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"No ifs, no buts, don't vote for Tory cuts!" say Lambeth protesters
A little bit of Wisconsin came to Brixton last night as over 100 protesters invaded Lambeth Council's budget meeting after a lobby of about 300 local people.
Socialist Party members
The visitors gallery was full and looked down on a meeting, not of the Labour-majority councillors debating where to let the axe fall, but anti-cuts campaigners holding an impromptu meeting on how to defeat the cuts.
We heard local trade unionists from Unison and the NUT telling us about their dealings with the council and people speaking from the local community that is facing the decimation of services that they rely on.
Andy Tullis, Unison convenor for children's services in the borough and Socialist Party member, led up three young people who gave emotional speeches about the loss of their adventure playground.
Rob Williams, the National Shop Stewards Network's anti-cuts convenor, told the meeting that Labour councillors have a choice - stand with the communities who voted for them and with their council workforce, or join with the Con-Dems and the bankers.
Rob said that in Lambeth they should follow the example of Ted Knight (who was in the occupation) who led the council into defying Thatcher in the 1980s along with Liverpool. The councillors couldn't be surcharged now.
Craig Johnston, an executive member from the RMT, told the meeting that he had been a Labour councillor in the 1980s and had voted against the poll tax.
Our meeting finished after two hours and we marched out together... just as the councillors were leaving! Shamefully, the councillors who had been blocked from the chamber had shuffled off to a side room to vote through £79 million worth of cuts that, if implemented, will devastate services in Lambeth.
Earlier in the week Labour had disgracefully suspended Kingsley Abrams from the council Labour group, as he had declared his intention to vote against the cuts!
However, implementing the cuts is a different story - we'll fight them library by library if we have to. This lobby showed the importance of building the NSSN's march and lobby of Labour's local government conference on Saturday 5 March to put all Labour councils under pressure.
Everyone was filled with defiance and a confidence that the cuts can be defeated both in Lambeth and nationally, particularly with the TUC demo on 26 March looming into view.
Many speakers talked about the events in the Middle East and the USA and Greece, which shows how ordinary people are being inspired by international movements.
As Rob said: "Tomorrow people in the rest of Britain and even internationally will wake up to the news that workers in Lambeth are fighting back as well!"