By Mark Serwotka - 16th July 2012
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka outlines why he thinks the Labour Party has to face up to its mistakes in Government, and explains how his union will support anti-cuts MPs.
On Saturday I spoke at the Durham Miners' Gala in front of thousands of people all hoping for a better society than one in which the most vulnerable and least culpable pay for the crimes and excesses of the wealthy and reckless.
This celebration of the spirit of solidarity around the former pits of the north east serves as a timely reminder of what years of failed economic policies have done to our industries and our communities.
And it reinforces the fact that the cuts the millionaires in the cabinet insist are necessary to "deal with the deficit" are not working – they are making the situation worse.
So how should the labour movement respond? Yes, by supporting strike action, but for more than 100 years we have recognised the need to fight politically as well as industrially.
That is why PCS members have decided we will now consider backing or standing candidates in national elections where it would help us to defend jobs and public services.
A dangerous political consensus has developed that means opposition to cuts to jobs, pay, pensions and essential services, is narrowed down to a question of depth and timing.
This Tory-led government is throwing people out of work and onto benefits, when it should be creating jobs to get our economy moving again. It is cutting £28 billion from welfare spending, blaming people for being unemployed and targeting the sick and disabled.
But Labour must recognise it paved the way for a lot of what is happening now.
Against all the evidence, even from his own department, James Purnell accelerated the involvement of the private sector in welfare and first suggested introducing workfare – replacing the public good for the pursuit of profit and opening the door for this government’s disastrous work programme and the scandals surrounding the likes of A4e and Atos.
On jobs, Gordon Brown’s 2004 announcement that more than 100,000 civil service posts would go was greeted with cheers by many on his side of the House.
We opposed these things then, and have been making the case for the alternative for some time. But we can no longer wait for politicians to act on our behalf. In France, opposition to an obsession with ‘the markets’ has been popular; we need candidates with the same drive and vision.
We are not founding a new party. Our decisions will be based on what individual candidates stand for and any support will be an exception, where we judge our members' jobs and public services are under threat.
We already work well with MPs who share our view that austerity isn't working and that there is an alternative. An alternative where we invest in public services, instead of cutting them to the bone; where we solve the housing crisis by building new homes, instead of making more families homeless or moving them miles across the country; and where we target the wealthy tax dodgers, rather than the people struggling on low pay and benefits.
Politics is about choices and there is always an alternative. We can change our society for the better. But it will not happen just by wishing for it.