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Saturday, 17 August 2013 00:00

'Politicians have let everyone down'

by Will Stone

TV's Roger Lloyd-Pack tells the Star why we should all get on board the new People's Train against austerity

He's a familiar face on our television screens and for those who have the luxury of enjoying a night out at the theatre, but outside of acting Roger Lloyd-Pack can frequently be spotted on the picket line.

An active supporter of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Lloyd-Pack is no stranger to the fight for a better world, both at home and abroad.

It's appropriate then that he's thrown his weight behind the People's Assembly Against Austerity - the national grass-roots campaign launched this year to fight Tory-led cutbacks that are having a massive impact on the lives of ordinary people across Britain.

And likeminded people now have the opportunity to travel with him on the special chartered People's Train from London to Manchester for the big demonstration outside this year's Conservative Party conference.

Lloyd-Pack has been particularly supportive of the many NHS campaigns. The service has been crippled by demands for it to make £20 billion savings on top of the government's own hugely unpopular market-friendly reforms.

Lloyd-Pack tells the Star that if successful NHS campaigns and protests are anything to go by, including the U-turn on plans to sell off Whittington hospital buildings and a successful High Court ruling preventing Lewisham's A&E from being downgraded, there's every reason to believe in people power.

"The People's Assembly gives people a voice and the chance to vent their anger," he says.

"A lot of people in Britain are feeling disenfranchised as the government pushes through reform after reform regardless of mass opposition.

"Politicians have let everyone down. What gets me is there has been a real golden opportunity for Ed Miliband and his Labour Party to up their game, but the best they can do is to say that they would simply implement a lot of what the Tories are pushing through. Where's the alternative?"

Although Lloyd-Pack supported Ken Livingstone's London mayoral campaign last year, he recently signed a letter published in the Guardian earlier this month highlighting how this summer will be remembered for "Labour's final betrayal of the working-class people it was founded to represent."

The letter, also signed by, among others, filmmaker Ken Loach and CND general secretary Kate Hudson, made reference to Miliband signing up to Tory austerity measures and turning his back on the unions.

Criticising the language being popularised by the government's welfare reforms Lloyd-Pack tells the Star: "They shouldn't be called benefits they should be called 'unemployment income subsidies' or 'disability subsidies'."

He suggested that the term "benefits" should be reserved for the huge amounts of money saved by individuals and companies that evade or avoid paying tax.

"It's disgusting that disabled people and those who are out of work are being chased for a fiver when billions are being kept in the pockets of some of the wealthiest people in the world."

The actor argues that there is no single biggest thing to fight since all Tory cuts policies are as "iniquitous as each other" and choosing between them would be like deciding whether to "die by drowning or hanging."

However he accepts that cuts to arts funding should not be forgotten in the wider fightback.

"Arts funding is often the first in the firing line when cuts are made, but it's important to remember that the knock-on effects can be devastating to education and communities as things like galleries, theatres and libraries play an important role in a town's civic pride and identity.

"It's sad to see some theatres are closing or having to make large cuts to their production.

"People's lives will be impoverished if we see a decline in access to things like libraries, art galleries and centres."

Lloyd-Pack adds that the People's Assembly also poses a unique opportunity for arts organisations to get on board and highlight any campaigns they have against cuts to their budgets.

But with no sector safe from Tory austerity, everyone will have their own reasons for attending the demonstration.

To book a ticket on the People's Train alongside Lloyd-Pack visit thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/transport/

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