefore the end of debate is a consensus on how to change the world and the point is to then go forward and create this change.

        You also say that you “detect a claim to a moral high-ground that isn’t open to challenge”, nothing can be further from the truth, in fact I can see valid arguments both for and against the standing of a TUSC candidate, the main thust of my post was that arguments rather than insults have to be used.

        From a left Labour perspective I understand that a genuine left candidate has the best chance of electoral success when standing as a Labour candidate (due mostly to the “brand loyalty”) of the electorate. If this candidate is genuinly of the left, then it is never in the interests of the left to stand a candidate against him.

        From a TUSC perspective, I see that membership of the Labour party may actually hamstring a candidate restricting his participation against the cuts to little more than hand wringing and crocodile tears whilst he continues to implement right of centre policy under the excuse of having no choice in the matter.

        In the light of the above I request that you answer the following:

        1) Do you stand on a genuine Left platform?
        2) Will you refuse to endorse any motion that inflicts cuts?
        3) Will you advocate a policy of no evictions in Nottinghamshire as a result of benefit cuts and / or bedroom tax?
        4) Will you support all trades union action, including that which may be taken against your own council and refuse to cross all picket lines
        5) Will you support all peaceful direct action in Nottinghamshire against the cuts?

        If the answer to all of the above is yes then I’ll not only support you but I’ll turn out an canvass for you. If the answer is otherwise then you must concede that there is space to the left of you and that politics ahbors a vacuum

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  6. It would be nice if the Labour Party would come out and be clear what it does stand for. I have searched the Labour Party website, sent emails to leading Labour politicians but neither the website or the politicians can tell me exactly what Labour stand for.

    To my shame, I voted in the first instance for Blair, but having been disgusted with his neo-liberalism I will not vote until Labour makes it clear what it is seeking to achieve.

    Waiting for policy and strategy development is wasted time for until you have a clear vision of what you want no amount of strategising will be capable of delivering it.

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  7. Judging by TUSC results lately, their challenge is unlikely to get much electoral support. Most voters, despite I should the actions of our Party leadership, will not want to see the anti-government vote split in what will incresasingly be seen as the lead up to the General Election. However anti-cuts electoral campaigns are likely to get a lot of sympathy from many people frustrated by Party representatives, Ed Miliband especially, who refuse still to commit to undoing the government’s damage in many areas, restoring local govt spending and services.
    If we are to stop any haemorrhaging of the Labour vote, those of us on the Labour left need to be more visible, more militant and more explicit about what we will fight for from a future Labour government as well as supporting the fightback against cuts.
    On the Bedroom Tax, that means making obligations not to evict those who fall into arrears because of it and saying we will fight for its total repeal.
    On the cuts that mean doing what a small but growing number of councillors are doing in Councillors Against Cuts, http://councillorsagainstcuts.org . That is saying we will not implement them and will defy them as Len McCluskey, Gen Sec of UNITE calls for http://councillorsagainstcuts.org/2013/03/29/len-mccluskey-on-what-would-happen-if-councils-refused-to-implement-cuts/ . It would also mean giving support to those councillors who have been stupidly victimised by their Labour Groups for their principled stand.
    If we do that then there would be absolutely nothing to fear from electoral challenges from the left but more importantly it would allow us to reconnect with so many people who have became cynical and switched off from Labour since the Blair years.

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    • King Ludd, let me explain what I’ve been doing today to set in context what I’m going to say later.

      Today I met two households who are affected by the Bedroom Tax. I expect you can imagine what their state of mind is right now. But it seems that you lack sufficient imagination to anticipate the reaction of anyone reading your latest contribution whom you presume to judge.

      Exactly who do you think you are asking me to justify myself and my views to you? Who set you up as the moral aribter on behalf of the entire Left (or do your pretentions extend the rest of the human race)?

      Nevertheless, thank you for introducing me to a genuinely new experience – being patronised by someone who doesn’t even have the moral courage to identify themselves.

      Why don’t you visit the tenants I did today and ask them similar questions to ensure that they are worthy of any assistance that is on offer? I presume if they fall short of your own personal standards they can be safely dismissed as unworthy reactionaries and deserving of their lot.

      I don’t have time for this. As I said before, enjoy the view from atop the moral high-ground you claim as yours. The rest of us will merely grub around dealing with ugly reality rather than your beautiful truths.

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      • “Today I met two households who are affected by the Bedroom Tax. I expect you can imagine what their state of mind is right now. But it seems that you lack sufficient imagination to anticipate the reaction of anyone reading your latest contribution whom you presume to judge.”

        – Trust me I’ll be standing on the doorsteps for these people resisting the bailifs that you have still not confirmed that you will refuse to instruct.

        “Exactly who do you think you are asking me to justify myself and my views to you?”

        – Your a politician it’s part of the job description

        “Why don’t you visit the tenants I did today and ask them similar questions to ensure that they are worthy of any assistance that is on offer?”

        – That’s exactly what I’m doing this Sunday. Why not come and join us we’re leafleting in the Meadows. Hopefully your commitment to helping doesn’t stop where electoral boundaries end

        “being patronised by someone who doesn’t even have the moral courage to identify themselves.”

        – This is my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/king.ludd?ref=tn_tnmn

        Message me and I’ll identify myself. Failing that, come along on Sunday and you can meet me in person, we may have more in common than you think. At this event I’ll be working alongside comrades from the Labour party, the SP, The SWP, Anarchists, Greens, Trade Unionists and others. We really can get along together and fight for the common good especialy when our differences are discussed rather than insulted.

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      • Dear ‘Mr Ludd’

        I note from your fb site that you ‘like’ the People’s Assembley, and I am at one with you in agreeing with the need for abandoning sectarianism in order to fight this government… However, there is the contradiction for me.

        Your demands on Jim Grundy to evidence that he has the ‘correct’ political stances sounds exactly like sectarianism. Furthermore, it does not seem to be focusing your energy into fighting the nightmare decisions of this so-called Coalition government. Jim’s post self-evidently demonstrates that he is vehemently opposed to the government cuts and completely unlikely to ‘call in the bailiffs’…

        Why would you require any further information in order to offer him support, if you are really in favour of a broad alliance of the left?

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  8. I’m pretty sure I’ll fail your ‘Reinheitsgebot’, King Ludd, so will decline your kind offer of making myself available for your personal (dis)approval. I never wholly trust anyone who sets themselves up as the conscience of any movement, in this case the Left. I, for one, would never dream of making similar claims for my own take on things and wonder about those who do. And, having spent many years within the Trade Union movement, know some very prominent members of the Left who don’t seem to require a ‘candidate’ to sit an examination before being accepted as an individual who ‘is on the same side’.

    I’ll let my actions, the policies that I have supported – listed in the original post – be the benchmark by which I am judged by others. Words are cheap. Actions, less so. And words, in the absence of the speaker ever having had to or even being likely to have any responsibility for delivering what they say, are a somewhat degraded currency.

    I am sure we do indeed have much in common. That being the case, let’s leave it at that and get on with trying to move a positive agenda forward before setting purity laws that obssess on differences before anyone is graciously granted an audience by a king.

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    • Hey, King Ludd, see some readers of this thread wished me well (in my absence) with a smile and a handshake last Saturday in Hucknall. Right back at you, guys.

      If you or any of your lovely friends want to have exchange sweet messages of delight, I’ll be around on Saturday. All the best.

      I love the smell of sectarianism in the morning.

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  9. Answer this Jim; will the Labour Party in Hucknall refuse to implement cuts, set a needs budget, attack employers who use your Living Wage as a means to cut wages as some are doing, refuse to evict those subject to the bedroom tax and build a mass movement against the Tories? If you answered yes to all of the above, I, as a committed Socialist Party member and TUSC activist would stand aside and support you. I strongly suspect you won’t do any or at least not much of what I’ve mentioned; you know as well as I do that the Labour Party has the same cuts and privatisation agenda as the Coalition, have you forgotten which government exponentially expanded upon PFI? Prison privatisation? The Labour Party is dead as a means of struggle yet you swallow what it gives you. For the record, many Socialist Party members are public sector workers working with the most vulnerable, what part of that isn’t working with real people?

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  10. Pingback: Nottingham Socialist Party » Why TUSC is standing in Hucknall – a reply to Councillor Jim Grundy » Nottingham Socialist Party

  11. The socialist principle here is to fight ALL cuts. How can a Labour Council, yes a Labour Council inflict £17m of cuts on working people and still think it’s ‘left’ or ‘socialist’ and deserving of support? That is the type of spin Tony Blaire would be proud of. It doesn’t matter what colour the council is. If it inflicts cuts, it should be opposed. If you wont do it, then you can’t complain when someone gets off their knees to stand up and fights back. You can’t have it both ways.

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  12. Pingback: Remember the Real Divide – it’s Rich and Poor | Think Left

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