Welcome to the blog page for our new De Montfort University Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA) – the UK’s only centre dedicated to urban austerity research.  We launch the blog, and the Centre, at a critical juncture.  After the bubble economies of the 2000s, and the great crash of 2008, austerity has become such a deeply embedded principle of mainstream politics, that it seems unquestionable.  With variations in tone and intensity, austerity remains the governing orthodoxy in the EU and here in the UK.  At the same time, spearheaded by Greece and Spain, we have seen huge anti-austerity movements explode into life, fade from view, and explode onto the stage once again.  Most critically for our Centre, the city is the fulcrum of the global austerity conjuncture: it is where austerity bites and where austerity battles unfold.  And with the rise of “localist” ideologies, it is once more the object of serious political attention from national and international elites, heralded as the dynamo of “resilience”, and post-crash cultural and economic renaissance.

The task of CURA is to study and make sense of the austerian conjuncture, its contradictions and limitations. The blog is a space for information about our projects at De Montfort University, opinion pieces on cities and austerity, and contributions from academics, practitioners, commentators and activists/insurgents with an interest in austerity, broadly conceived. CURA is part of the Leicester Urban Observatory, a collaboration between urban practitioners at Leicester City Council and academics at  De Montfort University, the University of Leicester, and Loughborough University that aims to establish and develop a combined centre of excellence in urban studies and planning for Leicester.

See this article in the Times Higher Education supplement for more information on the Centre’s aims and activities.

It is managed by Dr Adrian Bua, who can be contacted at adrian.bua@dmu.ac.uk. We welcome contributions from far and wide.  If you would like to write a piece, please email Adrian explaining briefly what you would like to say.

Dr Adrian Bua
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Mark Charlton
DMU Head of Public Engagement (Doctoral Student)

Dr Merce Cortina- Oriol
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Professor Jonathan S. Davies (Director)
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Dr Adam Fishwick
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Dr. Arianna Giovannini
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Professor Steven Griggs
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Dr Rachel Granger
Leicester Castle Business School

Dr Valeria Guarneros Meza
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Dr Jonathan Payne
Department of Human Resource Management

Ines Newman (Visiting Research Associate)

Professor Jo Richardson
Associate Dean for Research – BAL

Dr Julia J.A. Shaw
Leicester De Montfort Law School

Dr Ed Thompson
Department of Strategic Management and Marketing

Dr Ben Whitham
Department of Politics and Public Policy

Marco Gottero (Doctoral Student)
Ibrahim Has (Doctoral Student)
Ruth Lorimer (Doctoral Student)
Paul O’Brien (Doctoral Student)
Robert Ogman (Doctoral Student)

The centre was launched at a workshop in November 2015, with a keynote lecture by Professor Erik Swyngedouw (University of Manchester) and Professor Karel Williams (University of Manchester).

During we interviewed the Centre’s Director Professor Jonathan Davies, Professor Karel Williams and Professor Erik Swyngedouw. Here is what they had to say about the challenges facing CURA:

Professor Jonathan Davies

Professor Eric Swyngedouw

Professor Karel Williams

After The Corbyn Surge

The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour Party leadership is a seismic event in British politics – perhaps even more so than the SNP landslide in May 2015. For the first time, a committed socialist and anti-austerity activist leads the Labour Party at Westminster.  Many commentators were busy writing his obituary long before he became leader. Yet, serious thinkers on the right aren’t fooled. They know Corbyn taps into a popular mood, the desire for authentic opposition to the Tories, and an alternative to the right wing populism of UKIP. They fear that he really could threaten the enervating austerity consensus.  Making that threat a reality is his only chance.

Corbyn faces formidable opponents in the state, business, media and the Labour machine itself.  Can he survive as leader?  Is it remotely plausible that he could become PM?  It will be extraordinarily difficult, but it is possible whatever the psephologists might say.  Politics can change. Political activists can be agents of change.  The challenge, simply, is to make the “Corbyn surge” infectious: translate his campaigning energies to the national stage and use his position as Labour Leader to win credibility for his socialist worldview. In practice, that means he must mobilise a movement capable of stopping austerity in its tracks. To win credibility, the Corbynistas must find a way of making austerity ungovernable. Accomplish that, and they might regain credibility for socialist politics and bring millions of working class people alienated by the Blairite era back into the political and electoral fold.  Since Corbyn’s astonishing victory on Saturday, there have been stirrings within the leadership of the trade union movement – even threats of “civil disobedience”.  But we heard all that in the heady days of 2011. At the height of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement, we saw a trade union demonstration of more than half a million people in London, and mass strikes against cuts in public sector pensions. But the unions backed down and nothing came of it. Talking a good fight against austerity isn’t remotely the same as delivering. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is a huge gamble and the odds are stacked against him. If the Corbyn surge does not prove to be infectious, he will quickly be toast.  But by sticking his guns he could just lead a renaissance on the left and transform British politics.

We will be discussing this and many other issues at the inaugural conference of our Centre for Urban Research on Austerity on 18th and 19th November 2015. See http://www.dmu.ac.uk/CURA2015.

Jonathan Davies

Director – Centre for Urban Research on Austerity