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People Power: No to Austerity

BY JOHN NEWSHAM 21/06/2015

Yesterday a quarter of a million British people took to the streets of London to demand an end to austerity. This was the largest protest to hit the UK since the anti-war demonstrations of 2003.

 

Protesters marched from the Bank of England via Fleet Street and Whitehall to Parliament Square. Every pillar of power in our country heavily policed in the face of a peaceful protest by its citizens.

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Amongst the masses were those from a vast number of groups, parties and political ideologies. They may have disagreed on many things yet were unanimous in their opposition to an economic policy which makes the lowest paid, the disabled and the unemployed pay for the mistakes of billionaire banks, tax dodging bosses and their millionaire backers in parliament.

 

It may, therefore, have been deflating- if not surprising- to see George Osborne pledge today to continue with every penny of his ill-explained £12 billion of cuts- the Tories once again ignoring the voice of the population, from their heavily policed and barricaded ivory towers.

 

 

What next?

 

Let’s just remind ourselves again (as it must keep being said) that if just ONE THIRD of uncollected taxes on the richest were paid, we would not need a single pound of these cuts.

 

Whilst there may have been a range of beliefs amongst those at yesterday’s protest, everyone was united in the simple belief that a system which fails to impose a law on the richest and makes the poorest pay the bill is unjust, morally corrupt and practically unsustainable.

 

The main priority from here must be to unify all those opposed to austerity. The combined votes for Labour, the Greens and the SNP at the last election easily outnumbered those of the Tories, before we even consider disaffected UKIP voters and those who did not vote at all.

 

Yesterday’s protest proved that these groups can work together to support a message of hope in the face of cynicism, and unity in the face of those intent on causing division.

 

The demands made by those opposed to austerity are not radical. They are based on the very simple view that the same laws must apply to the richest as to the poorest. The vast majority of the British public, however they may vote, hold views that are far to the left of any of the three main parties when it comes to austerity and nationalisation. Perhaps for the simple reason that the vast majority of the British public are not billionaire bankers or millionaire MPs.

 

Even City AM, the business paper of the banking sector in London, reported the fact that there is majority support amongst the British public for public ownership of railways, postal services, schools, prisons and hospitals.

 

The anti- austerity movement is not just about politicians or protesters. It is about those who have to fight against austerity every single day- in struggling to provide for themselves and their families; in offering up their services for the good of their community with little or no reward; in defiantly pledging to live a decent and principled life in the face of a government which stands against all notions of dignity and decency.

 

Owen Jones asked marchers yesterday to each promise to involve themselves in community action. That request must extend to all those across the country united in their opposition to this government’s brutal cuts.

 

True change cannot come about through protests alone. We ALL need to make our daily lives count as part of the struggle towards a fairer, more just society for all citizens- not just those with the wealth and power to demand it.