People's Assembly Against Austerity

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The People's Assembly
The People's Assembly Against Austerity
TypePressure group
Key people
Steve Turner
Nick McCarthy
Alex Gordon
John Rees[1]
Laura Pidcock
Lindsey German
Ramona McCartney
Fran Heathcote
Paula Peters
Andy Bain

The People's Assembly Against Austerity (also known as The People's Assembly) is a political organisation based in the United Kingdom that was originally set up to end and reverse the country's government-instituted austerity programme.

The People's Assembly was launched in 2013 to bring together the various progressive left trade unions, campaigns, and activists in a movement against austerity. It aimed to "push the arguments against austerity" that it saw as missing from British politics at that time, and to fight for those people it saw as being hit by Government policies, including low-paid workers, disabled people, unemployed people, the young, black, minority and ethnic groups and women.[2]

Its current National Secretary is former Labour MP Laura Pidcock.[3][4]

Aims and objectives[edit]

The People's Assembly Against Austerity's original aim was "to convene a wide cross-sectional opposition to austerity politics spanning a field from trade unions to student movements".[5] Though the movement didn't put forward a large number of policy positions it advocated higher taxes on the rich.[6]

Social media has been a large part of the organisation's attempt to build a coalition between trade unions and other civil organisations.[5] Women's lived experience of austerity and its economic consequences are widely used by the organisation in constructing arguments,[7] as with disabled people.[8]


Formation (2013–2015)[edit]

The movement was originally formed out of a frustration with the Labour Party and its new leader Ed Miliband positioning on austerity and on welfare.[9] It was launched with an open letter published in The Guardian in February 2013, backed by public figures such as Robert Griffiths, Tony Benn, Len McCluskey and Jeremy Corbyn MP.[10]

A press conference was held on 26 March 2013 in London where speakers included Caroline Lucas MP, journalist Owen Jones,[11][12] comedian Mark Steel,[13] then Labour MP Katy Clark, comedian and disabled activist Francesca Martinez, Steve Turner of Unite and Zita Holbourne representing Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC).

Demonstration organised by the Assembly, 20 June 2015

On 22 June 2013, more than 4,000 people attended a conference at Westminster Central Hall in London.[14] This followed meetings and rallies across the country including Glasgow, Nottingham, Newcastle,[15] Manchester,[16] Sheffield, Bristol,[17] Pembrokeshire,[18] Brighton & Hove,[19] Southend, Derby, Leicester, North London and South East London.

Following localized group discussions held at the London conference in 2013, local activist groups have been forming and holding meetings across the UK,[20] with the aim of uniting and strengthening existing campaign groups in local areas with the People's Assembly movement. Delegations from the regional groups were expected to join a national mass protest outside the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on 29 September 2013 and an organised day of civil disobedience across the UK on 5 November 2013.[21]

In 2014 the People's Assembly established a new forum called the Women's Assembly Against Austerity, after people noted the large male representation of men at committees. The new forum attracted feminist activists from groups like Association of Indian Women, the National Assembly of Women, Abortion Rights, Women Unite, the black student campaign and the CND.[22]

The People's Assembly organised a demonstration which took place on 21 June 2014, marching from outside the BBC Trust's Portland Place offices to Parliament Square.[23] Organizers claimed up to 50,000 demonstrated in central London. Speakers included, among others, comedians Russell Brand, Kate Smurthwaite, Mark Steel and Francesca Martinez, Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition, Kate Hudson from CND, and, then mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman.[24] Class War, AFed and IWW activists denounced the march during it with placards and banners.[6]

As well as putting on national events, the majority of work is carried out by the local People's Assemblies, which were either founded after the founding People's Assembly, or incorporate pre-existing local anti-cuts groups. These have ranged from People's Question Times, on anti-austerity issues and usually with well known public figures; local demonstrations, regular leafleting, and support for all anti-austerity campaigns in local areas.

In 2015 the first edition of the People's Manifesto was published, articulating anti-austerity policies.

One of the key goals of the People's Assembly movement as published in the Draft Statement is "To make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will."[25]

On 20 June 2015, a People's Assembly organised an anti-austerity rally in London, which was attended by of thousands of people.[26] Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North spoke at the rally during his campaign to become Labour leader.[27]

During Corbyn's leadership in the Labour Party (2015–2019)[edit]

The success of Corbyn's campaign to become Leader of the Labour party and the rise of Momentum saw the anti-austerity politics of the People's Assembly absorbed into the Labour Party.[28] Momentum then received more funding, more political backing and more media interest than the People's Assembly.[28] The Financial Times argued that the rallies organised by the People's Assembly "sowed the seeds for the rise of Corbynism two years later."[29]

On 16 April 2016, the National People's Assembly led a further national demonstration labelled the "March for Health, Homes, Jobs, Education".[30] More specifically, such causes as a fully funded and publicly owned NHS, ending privatisation, scrapping tuition fees, and ending the marketisation of education. It has been reported that the march was attended by 50,000 to 150,000[31] protesters, who marched from London's Euston Road to Trafalgar Square.

During the 2017 United Kingdom general election, the People's Assembly operated as a non-partisan campaign group. They created podcasts, crowdfunded billboards targeting the Conservative party, supported the protest song Liar Liar GE2017 and used their presence online to publicise hashtag campaigns such as #ManifestoOfMisery on Twitter.[32][33]

At the 2018 Conservative Party Conference, then Prime Minister Theresa May declared that "austerity is over" and there would be an increase in public investment.[34][35] In response to this the People's Assembly launched a tour of the UK called "Britain is Broken" supported by the Daily Mirror and trade unions to cover the impact of austerity measures taken by the government.[36][37]

In June 2019 the PAAA was involved in nation-wide demonstrations against Donald Trump's visit to the United Kingdom, in association with other social movements.[38]

In September to October 2019 the Conservative government prorogued parliament and received heavy political, legal and grassroots opposition. It prompted protests across the UK with thousands present at each, including international protests composed of both British expats and solidarity protesters. Though the initial protests were organised by Another Europe Is Possible, The People's Assembly organised protests for the first day MPs went into parliament after the summer break.[39][40]

Recent activity (2020–present)[edit]

People's Assembly National Demonstration crosses Westminster Bridge with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell leading the march, 5 November 2022

Following a series of prominent political events in the UK – the defeat of the Labour Party at the 2019 general election, the election of Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party and the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown to contain the virus – the People's Assembly started to reorganise online mass video calls and meetups, with former Labour MP Laura Pidcock (who became the organisation's National Secretary)[4] and Ken Loach being regulars.[41][3]

Throughout 2020 there were examples of local People's Assembly groups in England such as Didcot,[42] Cambridge[43] and Calderdale[44] collaborating with other groups to oppose austerity and lack of future investment in communities and campaign on climate change and social justice. This included partnerships with local politicians and groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Stop the War Coalition, Disabled People Against Cuts and Momentum. People's Assembly in Wales during 2020 campaigned for free school meals for primary-age pupils,[45] then in 2022 launched a Health campaign named Our NHS - Born in Wales.[46]

The People's Assembly planned rallies and demonstrations across the country for Saturday 17 October 2020 in protest at the government's handling of coronavirus and what the PAAA believe will be another wave of austerity.[4]



The organisation has been backed by major trade unions and the Trade Union Congress,[3][5] such as Unite, UNISON, NEU, CWU, FBU, NUT, PCS and RMT.[47][5] It has also received support from numerous campaigning groups and individuals of political parties, these parties include: the Communist Party of Britain, the Green Party of England and Wales, the Labour Party and Left Unity.[10][47]

Some from the anarchist movement have been disappointed by the People's Assembly Against Austerity's focus on attempting to shift the policies of the Labour Party to the left.[48]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "National meeting report". The People's Assembly Against Austerity. Archived from the original on 30 December 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  2. ^ Jones, Rhian E. "Can the People's Assembly revive the Chartist spirit?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 September 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Barnett, Marcus (21 January 2020). "Pidcock urges people to join the People's Assembly and commit to 'rebuilding resistance to the Tories'". Morning Star. Archived from the original on 1 March 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Mortimer, Josiah (22 September 2020). "Left-wing activists plan national Day of Action against Tories' handling of the Covid crisis". Left Foot Forward. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Mercea & Yilmaz 2018, p. 22.
  6. ^ a b Maiguashca, Dean & Keith 2016, p. 16.
  7. ^ Craddock 2019, p. 137.
  8. ^ Mercea & Levy 2019, p. 23.
  9. ^ Meagher, Kevin. "Labour and the Tories' woes show our political system is breaking apart". New Statesman. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Letters: People's Assembly Against Austerity". The Guardian. 5 February 2013. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  11. ^ Jones, Owen (24 March 2013). "How the People's Assembly can challenge our suffocating political consensus and why it's vital that we do". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2017..
  12. ^ Jones, Owen (27 March 2013). "People's Assembly must be broad and united movement". Coalition of Resistance. Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013..
  13. ^ Steel, Mark (28 February 2013). "Right that's enough, now what are we going to do about it". Coalitioin of Resistance. Archived from the original on 7 May 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013..
  14. ^ BBC News, "People's Assembly hears union leaders promise anti-cuts action" Archived 2018-11-06 at the Wayback Machine, BBC website, 22 June 2013.
  15. ^ Wotherspoon, Jenny (23 May 2013). "People's Assembly: Writer Owen Jones Helps Build Nationwide Anti-Cuts Movement In The North East". Sky Tyne & Wear. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013..
  16. ^ “Hundreds launch Manchester People’s Assembly” Archived 14 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Morning Star, 26 May 2013.
  17. ^ Rath, Marc (30 May 2013). "Popular writer joins comedian at anti-cuts rally". This is Bristol. Archived from the original on 24 June 2013.
  18. ^ "Haverfordwest: Over 150 people at anti-Tory rally in Castle Square". 19 November 2019.
  19. ^ James, Luke (31 May 2013). "People's Assembly offers ray of hope". Morning Star. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013..
  20. ^ "Local group map". The People's Assembly Against Austerity. Archived from the original on 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
  21. ^ "The People's Assembly Against Austerity". Archived from the original on 8 June 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  22. ^ Maiguashca, Dean & Keith 2016, p. 13.
  23. ^ Jivanda, Tomas (22 June 2014). "Russell Brand calls for 'peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution' (again) during People's Assembly march". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 2017-11-01.
  24. ^ "21 June No More Austerity Demo - Speeches - The People's Assembly Against Austerity". The People's Assembly Against Austerity. Archived from the original on 2014-08-06. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  25. ^ "Draft Statement: The proposed declaration and action plan of the People's Assembly". The People's Assembly Against Austerity. 20 September 2013. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Thousands attend anti-austerity rallies across UK". BBC News. 20 June 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  27. ^ Rhodes, Abi (2016). "The 'Unelectable' Elected Man" (PDF). Nottingham: Spokesman Books. Retrieved 30 April 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  28. ^ a b Mercea & Levy 2019, p. 22.
  29. ^ Payne, Sebastian; Pickard, Jim; S Kao, Joanna; Nevitt, Caroline (3 September 2019). "Jeremy Corbyn's inner circles". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 5 January 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  30. ^ "The People's Assembly Against Austerity April 16th Demonstration". The People's Assembly Against Austerity. Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  31. ^ "Thousands protest against Tories in London". International Business Times UK. April 16, 2016. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  32. ^ Rhodes, Abi. "Movement-led electoral communication: Extinction Rebellion and party policy in the media". Election Analysis. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  33. ^ Rhodes, Abi (25 October 2021). "The tactics of anti-austerity and environmental campaigners render movement-voter interaction a key aspect of electoral communication". British Politics and Policy at LSE. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  34. ^ Yorke, Harry (3 October 2018). "Conservative party conference: Theresa May says austerity is over as she delivers a riposte to Boris Johnson". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2020-04-26. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  35. ^ Stewart, Heather (3 October 2018). "Theresa May pledges end to austerity in Tory conference speech". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 May 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  36. ^ Mudie, Keir (27 November 2018). "The Mirror joins People's Assembly to expose Tory claim 'austerity has ended'". Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on 28 November 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  37. ^ Pike, Steph (3 November 2018). "Britain is broken: we can't afford the Tories". Counterfire. Archived from the original on 25 April 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  38. ^ "Together Against Trump - Stop the state visit". Pressenza. 31 May 2019. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  39. ^ Mendick, Robert; Diver, Tony; Southworth, Phoebe (30 August 2019). "Brexit Momentum protests to be led by hard-left Student Union activist who boycotted Remembrance Sunday, branding it 'insidious'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  40. ^ Ferguson, Donna; Murphy, Simon; Wall, Mark Townsend & Tom (31 August 2019). "From Bodmin to Berlin, crowds vent their fury at Boris Johnson's 'coup'". The Observer. Archived from the original on 4 June 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  41. ^ "Labour can only move on if it deals firmly with evidence of wrongdoing". Morning Star. 24 April 2020. Archived from the original on 25 April 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  42. ^ Whittaker, Rebecca (1 February 2020). "Didcot Against Austerity calls for better public services". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  43. ^ Chellman, Jack; Parkes, Matthew (4 February 2020). "Town activist coalition takes to Market Square in protest of austerity". Varsity. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  44. ^ Greenwood, John (13 September 2020). "Campaigners demand Calderdale recovery plan in place post pandemic". Halifax Courier. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  45. ^ Johannes, Adam (23 November 2021). "Our Free School Meals Victory Will Help Thousands Of Families In Wales, But It's Only The Start | Adam Johannes -". Voice.Wales. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  46. ^
  47. ^ a b Geelan, Torsten (23 June 2018). "The Combustible Mix of Coalitional Power and Digital Media: The Case of the People's Assembly Against Austerity in the UK". SASE. Retrieved 27 April 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  48. ^ Maiguashca, Dean & Keith 2016, p. 15.


External links[edit]