Below is the full transcript of Green Councillor for Cotham Cleo Lake’s barnstorming speech at Saturday’s anti-austerity March.
The speech is also available to watch online on BGP’s Facebook.
We gather here today in our city of Bristol a city always at the forefront of trade and industry and
currently dubbed the best city in the uk to live in. Figures suggest that the various taxes and
contributions that Bristol makes into the national purse does not equal anything like the amount of money that we receive in return. We have had soundings of retaining our business rates but that has been muted of late. It is hard to see this attack of austerity as anything other than an attack on the poorest in our society going hand in hand as it does with welfare reform. As our party co leader Caroline Lucas said back in 2014, “It wasn’t the poor who caused the economic crisis. It wasn’t people on Jobseeker’s Allowance who brought down the banks. It wasn’t people with disabilities who wasted billions speculating on risky financial markets. So that’s why we’re here to say: stop punishing the poor.”
The 2008 financial crisis led the UK government to bail out British banks at an estimated cost of
£141bn. However this is not unprecedented this state intervention was undertaken to prevent a
collapse of the British banking system in many ways similar to the only other major government
bailout in British history which occurred in the 1830s when the British tax payer without choice paid millions in compensation to the slave owners following abolition and as we all know the enslaved who were freed got nothing.
It disturbs me that we are the one of the richest countries in the world yet we are facing a situation that because of reckless mismanagement, greed and quite simply callous disregard, essential services are being reduced to nothing and other givens such as parks and libraries will likely close unless volunteers fill the void. It’s almost surreal. Austerity isn’t a necessity it’s a choice. Where is the tax Justice? Where is the right to life for us as citizens?
It’s a bleak picture which can only go in one of a few directions.
The Green Party is for the common good and believe me we are pushing ahead to make people
know that we stand for them and that they need to stand with us. We will be out with new plans
and efforts under the banner of Grass Roots Greens spearheaded by myself because the truth is
whilst we must demand what we are owed, we can no longer rely on any of these so called leaders propping up as they do the final dirty dregs of neo colonialism and self centered extortion.
The government will be continuing to cut money to Bristol and other core cities forcing them to be more commercial and enterprising which could easily mean that all public buildings will be sold that’s your library your park your community Centre, frontline services will collapse, back room departments will collapse, people will leave work on long term sick and so on.
We are being told to do more with less with an unprecedented expectation on volunteers. Well that’s all very well coming from those earning 30, 40, 50, 100, 200 grand a year who perhaps
can afford to give some hours or who simply aren’t having to carry the stress of providing housing and food with no despots able income or on a zero hours contracts, but me personally I’m tired of the idea doing more for nothing. We are active citizens that’s why we are here today’s it’s one thing being a doer but another paying to be a doer and that’s what’s on the table if Westminster keeps cutting and if council tax continues to rise without delivering anything for the money.
Pay more get less seems to be the formula.
I’m not down for their big society I’m all in for creating an alternative one. Where human beings are no longer commodities, where we don’t have gated communities gentrifying areas, where we support ourselves and cut out the middle men as Grenfell has shown when push comes to shove poor people are pretty much on their on own anyway. A society that values workers with respect, one that pays public service workers adequately in recognition of the reality that society would not function without them, one that does not pay life changing bonuses to bankers, one that doesn’t endorse tax avoidance by corporations and the super rich, one that doesn’t sell arms and fuels conflict and creates refugees. We must plot our moves to another way. We must take climate change seriously and we must invest in the Green economy and green jobs – we cannot support growth for growth sake without an eye on the future impacts of various industries. Yes we need jobs and opportunities but we must also ask why we need certain jobs what purpose do they serve and this will become more necessary when we move to automation and many roles will become redundant and a universal basic income will have to be a reality.
This anti austerity agenda must unite all of us
Everyone should be asking the questions of where our money is going and we need more say in where it is spent instead of having no choice on their dictated priorities such as million pound upgrades to Buckingham Palace renewing Trident or DUP pay offs for example. Bristol gives way more than it gets and it’s time to demand our receipt. It is also very hard to watch local authorities be the puppets in executing these cuts, bowing down and driving through this deadly agenda. This is a good day today but it’s months too late as Greens we have lobbied for more action and until today we have to say to Labour who voted through these cuts on the fear of Westminster:
That in terms to standing up and defending us the people ‘We ain’t seen nothing yet’. In fact from Brixton to Bristol within your Labour led cities and boroughs all we see is raging inequalities and sell offs. Birmingham another Labour led core city has recently voted through a raft of redundancies to front line workers causing outrage and a strike on the ground by the refuse collectors.
Good luck with the green paper – sadly I have seen how playing by their rules has got us precisely nowhere. It is them and US. But I am now becoming clearer on the US and the THEM. In these desperate last days of neo colonialism they have succeeded in driving a huge wedge amongst the people. Reports of the rise of racism and arson in areas like Hartcliffe and Southmead – I ask that we reflect and remember our collective histories particularly as marginalized and oppressed people of all shades of skin colour. Whilst the press gang will no longer be out tonight to hit you over the head in the pub and drag you onto slave ships to administer the dirty work and whilst the whip and shackle are no longer in the physical, most of us remain subdued and dupped still being co opted on the grand plantation of capitalism and debt . So much chat about Colston and as a founder member of the campaign group ‘Countering Colston’ let me tell you this that until the young white citizens in areas like Hartcliffe and Southmead call for the statue to fall, then removing it means less to me because until a huge section of people wake up and smell the myths we cannot actually move on.
We are living in an emperors new clothes situation where the sell is that everything is important apart from each other and the planet. The planet being the ultimate elephant in the room because without her we are no more. Climate change is real and it isn’t any of us to blame, sure we can adjust our lifestyles here and there but no, capitalism is to blame, the war on want is to blame, the pillaging of land for capital gains is to blame, the over riding dismissal and continual genocide of First Nation people is to blame, the love of money above all else is to blame. We need a values overhaul and we need it fast.
Now is the time to choose our own clothes and wear them.
End austerity or else.
Stop the cuts or else.
Social justice now or else.
And I predict that the all else will have to be boycotts strikes and a return of the occupy movement.
I am a proud Bristolian honored by standing here today to say these words which you can take or leave. History is made by the brave and by the bold and the history that we want to write is in our hands.