There follow the minutes of our November meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 6 December at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 1 November 2017
- Agreement of the agenda
- Apologies for absence
- Approval of the minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Reports on recent events joined (Save Our Children's Centres, Disorientation)
- Rightwing pressure on universities
- Scrap the Pay Cap demonstration in Cambridge, 18 November
- Central government budget, 22 November
- County Council budget, February 2018?
- Other business
- Next meeting
The venue was the River Lane Centre at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan (meeting chair), Hilary, Jenny, Neil (secretary), Nicki (treasurer), and Martin B.
The meeting accepted the draft agenda.
Richard M. (campaign chair) had sent his apologies.
The meeting approved the minutes and there were no matters arising.
Neil reported 252 subscribers to the mailing list (last month 252), 972 Twitter followers (968), and 633 Facebook likes (629).
Nicki reported overall funds of £1,119.04. Income was £20 ticket revenue and a £12 collection at the September meeting; expenditure was £5 on the Cambridge People's Assembly's (CPA's) regular donation to the national People's Assembly.
Neil reported that he and Lucy had raised the CPA banner at the Save Our Children's Centres demonstration at Shire Hall on the afternoon of 10 October, called by Cambridge Labour Party. About 30 people had attended to demonstrate as the county council's Children and Young People Committee voted for £1m austerity cuts to children's centres across Cambridgeshire. The CPA sadly hadn't been able to be present at a second afternoon demonstration one week later, when the cuts were approved by the full council.
Nicki found the decision extreme and appalling. The meeting was keen that the CPA should join any continuing action. Neil would contact a friend of the campaign who worked in early years education to find out if anything was being planned. Nicki imagined a toddlers' occupation of Shire Hall!
Neil reported that he had also attended Cambridge Defend Education's popular Disorientation event on the evening of 10 October, meant to introduce new students to political activism in Cambridge, inside and outside the old university. After four introductory talks, those who stayed were split into two discussion groups. Neil for the CPA was assigned to the discussion on intersectionality, which was interesting even though it didn't present a natural opportunity to discuss the campaign.
Neil noted a recent series of rightwing moves against universities and their students. The government minister Jo Johnson had proposed to fine universities that 'failed to protect freedom of speech', that is, where students were able to protest or prevent unwanted and hateful speakers. (Nicki noted that protesting students were exercising their own freedom of speech.) The government whip Chris Heaton-Harris had sent a sinister letter to university vice-chancellors asking to have the names of all those lecturers whose teaching dealt with Brexit. And the Daily Telegraph had printed a 'deliberately misleading and racially inflammatory' article (the words of a statement on the issue by over a hundred lecturers) which attacked the current Decolonize the English Faculty campaign and singled out a black female student, Lola Olufemi, for blame.
Neil thought the CPA should make a short statement in support of academic freedom and student power. Dan suggested it should be coordinated with student organizations; Jenny urged that it should make a link to austerity. Neil didn't think there was a strong link here, but thought the CPA should support students as allies in the fight against austerity even on slightly different political terrain.
The meeting agreed that the CPA should have as strong as possible a presence at the march called by Cambridge Unite Community and Cambridge Labour Party. Nicki urged that the CPA should have material to distribute, explaining the campaign and giving the details of the next meeting.
Neil read the national People's Assembly's proposal for combined demonstrations and food drives on the day before the budget. The meeting agreed that the CPA's contribution to the action would be to spend £100 of campaign funds on donations to Cambridge City Foodbank, which the regular organizers would meet at a supermarket to buy, and to issue a press release with photos from the supermarket and a text making the connection between the soaring use of foodbanks and the government's austerity policies (adapted for the article 'Activists Donate to Food Bank in Protest at Universal Credit and Pay Caps', 22 November).
The meeting omitted this item as time was short.
Hilary noted that Health Campaigns Together would hold its annual conference on Saturday 11 November at Hammersmith Town Hall in London. She and Martin would attend.
The next meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 1 November, at the same venue of the River Lane Centre.