Talking the Alternative: People’s Question Time on Sat 28th February

Article published: Wednesday, February 25th 2015

The People’s Question Time will take place at Central Hall on Oldham Street this Saturday. The debate, organised by the Manchester People’s Assembly Against Austerity, is part of a series of nationwide events aiming to encourage debate around the government’s austerity programme and strengthen opposition to cuts and privatisation.

Using the format of the BBC debate show, the audience will put questions to a panel of anti-austerity speakers including comedian Shappi Khorsandi, General Secretary of the PCS Mark Serwotka, Lindsey German from the People’s Assembly and Stop the War Coalition, musician and activist Billy Bragg and Shahrar Ali, Deputy Leader of the Green Party. The panelists and audience will discuss question such as: ‘Can we save our NHS from privatisation?’, ‘Do strikes work?’, ‘What’s the alternative to austerity?’, ‘Why is there always money for war?’, ‘What happened to social housing?’ and ‘Can we stop cuts?’

UK - Public - Peoples AssembleyThe People’s Assembly want to have a conversation about political issues in an inclusive way, says Penny Hicks, one of the organisers of the event. ‘For the panel we’ve chosen a comedian and a musician, as well as politicians and trade union leaders’, she says. ‘We’re hoping for an honest alternative discussion that’s entertaining at the same time.’

The organisers decided to use the format of the political panel show because they feel that alternative views to the government’s austerity policies are often neglected by the BBC. ‘Our idea was to put forward a point of view that you won’t hear often in the mainstream media’, so Hicks, ‘even though it’s the mainstream opinion of British people.’

With the general election looming, the organisers believe it is more important than ever to build a powerful anti-austerity movement. ‘The only way you could possibly get an anti-austerity government’, so Hicks, ‘is by building up a big enough opposition on the ground.’ However, with budget cuts set to be on the agenda for whichever party gains power in May, she stresses that the People’s Assembly is not party-political and will be prepared to ‘fight any government that gets elected that continues an austerity programme’.

While the government’s policy of austerity continues to fail, Hicks suggests that the coalition’s commitment to slashing spending is not really about the economics. ‘It’s about the political ideology that those at the bottom need to be kept at the bottom and must pay to increase the wealth of those at the top’, she says, ‘and that’s the ideology that we’ve got to take on.’

By trying to inspire a sense of belief amongst workers, the People’s Assembly hope to counteract this ideological attack and encourage the fightback against austerity through intensified industrial action. ‘You can’t underestimate the impact of the effect of workers going out on strike’, says Hicks. She hopes that this weekend’s event will not only serve as a forum for discussion, but also as a much-needed expression of solidarity. ‘That’s why we do things like People’s Question Time’, she explains, ‘so you don’t feel alone and feel like you’re the lone voice, but you’re alongside other people.’

The People’s Assembly has always embraced diversity and wants people to get involved. Meetings in the past have included a range of participants, from trade unionists to Occupy activists and the Focus E15 Mothers. ‘It’s dynamic and vibrant’, says Hicks, ‘that’s what’s so brilliant about it.’ This simple message of solidarity is the key to building a strong anti-austerity movement for her: ‘It’s about finding the point of unity, not the point of difference.’

Michael Crick

The People’s Question Time will take place on Saturday 28th February from 3:00 to 5:30pm at Central Hall on Oldham Street and will be followed by the ‘Music Beats Austerity’ concert at 7:30pm at Academy 2, featuring Billy Bragg, Grace Petrie, The Farm and Honeyfeet.

Tickets for the People’s Question Time at Central Hall on Oldham Street are sold here. Standard tickets are £5 (plus booking fee), concessions (students, pensioners and unemployed) are £2 (plus booking fee) and solidarity tickets are £10 (plus booking fee).

‘Music Beats Austerity tickets at Academy 2 on Oxford Road are sold separately. Standard tickets are £10 (plus booking fee), concessions (students, pensioners and unemployed) are £5 (plus booking fee) and solidarity tickets are £20 (plus booking fee). Solidarity tickets include a donation to the campaign.

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  1. Hi I’m sorry you feel ripped off. We hope you all enjoyed the night and can see what your money will go towards and we are sorry you were unaware of the cheaper tickets on sale. The ticket prices were set to enable people on low incomes to come and to enable those who were able to, to help us raise much needed funds. All tickets for the gig were sold and controlled through Academy 2 who also sell through various vendors. This vendor seems to have chosen only to advertise and sell the top price tickets. £5 and £10 tickets were available via Academy 2’s own website. I hope that goes some way to answering your point but do contact us directly if not.

    Comment by People's assembly on March 5, 2015 at 3:43 am

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