This article was first published in the Sunday Sun last weekend:
The North is leading the national fightback against the Government’s cuts, according to activists who attended the largest gathering of the People’s Assembly in the North. Teachers, trade union leaders, health workers and disability campaigners gathered in Newcastle yesterday to discuss the impact of chancellor George Osborne’s austerity measures.
The day-long event at the Northern Stage theatre brought together more than 500 campaigners including newspaper journalist and author Owen Jones, who helped found the People’s Assembly movement last year. He said people in the North East are among the
country’s most passionate in resisting “unfair” cuts and the assembly’s growth in the region a sign of an emergent and powerful left-wing movement. He said: “Newcastle and the North East has such a proud tradition of organising themselves to fight for a better future, solidarity and community. “It’s inspiring to be here and to meet so many people who are pro-active about forming a genuine national movement.”
The People’s Assembly represents more than 100 separate groups from teaching and trade unions to anti-NHS privatisation organisations to academics and poets.
There are 70 regional organisations across the country and in June 4000 members attended a national meeting in London supported by Labour cabinet member Tony
Benn and former leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas. A national day of action
is also planned for November 5.
TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat, Michael Lloyd of the Global Policy Institute and Tony Dowling, chair of the North East People’s Assembly also addressed the meeting and in the evening Tyneside poet Joan Hewitt organised an arts show with performances from Radio 4 comedian Kate Fox and Newcastle actor Joe Caffrey.
Joan, 67, from Tynemouth, said: “This gives us hope that we can together make the lives of the people in the North East better in the face of these cuts. “People coming to the workshops held during the day used to use the City Pool or their local library which may have closed or they’re struggling to pay the bedroom tax.”