John McDonnell & Zita Holbourne at }TUC2023 fringe

John McDonnell – “Not giving the commitment to keeping the triple lock is wrong & a trap.”


“Workers cannot be expected to pay [for the crisis of] this morally bankrupt government.”

Martin Cavanagh, PCS.

Matt Willgress reports on a packed event on how socialist economic policies can end austerity – and where support for the Pension Triple Lock was defended.

Chair Sarah Woolley, BFAWU General Secretary, opened a packed TUC fringe on the socialist economic policies we need in Liverpool by arguing that” The cost-of-living emergency is deepening by the day. We need to look not only at the extent of the crisis, but what can be done to resist it, and what the economic alternative is that puts people first.”

The first speaker, Martin Cavanagh, PCS Deputy-President, then powerfully laid out why “Workers cannot be expected to pay [for the crisis of] this morally bankrupt government.”

He outlined in detail how PCS members have been at the forefront of facing the massive cuts we have seen since 2010.

Giving a specific example, he explained that PCS members are so badly paid that 40% of staff that administer Universal Credit have to claim it – that is a crisis of poverty pay.

In these years, “We’ve seen tens of thousands of job cuts and office closures when people are relying on services,” even though “Civil servants and the services they are providing are needed more than ever.”

This means that public services need more resources to protect and expand provision, but instead this rabid and ideological driven Government wants to cut even further.

In calling for an alternative to the cuts, the PCS is clear that it is “not just about our members in the workplace – it’s about fighting for a fairer, more just society.”

Zita Holbourne of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) opened by saying how “Anti-austerity has to go hand in hand with anti-racism.”

Since 2020, “with cuts and austerity we saw the deepening of racism and injustice [alongside] the rise of scapegoating of migrants and refugees,” and this has to be central to our understanding.

Alongside investment in public services, black people need equal access to public services, and we need decolonisation of public institutions.

We must not let our enemies divide us and this means demanding respect plus proper pay, terms and conditions for all workers and potential workers.

She added that all those that are bearing the hardest brunt of austerity need to have a voice and must have a seat at the table of our anti austerity campaigns. We shouldn’t expect them to come to us. We need to go to them.

She concluded by urging people to look at the 2025 vision for an end to austerity BARAC had produced, and with a clear message that “Equality and ending austerity must go hand in hand.”

The final speaker was John McDonnell, who opened by saying we “need to face up to the scale of what we are facing” after 13 years of cuts that have decimated public services and communities. Now, the cost-of-living crisis is deepening.

In this context, “A labour government has the potential to hugely transform people’s lives,” but the deep crises we face mean it simply “cannot be business as usual.”

We need to be clear what a Labour Government will inherit.

On general living standards, they are approximately 20 per cent below that of German workers, and 10 per cent below French workers.

And over 2 million people are in poverty, with food bank usage on the rise and inequality spiralling.

Public services, including the NHS and our schools, have been starved of the resources they need.And, as recent news in Birmingham confirmed, “The disaster area we aren’t talking about is local government.”

In the context of this social emergency, we on the Left need to be putting forward clear policies and ideas on what can be done.

Even just restoring the additional £20 on Universal Credit and scrapping the two child benefit cap “would lift people out of poverty for insignificant sums to the Treasury.”

In terms of the economy as a whole, Investing in our future would also help generate growth, we can’t just wait for the market to bring it.

Some of the audience at the socialist ecomomic attendees event at #TUC2023

The speeches were followed by questions and discussion, including on the news that both the Tories and Labour were currently refusing to commit to continuing the Pensions Triple Lock.

On this point, John McDonnell was clear that “Not giving the commitment to keeping the triple lock is wrong and is a trap,” especially in a situation where we have 2 million pensioners in poverty.”

Delegates left the event armed up with an analysis of the cost-of-living emergency and what can be done about it.

As Sarah Woolley said to conclude the event, “where the Labour Front bench won’t take the fight to the Tories, we collectively will – and must – do it anyway… And we will put forward the socialist solutions to the crisis we need – lets do it together!”

  • The event was hosted by Arise Festival, Claim the Future and the Labour Assembly Against Austerity.
  • You can see more pictures here and become a ‘Friend of Arise’ here.
John McDonnell & Zita Holbourne at }TUC2023 fringe
John McDonnell & Zita Holbourne at }TUC2023 fringe

Leave a Reply