After last Saturday’s protests against Tory cuts in London, supported by everyone from Super Furry Animals and Primal Scream to Charlotte Church, what now? Sam Fairbairn, National Secretary of The People’s Assembly, explains why the protests need to continue…
On Saturday 20 June a mass movement was born. Over 250,000 people flooded the streets of London to protest what this government is planning over the next five years on the #EndAusterityNow demonstration organised by The People’s Assembly. That was just the beginning.
Austerity means the shrinking of government spending; cuts to welfare, public sector job losses and pay freezes, selling off public services – like the education system, health service and transport – to the private sector to be run for profit. The demonstration on 20 June wasn’t your usual lefty crowd. It was young, diverse, and for tens of thousands of people it was the first demonstration they’d ever been on.
So why are so many young people getting involved in political protest? The Tories gained a slim majority in Parliament, you might think that would put a stop to any kind of challenge to their austerity plans. The Tories certainly feel this is a mandate to do whatever they want for the next 5 years without any opposition. But people see this differently. The Tories gained less than 25% of the electorate’s vote. In big cities, they didn’t do well and their core vote was old. It’s not that the majority are convinced by austerity politics.
Young people have been hit hard by austerity over the last five years. It’s the students that got hit first, with the trebling of university fees. The growing housing crisis affects young people most who, unable to afford to buy a home or access social housing, are left in the hands of unregulated private landlords. Poverty wages (coupled with ever increasing prices), precarious work and zero hour contracts have hit young people more than any other section of society.
We know that if the Tories are allowed to get away with their plans, our generation will be left without a welfare state or NHS, without any form of affordable housing, without any pension or job security. Little that came from the centre of power, from the Westminster bubble, connected with or represented what most people think.
That’s why we saw a demonstration of a historic size on Saturday June 20 just six weeks after the election, why people in their hundreds of thousands are flocking into alternative politics rather than getting excited by elections, but also why we can’t stop there.
One demonstration alone won’t change the situation. We need to create a political crisis for this government which means more mass mobilisations, taking action in our communities, in our workplaces, universities and in our schools. That’s why the protests must go on.
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On Wednesday July 8 George Osborne will give his emergency budget – the second in just four months. He’ll be announcing all the things he chose not to include in the last one because it was just weeks before the election. It’s certain to include more austerity, more cuts to public spending, and more attacks on the poorest in society. The People’s Assembly is organising a national day of action across the country.
From October 4-8 the Tory Party will hold their annual conference in Manchester. They will be celebrating the success of austerity, plan their next round of cuts and discuss their vision of a corporation led, privatised Britain.
But the story that week must be about our vision for society – a society run in the interests of the majority and not the few. So we’ll be there too, all week. We won’t let them forget the millions of lives their plans will ruin. We’re organising a series of protests, rallies, meetings, direct action, gigs, comedy nights and cultural events which they won’t be able to ignore.
If you feel this government doesn’t represent you, if you want to see a better society – then stay angry, get organised and be part of this growing movement.