UK Politics

Labour activists reject 'obscene' coalition cuts

Union leaders Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson
Image caption Union leaders said the coalition's honeymoon was over

Labour activists have voted to reject what they called the "obscene" cuts planned by the coalition government.

Conference delegates in Manchester backed a motion calling for continuing investment in public services "to protect the most vulnerable".

They also demanded a review of the effects of privatisation on public services and more "progressive" taxes.

Union leaders speaking in the debate called for the widest possible alliance to fight the coalition programme.

Delegates unanimously backed a series of motions which effectively outlined the direction the unions believe Labour should be heading under new leader Ed Miliband, who owes his narrow victory to the support of their members.

In his speech, Unison leader Dave Prentis said: "We must work it out to win back this country - the trade unions and Labour standing together, one movement standing up for a fairer Britain, a fairer Britain that our people are crying out for.

"And to David Cameron and Nick Clegg - your honeymoon is over because Labour is back!"

Some of the biggest names in the trade union movement took their turn on the platform to attack the "ConDem government" - or the "Tory government" as some called it - and to call for an end to cuts and a focus on tax increases to tackle the deficit instead.

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of the Unite union, who like most of the big union leaders backed Ed Miliband for the leadership, said "more jobs and more taxes" was a "no brainer" and warned that vital NHS services faced cuts.

His co-leader, Derek Simpson, told delegates: "The Conservatives haven't got a mandate for their proposed cuts, and the Liberal Democrats actually campaigned against the Tory cuts."

But he said Labour would need an economic plan rather than just opposition to the cuts.

"We need an economic strategy, and an alternative, to put in front of the British public. It's no good arguing the other guys are no good. We need to argue that we are better, and we have an alternative."

He added that he was "with Ed Miliband," that Labour could not guarantee there would be no job losses but "along with the restraint on public spending there will be a strategy for growth".

Lib Dem attacks

Particular scorn was reserved during the debate for the Liberal Democrats, who were denounced as traitors and closet Conservatives.

Attacking the appointment of Sir Philip Green as a government adviser on cutting waste, GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said when he heard the retail magnate had got the job he thought a "range of Top Shops were opening in Whitehall - which would be very handy given how often the Lib Dems change their clothes these days".

Delegates also voted unanimously to back Mr Kenny's motion calling for a crackdown on tax avoidance.

Labour MP Jack Dromey, husband of deputy leader Harriet Harman and former deputy leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, called for a "Cadbury's law" to protect British industry from hostile foreign takeovers, saying it was an "outrage" that the "boys in red braces in Mayfair hedge funds" could decide the fate of UK companies.

Delegates unanimously backed a motion calling from Labour to campaign for the reinstatement of the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, which was axed in the early days of the coalition.

They called on the government to use the £1bn Regional Growth to support the steelworks.

It also wants to the new leader to defend UK manufacturing and scrutinise and expose the coalition's cuts programme and its impact on ordinary people

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