On the 22nd of May 2013 Alan Gibbons introduced the Leeds Left Unity launch meeting with great enthusiasm and personal passion that was truly inspirational. Leeds Left Unity formed as a result of the national call from Ken Loach for a new left party to oppose the national shift to the right and the betrayals of Labour, felt so deeply by the people least responsible for the financial crisis. Within two weeks over 8000 people nationally answered that call by signing the petition and as a result over 90 groups have been set up across the country in less than two months. It is obvious to anyone at this stage that Left Unity has the potential to answer questions unanswered by the main three parties and more importantly, has the opportunity to have ordinary people feel they have a voice again that is not rooted in racism, oppression, capitalism or subservience to big business.
Kath Owen gave a brief introduction to the meeting of around 100 people as chair that called on everyone involved to stay involved and highlighted the nature of Leeds Left Unity and Left Unity nationally by highlighting that it is a member led organisation seeking to encourage people to organise themselves and fight back against austerity. Then introduced Alan Gibbons, international children’s author but perhaps more importantly, long standing left wing campaigner with too many campaigns under his belt to list here. Alan is not on an organising ctte in Left Unity or a national initiative seeking to control the organisation. He is a member with a voice and it is important to recognise that while he is a truly fantastic speaker, he spoke as another member of Left Unity to the people in the room.
The discussion ranged from why we need a fightback against the coalition and Labour at this time and how Left Unity can achieve that. He spoke at length from his personal experiences in fighting for left wing politics and how to challenge non-sensical economic terms that the big business parties use to confuse and intimidate people out of action. As the discussion went on, people were laughing, shouting and so wonderfully encouraged on to action but it became very clear that this was a meeting interested in doing something new. The room was made up of around 100 people from all walks of political and personal situations. It was perhaps slightly more male participants then female, which is something Left Unity is very interested in addressing the patriarchal attitudes so present in British politics but the ratio was far better than any meeting I have personally attended on the left in some time.
The discussion had to be ended with people still indicating to speak after around 90 minutes of contributions from campaigns, personal speakers and traditional revolutionary left organisations and even a speaker still in the Labour party. The first people to speak were from campaigns already active in Leeds, with Hands off Our Homes speaker Liz detailing how it is possible to beat the government on another entirely ideological and ill-conceived plot to make poor people pay as they have already U-turned on a number of issues and it will cost more to evict people than can possibly be gained from these bullying sanctions on spare rooms. Keep Our NHS Public speaker gave a richly informative description of the work taking place in KONP in Leeds and wider and how they are always looking for more people to lobby the privatisers of a dearly loved and hard won NHS, such as Virgin and Serco.
Other contributions highlighted the need for Left Unity to be inclusive and considerate when using outdated or politically damaged terminology, to make sure that all people from all walks of left wing political opinion can feel welcomed, encouraged and strengthened by the unity that Left Unity can offer. There was already an agreed meeting on the 5th of June (details to follow) for the Left Unity organsing meeting where we will determine what to do next with this rapidly and encouragingly growing movement. So, whoever you are, if you are left, please come along and let us know what you think should be done and help in a genuinely united movement interested in helping people because it is the right thing to do. I won’t spoil the excellent introduction by Alan Gibbons at this point by detailing it as video of his introduction is to follow. So, please, watch this space and get involved.