There follow the minutes of our May meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held not on the usual first Wednesday of the month, but on Monday 12 June at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 3 May 2017
- Agreement of the agenda
- Apologies for absence
- Approval of the minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Kick Out the Tories, Saturday 6 May
- General election hustings
- Voter registration
- Action against the local withdrawal of NHS IVF treatment
- Action against the local NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan
- Strawberry Fair, Saturday 3 June
- Other business
- Next meeting
The venue was the River Lane Centre, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan, Faraz, Hilary, Jenny, Martin, Neil (secretary), and Richard M. (meeting and campaign chair).
The meeting accepted the agenda Neil had circulated.
Nicki (treasurer) had sent her apologies.
The meeting approved the minutes.
Neil advised the meeting that he had sent a report on the Cambridge People's Assembly's (CPA's) recent activities to the Cambridge and District Trades Council as requested (see item 4 in the minutes for April). He apologized that he had not yet made contact with the campaign to save Milton Road Library (see item 7 in the minutes for April).
Neil reported 244 subscribers to the CPA's mailing list (last month 255), while 948 Twitter users followed it (953) and 607 Facebook users liked it (604).
On behalf of Nicki, Neil reported overall funds of £492.50. Income last month was a donation of £150 and a collection of £12. Expenditure was £22.50 on venue hire (for January, February, and March), £5 on the group's regular donation to the national office, and £4 on a bank fee for a returned cheque. Nicki or Neil would inform the intending donor.
The CPA had been invited to join other local activist groups – concerned with education, health, and antiracism for example – to set up stalls on Fitzroy Street on 6 May, all urging the public to use their votes to throw out Theresa May's Conservative government in the general election on 8 June.
Faraz suggested that the CPA, as a non-party-political campaign, should attack the government rather than the Conservative Party. Richard noted that the CPA was non-party-political in order to allow the members of rival parties and none to campaign together against the Conservatives' austerity policies. Neil added that the CPA's campaign had at least to be political, and that meant drawing clear lines between friends and enemies. He thought it would be artificial to distinguish the Conservative Party from a government formed by that party to carry out that party's austerity policies. Richard read aloud the People's Assembly's explanation of its 'Tories Out' slogan:
We're not campaigning for any one political party – we are a cross-party campaign. But we want to make sure the main architects of austerity are out of office. Our campaign won't stop at the election, whatever the result. But a Tory-free government is the first step towards ending austerity.
The meeting agreed the CPA should have a stall. Neil would try to produce a leaflet based on the CPA article against the local NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan, 'Fit For the Few', to go alongside the new national leaflet In Place of Austerity, national 'Tories Out' stickers, and a local mailing list sign-up sheet. He would be able to set up and keep the stall, and others would help as they were available. This time it was more important for the campaign to be visibly present than to give out a lot of material.
Richard had raised with the Trades Council the idea of a joint hustings, though its members had preferred housing as a theme to austerity in general. The meeting discussed the merits of the form for the CPA's campaign against austerity.
Neil was against the CPA organizing a hustings. He thought it should not present a vote for any of the rightwing candidates as an option even to be considered. But to host a hustings with only the Labour and Green candidates, say, would be to host a competition between two of the parties whose members were meant to put aside their differences to co-operate in the CPA.
Others disagreed. Richard argued that if, say, the Liberal Democrat candidate attended, the audience could keep raising the austerity policies for which he voted while his party was in coalition government. Even if rightwing candidates declined, the CPA could make something of it. A hustings was a good opportunity to put the arguments against austerity, and to get politicians on record making commitments against it. Dan stressed that hustings were an opportunity to set the tone for an election campaign.
However the meeting agreed the CPA did not have the time or resources to organize its own hustings. Instead it would encourage supporters to attend others' events.
Faraz said that 2.4m people between 18 and 24 were not registered to vote. Young people had suffered badly under austerity and Faraz believed they would be likely to vote for anti-austerity parties, if they were persuaded to register. Dan noted that other groups were talking about this; Neil said that voter registration would be the focus for Cambridge Area Momentum with its 6 May stall. It was agreed that those most concerned with this issue should help on the Momentum stall.
The CPA had been invited to support the Cambridge Green Party's campaign against the local withdrawal of NHS IVF fertility treatment. Dan remarked that there had been an interesting debate on the group's discussion list. Neil agreed, explaining that it had been on the issue of party neutrality. Dan remembered it differently: he thought it had been on the issue's priority for the anti-austerity movement.
Neil advised that with the announcement of a general election, the local Clinical Commissioning Group's consultation had been suspended, and with it the Greens' campaign. No action was presently necessary.
Dan noted the possibility of a future campaign on a broader theme of the austerity cuts affecting family life.
At the last meeting, the CPA had agreed to look into organizing a Cambridge appearance by a health writer and broadcaster touring a comedy set on the continuing crisis in the NHS. Dan would enquire about the hire price for a room at The Junction.
The meeting agreed the CPA should pay £10 for a stall in the campaign area at Strawberry Fair. Neil, Richard, and maybe Jenny would be able to keep it, with the same materials mentioned under item 6 above.
Jenny reported that a rally organized on May Day by the Cambridge and District Trades Council had drawn twenty to thirty people for music, theatre, and a chat on Christ's Pieces. Trade unionists and the city councillor and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral candidate Kevin Price had spoken.
Hilary reported that around sixty people had demonstrated outside the Cambridge Union the previous day (2 May) against a speech by the former television personality and famous bigot Katie Hopkins. She was unhappy with what she thought was a report favourable to Hopkins in that day's Cambridge News, which she read aloud, but others thought Hopkins discredited herself in the remarks the article quoted.
Martin announced that the Cambridgeshire National Union of Teachers would hold a public meeting on the crisis in education funding at 7.30 p.m. on 9 May, at the NCI Sports and Social Club.
The next meeting would not be held on the usual first Wednesday of the month, but deferred until after the general election on 8 June. Neil would enquire about the availability of the River Lane Centre in the following week. (Note: it was later decided the meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 12 June, at the same venue of the River Lane Centre.)