Welcome to False Economy
But such pages can't tell the whole story of how False Economy came about, why we are doing it and what we intend for the future.
Shortly after the general election, a few people had the same good idea. Stuart White of Oxford Save Our Services wrote a well-received post, "Let a thousand stories bloom…", for the blog Next Left. People at the TUC were working along almost identical lines, while others had also come up with similar approaches.
Our common concern was that people did not understand the effect of such deep rapid cuts on public services and the wider economy. Instead there was a rather abstract debate about the deficit dominated by big scary numbers.
When many of us met at the Liberal Conspiracy Blog Nation conference we thought it would be sensible for us all to work together – and were delighted when Clifford Singer – of MyDavidCameron and Other TaxPayers' Alliance fame said that he would be happy to build it.
We quickly identified a range of tasks for a new website:
- gathering information about the cuts – both nationally and locally;
- giving people the opportunity to provide testimony on the effects of cuts on them or their community;
- providing the arguments and evidence that show that the coalition are wrong when they say there is no alternative;
- giving campaign groups the opportunity to post details of their events and to link up and share tips on effective campaigning;
- allowing people to sign up to support the site, participate in online action and find out about campaign events.
And that is what you see today. It's a "beta" launch, which means we're still testing a few things – and we would really welcome your feedback. Most of all, we need you to get involved: use the forms around the site to upload information about cuts and campaigns in your area, and tell your friends about the site. The official launch takes place early next year.
Such an ambitious website needs funding – as did the launch video, of which we are rather proud. We have no secret millionaire benefactors, but we are grateful to the TUC (where I work) and Unison for putting up £10,000 each to fund the initial stages of the site, and to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Fire Brigades Union for their financial pledges for future support. We are also grateful to Sam West for donating his time, and to Captain Ska for his fundraising efforts. We will be looking for more sources of funds in the future.
We established a "working group", bringing together a vibrant mix of online campaigners, people involved in local groups and trade unionists – our motto: "we're all in this together". Many have already donated time and voluntary effort to the project. And although we have contracted Clifford to build the site, his contribution has gone well beyond that.
One thing we are not is a new national organisation to lead the cuts movement. The campaign will take many forms: local groups, initiatives that link up those concerned about a particular issue, national groups with comprehensive political outlooks, tightly organised national events, and much more spontaneous protests with their roots in social media. Not all will agree with each other. There will be many spirited debates about the best way forward and local dilemmas around how people should best cope with the impact of government cuts.
While we welcome and respect this diversity, we believe that we will be more effective when we work together, share information and pool resources. Our ambition is to help build a grassroots movement that brings together those who work in public services, though their unions; those who depend on good services or government spending in the wider economy; and those who will suffer from benefit cuts. And to be successful we need to do more than mobilise those already convinced of the case for an alternative, but reach out to those who simply start from a concern that cuts are unfair.
So if we are not a campaign, then what are we?
I'm not sure we've yet got a pat answer. Perhaps we're a campaign hub – or a resource centre for the movement. But what is clear is, as we say on our about us page:
False Economy is for everyone concerned about the impact of the government’s spending cuts on their community, their family or their job … and wants to do something about it.
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