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Time to Stand up to Tory Austerity

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This Saturday, the TUC is expecting hundreds of thousands to answer it's call and march through central London, demanding an end to cuts and austerity and for a future 'that works'. I will be joining that mass demonstration, as I expect will many from right across the east end of London.

This demonstration has been a long time coming. It comes at a time when for the first time we can really see the true extent of this government's plan to cut the public sector and shrink the state to proportions that would even shock America.

On Saturday, we will see and feel the strength of resistance to this plan to denude our country of so much that we have fought for over the decades and so much that is dear to us. We simply cannot allow the poor to pay the price for the greed and stupidity of the bankers, nor should we allow vital services, such as the National Health Service to be hived off to the highest bidder.

This Saturday, we want to hear something of the alternative the TUC is campaigning for, and we also will want to hear from the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, what his vision is of a 'future that works'.

Of course one person who won't be there on the TUC demonstration is the prime minister, David Cameron, although there won't be much surprise at that news.

A couple of weeks ago, in his speech to the Tory party conference the prime minister claimed the Tories were not the party of the 'better-offs', they are the party of the 'want-to-be-better-offs'.

But it is very difficult to be better-off when government cuts have driven the economy into a double-dip recession, when unemployment is rising, and when austerity is strangling growth in the economy.

The reality is that with their announcement of another £10 billion worth of cuts, this government has intensified its war on the poor.

David Cameron's biggest 'weapon of mass distraction' is to blame our current economic woes on a deficit born out of this country's long and quite deliberate industrial decline and loss of its productive base. This is also a deficit born out of stupendous public subsidies to the failed banks and the failure of so many large corporations to pay their fair of tax - such as companies as Amazon, Facebook, Google - the dot com companies that we were told would give us permanent economic boom.

In fact, they blame everybody for the current economic crisis but themselves and the elite they represent.

We are in this mess because of bankers who gambled billions on international money markets and brought the world economy to the abyss. We came within 24 hours of people not being able to withdraw money from cash machines, and huge amounts of public money had to be spent to bail out the banks.

And it is many of the same politicians who today who are the loudest voices prescribing austerity to heal a sick economy. But instead of healing the patient, the cuts are in danger of killing the patient.

As the Nobel winning prize economist Paul Krugman says of this government: "They are very much like medieval doctors who thought the treatment for illness was to bleed you, then when the patients got sicker they bled them even more".

So, I agree with the TUC, and I think it is possible to have a 'future that works'. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge Report. It is also nearly 70 years ago this country emerged for the devastation and horrors of war and fascism. We emerged with a national deficit at least six times greater than what we have today. Yet we emerged with politicians determined to rid of country of poverty, disease and want, determined to ensure greater equality for all.

And it was out of that vision and determination that we laid the building blocks for the NHS, we laid the building blocks for the mass expansion of education and we literally laid the building blocks for hundreds of thousands of council houses.

All the best of modern Britain, all that was so wonderfully celebrated in Danny Boyle's opening ceremony of the Olympics, was built at that time, inspired by the vision encapsulated in the Beveridge Report, and carried out by Clement Attlee's Labour Government in circumstances far less propitious than today. If we could do that then, when the country was broken by war, we can do it today.

We need investment to revive the economy and grow our way out of recession, not cuts. And to do so we need to stop the Tories. Because the agenda of this Tory party is nothing else than ripping apart the social democratic consensus set in place after the Second World War. If they are successful we will have a more divided Britain and a more unequal Britain.

Instead of the 'Big Society' the Tories are giving us the Broken Society. So this Saturday, we need to rediscover the spirit of the great anti-war protests, and the movement against the poll tax, both of which were responsible for bringing down the prime ministers of the day. We need to get on the streets, because we can't just wait two years for a Labour Government to come and rescue us. I hope that as many people as possible get out on the streets this Saturday to support the TUC and show that we do have a voice and an alternative.