Across Europe, people are saying no to the policies of ‘austerity’. In France, the victory of Francois Hollande and in Greece the surge of support for Left parties opposed to the economic policies that have brought us high unemployment and massively declining living standards, may be just the beginning. At long last the policies of the mad-house are being challenged, because for nearly thirty years most governments in Europe have pushed for privatisation, de-regulation and letting the financial sector do as it pleased. As a result, we have a growing inequality, and in Britain in particular, the fastest growing rate of inequality almost anywhere in the Western World.
Britain is not immune to the wave of popular revolt in the rest of Europe. Yesterday we saw thousands of public sector workers take to the streets in protest against pension and police cuts. And last week voters in the local government elections showed that they to refuse to believe that there is no alternative to austerity.
I was pleased to see Labour doing well across the country and congratulate Ed Miliband on a night that saw the party win over eight hundred council seats. I was also pleased to see that Labour did well across the capital. But it was disappointing to see that the turn-out in many parts of London was so low. Clearly many voters are still looking at the main parties and thinking that they do all too often look and sound the same. No one can ever say that about Ken Livingstone. The fact that he lost – and so narrowly – is I believe a real blow to London and to Londoners. The media campaign against Ken must have played its part in his defeat, and Boris Johnson did nothing to reign in some of his attack dogs. Of course it did not help either that some in the Labour Party, including here in Tower Hamlets seemed happier attacking Ken Livingstone than supporting him. It is a tragedy that Ken Livingstone won’t be representing us as Mayor of London. That said, I hope that Ed Miliband now finds a role for him that makes use of what he still has to offer.