We set up in Ipswich last summer, after Richard Allday and Sam Fairbairn spoke to a group of people who had previously been working as "Suffolk Coalition against the Cuts", formed by Ipswich Trades Council.
We maintain a close relationship with the Trades Council. We agreed to send a coach to the Assembly in London - this wasn't hugely sucessful, as the coach was half empty, late getting there and some people found the Conference a bit disorganised. There was still the legacy of sectarian divisions on the left which has left a certain amount of cynicism towards new initiatives. Many people wanted to see what the PA could do. However, we ploughed on with a local meeting at the Coop Education centre, which had the leader of the local Council, David Ellesmere speaking. He introduced the Labour Council's Living Wage policy, which is in sharp contrast to the Tory-run Suffolk County Council's policy. We also had Diana Holland, assistant treasurer of the Labour Party and a UNITE exec member speaking, Owen Jones & the secretary of the Trades Council, Teresa MacKay and Graham White, Secretary of Suffolk NUT. The meeting was chaired by Margaret Bulaitis, secretary of Ipswich NUT. There was overwhelming support for our "Statement of Aims" (attached)
Most people agree that was one of the best political meetings in Ipswich for a long time Over 100 people turned up, we collected over £100 in donations and sold out of badges. We have over 100 on the e-mail list and the monthly forums attract around 20 or so supporters. We have a good base in local unions and Trades Council. After this meeting, we re-launched as Suffolk Peoples Assembly and have contacts as far north as Lowestoft and as far south as Colchester (the latter need their own group) Members of Norfolk PA have attended our planning meetings and we held a joint stall at the Burston Rally in September. Since then we have held monthly forums (November Forum report attached)
By the time of the Manchester Demo, we were able to fill a whole coach, for what was not an insignificant journey, starting at 5.30 am for some people. It should be noted that UNITE was the biggest mobiliser
for this event and the PA's role was less significant. The activities we organised for the Bonfire of Austerity was supported by something like 100 people. It was covered on the local Radio (Heart and BBC
Radio Suffolk) and covered in the "Morning Star" Supporters from a variety of political organisations and none attend meetings, including the Labour Party, CP-B, Greens, Socialist Party and the SWP. Relations between them are generally good. Although there are obviously differences of opinion and personality clashes at times, these are kept well subdued. We enjoy good relations with the local UNITE and its regional organiser and NUT and their local secretaries & the PCS, including its Secretary and a local Exec Member. NAPO members have also supported our activities and we have contacts in the FBU and CWU. So far, we have enjoyed good relations with Ipswich Labour Party, including Local Councillors, which circulates material advertising some of our activities on its mailing list. A recent meeting where Harriet Harman addressed the changes to the LP showed our arguments are getting across to local members, quite a few of whom are on our mailing list and have helped conduct a survey on the Living Wage. I wouldn't say we have quite such good relations with the anarcho-direct action wing of the movement. One point of difference being over Nuclear Power, as UNITE has 700 members at Sizewell! This is quite a thorny issue to resolve.