progress is not the elimination of struggle, but rather a change in its terms’ - Aneurin Bevan

We Love Darlington!

"We Love Darlington", an early St Valentine's event, took place yesterday in Pease Place in the centre of Darlington.

It was a great success - informing shoppers of a variety of campaigns to defend and improve quality of life in our town.

There were stalls by four "Big Society" organisations - trades council, Unison, Darlington for Culture, and the local Friends of the Earth group - campaigning for a fairer and greener alternative to austerity.

The trades council gave out literature on the true nature of Britain's public finances and how billions of pounds in taxes which fund public services go uncollected because of tax avoidance schemes used by big businesses and wealthy individuals.

Unison was collecting signatures for its Million Voices for Public Services campaign, and no doubt recruiting people who work in public and voluntary services who need advice and support.

Darlington for Culture, which has been campaigning to secure the future of the arts centre, was updating the public on how its project is progressing.

And Darlington Friends of the Earth were demonstrating their love for a green economy by collecting signatures for a campaign to ensure the new Energy Bill cuts pollution and covers privately-rented housing. Copies of "One Million Climate Jobs" given out, too.

(On the presence of FoE at the event, one member of the local group who was miffed about this was Mike Barker, councillor and parliamentary candidate for the LibDems in last year's general election. I've explained numerous times to Mike why austerity won't work, but he's made his peace with the Tories, sadly.)

It has been week in which the government has caved in to the banks that caused the financial crisis of 2008-9. Project Merlin? More like Project Harry Potter.

The Tory-led coalition has come under attack from charity leaders who support the "Big Society" idea, and from Liberal Democrat councillors worried at the scale and pace of budget cuts. (Though sadly not LibDem councillors in Darlington!)

Justice minister Ken Clarke has broken ranks to say that all is not well: he says people on middle incomes have yet to grasp how government policy will reduce their living standards. On this, Clarke is correct. Opinion polling suggests that since the cuts agenda was formally announced, public opposition softened. Which is understandable - the threat exists, but is not yet apparent.

Cameron insists on digging away in his "big society" hole, and no wonder - it is vital for big business and the banks that the state is restructured to make the rest of us pay for their crisis with cuts to jobs, wages, and services.