25 January 2021 | UK NEWS
The left-wing Labour group ‘Arise’ held a virtual conference on Saturday that contained many notable speakers, headlined ‘Fighting Back in 2021’.
The array of speakers included former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, for Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, Ian Lavery MP and Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP. They spoke on array of issues such as union growth, alternative coronavirus strategies and “institutional racism”.
Ms Long-Bailey set out her plan for defence against the virus in four different areas. She argued firstly that: “The rights of workers must be strengthened. And that means introducing sectoral collective bargaining, restoring and expanding trade union rights, boosting the minimum wage, reducing working hours and establishing a Universal Basic Income.”
She followed this by saying that the Government should introduce full financial support and sick pay for those affected by the virus. She also spoke of the need to ban evictions for renters.
She went on to say that the country needed a “debt jubilee”, which would including writing off bad debt on businesses and families that could not pay it back.
Lastly, Ms Long-Bailey expressed her support for a Green New Deal, which was a recurring theme throughout the conference.
Mr Lavery railed against the “hire and fire” policies from companies such as British Airways and British Gas. He said: “We’ve got to fight back, we’ve got to resist. The moment needs an injection of industrial militancy like we have seen in the past and has been successful. We’ve got to fight back and resist. United we stand, divided we fall.”
He continued: “There will never be a time when the struggle’s concluded, comrades, and we’ve got to get used to it. And we’ve got to fight back, we’ve got to resist and we’ve got to inject militancy into the workforce and into the communities.”
Ms Ribeiro-Addy spoke about coronavirus and racism. She said: “It is no surprise that the BLM movement resurged during this time, during the backdrop of the pandemic, because we know when there are situations like this, the most disadvantaged are more likely to suffer and we are seeing a disproportionate number of deaths in the BAME community in this country. We have to remember that the coronavirus did not invent these health inequalities – institutional racism did.”
She went on to say: “At the beginning, it was a breath of fresh air to see people actually praise migrants, migrant key workers. But that was short-lived, because as soon as it started to go wrong, we saw the right-wing media and the Government switch their attention to refuges crossing the channel.”
Mr McDonnell spoke toward the end of the conference, attacking the present Labour Shadow Cabinet for calling for a “Government of National Unity”, instead calling himself for a “People’s Plan” to protect the populace against the effects of Covid. This included a section in which he said “if workers don’t feel safe at work, they shouldn’t have to work”, and that “unions should have the right to veto people going back to work that way”.
Mr McDonnell also expressed his support for the “abolition of landlordism”, saying: “When Keir Hardie first stood for the Labour Party, he stood for socialism and the abolition of landlordism. I think it’s something we need to bring forward today.”