Speech: May Day Rally
The first and most important thing I want to do today is to thank all of you for being here.
Millions of working people across the world will have celebrated May Day this week, they will have joined rallies and they will have united to celebrate the role of ordinary hard working people in all sections of society.
However, working people across Europe, and beyond, are under attack.
In the same way that we have come here today to show unity and courage, governments across Europe have colluded against the best interests of ordinary people.
As local elections on Thursday undoubtedly showed people across this country reject the savage cuts to local services and reject the austerity that is so badly failing our country.
And hopefully tomorrow, in France, our brothers and sisters there will endorse our socialist friend Francois Hollande and send shock waves across Europe and the world.
Events like these must be about sending a common message to governments who think that ordinary people should pay for the mistakes of wealthy bankers and city financiers.
This Coalition government is forcing millions of struggling families to pay more, whilst it is allowing millionaires to pay less.
It is forcing our Labour councils that represent the poorest areas in the North to suffer the worst cuts, whilst Tory Councils in the South face little or no cuts.
And it is forcing its cuts agenda furthest on welfare, the disabled, the sick and the elderly, whilst it does nothing to promote growth in the economy and nothing to create employment.
We are told that there is no alternative to cuts and austerity. But there is. These are political choices and they are the wrong choices.
How dare politicians now attack our public services as if this is somehow a coherent response to a crisis that started in the banking sectors of the United States back in 2008?
Reforms by Andrew Lansley to the NHS, to allow fly-by-night private health firms unrestricted access to profiteer from public investment has nothing to do with our debts, with cuts or austerity.
Tory reforms, spinelessly supported by the Liberal Democrats, are ideological and they represent an attack on our National Health Service.
Today is about unity, society and about people. And these are the values that are best represented by our public services.
These are the people who teach our children, who collect our refuse, who build our roads, who treat us and our family when we are sick and care for us when we are elderly.
In essence, it is our public services that create and sustain the civilised society in which we live.
The right-wing media and the millionaire politicians of this Coalition government, would have us believe that public services are the enemy. They want to pit private sector against public sector in order to divide and rule.
The real challenge we face is shrinking the growing gap between the richest (who are getting richer) and the poorest (who are getting poorer).
And the only way to achieve this is through tax justice.
If you are on a wage, you don’t have a choice about paying your taxes – they are deducted automatically. Yet, if you are part of the ‘corporate elite’, the richest 1%, and you can afford clever accountants, you can pay less tax than your cleaner!
This country – and the North East in particular – needs an end to austerity.
David Cameron promised that the private sector would ‘pick up the slack’ and replace the jobs he was axing in the public sector. That has not happened.
We need a new agenda of investment, growth and jobs.
We need investment in our public services, our infrastructure and our manufacturing base.
We need growth in the private sector, balanced across all sectors and all regions, not weighted in the banks of the City of London and the South East.
And we need jobs, for all those able to enter training and employment. This government would rather see generations of people in the North East linger on benefits than invest to create work.
I’m delighted to have been invited to speak here today. We must challenge what this government is doing at every point and at every opportunity. Today is part of that agenda.