LET’S BE CLEAR WHY POVERTY has been chosen as one of Momentum Thanet’s major campaign themes for the year. Not all the South East is prosperous. There are only 34 more deprived areas than Thanet in the country. Thanet contains the fourth most deprived ward in the country. For example, in the ward of Newington a shameful 43% of children live in poverty. And the situation is not getting better - not in Thanet and not nationally.
According to George Osborne and his Tory friends who back the austerity agenda, the country is getting richer. But the gap between rich and poor keeps widening, bringing with it levels of social dysfunction, mental illness and a rise of the far right, fascists and racists. Let’s not forget that Thanet has the only UKIP council in Britain.
As part of the ‘Poverty is a Crime’ campaign, Momentum Thanet is not forgetting the need to agitate. We are supporting national and local protests and actions, such as the campaign against welfare sanctions and protests against austerity measures. John McDonnell spoke at the first AGM of Momentum Thanet in January 2016. Asked what areas like Thanet could do about the continuing downward spiral of low wages, high unemployment and lack of investment, he responded to a packed audience by suggesting that we should formulate an economic plan.
We thought this was a great idea. As part of Poverty is a Crime, and with the assistance of a number of well known journalists and economists, Momentum Thanet is proposing to formulate an economic plan to be presented to the Shadow Chancellor and his Treasury team.
We take as our guide the Lucas Plan. In the 1970s workers at the Lucas Aerospace company met with Tony Benn in an attempt to save their jobs, their communities and their futures. Benn suggested to the workers that they formulate an alternative corporate plan to convert military production into socially useful and environmentally desirable purposes.
We realise Momentum Thanet cannot possibly cover all the issues that are holding back economic development – the lack of services, the failings of the grammar school system and over-expensive transport.
We can focus on a number of areas and bring to together local expertise and opinion on what needs to be done. To get this going we need to inform and empower. Thanet Momentum is organising film nights, debates and speakers on subjects from education to housing, from the problems of micro-businesses to ideas on sustainable, environmentally friendly economic development.
Yes, Poverty is a Crime. It is a crime for poverty to be increasing in such a rich country as the UK – but not only that, the Tories are hell-bent on making sure anyone who finds themselves in poverty is punished for the crime of being poor. In Momentum Thanet we are going to make sure people know that there is an alternative.
is on the Editorial Board of Labour Briefing and was until recently Vice chair of Momentum