On January 28, 2016, Labour Party member Chris Allen uploaded an informative draft leaflet to the Leicester & Shire Momentum facebook page titled “Arguing for Labour councils to defy the Tories’ cuts.”
“[T]he most desirable position for the Tories,” the leaflet began, “is having Labour councils act as their agents in imposing cuts on the local community.” Hence the primary reason why Momentum’s members and supporters are so keen that Leicester’s Labour councillors begin to fight the cuts now, not later.
With regard the threat of commissioners being sent in to take over Council’s who defy the government, the leaflet pointed out how “the sending in of commissioners could well make it easier for a Labour council and local labour movement to up the ante, mobilise people and bring pressure to bear” on the government.
Moreover it added: “The risks [to individual councillors] are much smaller than they used to be. Councillors can be disqualified [for up to five years], but no longer be jailed or heavily fined and bankrupted, as they could be in the past.” In fact, the ability of the government to surcharge councillors was abolished in the 2000 Local Government Act. Furthermore, what is clear, is that if Labour councillors were forcibly removed from office for refusing to carry through Tory cuts, other anti-austerity Labour candidates would certainly be elected to replace them during any ensuing by-elections.
But, the leaflet asked, if our councillors did choose to do the right thing and stood firm against Tory cuts, what is the likelihood that the public would rally behind them? Using the recent example of the mass campaign in Lewisham, that was able to successfully stop the closure of a local A&E, the leaflet explained: “There is no reason to think that if councillors showed some leadership and tried to take on the Tories, there wouldn’t be a big response.”
It went on to add that ideally Labour-led Councils would “work together in a joint campaign” to oppose the Tories, although even “a serious campaign by just 10 councils could challenge the current situation”. Nevertheless, whatever happens next, it wouldn’t hurt if just one Labour Council took the first step in committing itself to oppose Tory austerity, so why not Leicester?
Importantly the Momentum leaflet acknowledged the need to avoid “scaremongering to discourage discussion” of the necessity to press Labour councils to stand up for what is right and take the fight to the Tories. As the leaflet correctly concluded:
“No struggle is guaranteed to win, or risk free, but what’s the alternative? To let our public services be trashed and our communities devastated – and very likely have to break the law not by defiance, but by failing to provide statutory services!.. Workers and communities will fight the cuts anyway – on a bigger or smaller scale. The question is whether Labour at least tries to be part of that, and give leadership to it, or whether it opposes and, inevitably, denounces anti-cuts struggles.”