Tuesday saw the first launch meeting for local anti-cuts campaign, Islington Hands Off Our Public Services or IHOOPS.
The meeting was extremely well attended, with in excess of 100 residents, campaigners and community activists in attendance. The mood was combative, with veterans of the campaign to save the Whittington Hospital coming together with pensioners fighting to keep the Sotheby Mews day centre open, as well as teachers given notices redundancy by the Labour council.
Speakers from the platform included Jeremy Corbyn MP, Alex Callinicos, Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners Convention and Alasdair Smith, secretary of the local NUT, who introduced Carol, a local teacher who had already received her notice.
“I and my team work with kids who are at risk of exclusion in our schools,” she said. “But it seems like helping the poor in our society is no longer of value to the government. They say we are spending too much, and working too hard, to give kids and young mums a chance at a normal life.”
Councillors from the reigning Labour council group were in attendance, and faced angry questioning about how they could claim to be against the cuts while voting to pass a budget that makes savage inroads into social provision. Councillor Catherine West, leader of the council, claimed that they were forced to pass the measures by central government, and that they were incapable of opposing the will of the ConDem regime. Several speakers from the floor questioned the commitment of local Labour politicians to their constituents, and suggested they look to the example of the Poplar councillors.
Debate was lively from the floor, with contributions expressing the anger that local people feel towards the ConDem government for attempting to smash the lives of the working class community, and roll back the gains won with long years of painful struggle. The meeting heard from representatives of the Save Sotheby Mews campaign, who also presented a petition to the Labour councillors. The speaker made it clear that the day centre is in imminent danger of closure, and left the audience in no doubt that this will mean the deaths of elderly people who rely on its services.
The assembled activists resolved to continue and broaden the campaign, building for a lobby of the council on the 7th of October and to join the demonstration proposed by Camden Trades Council to Downing Street on the 20th of October. The task of socialists is clear – support and extend the campaign, argue within it for a radical alternative to the ConDem government’s cuts, to join in lobbying the local council and to build for the demonstration against the austerity measures.