Depending on which headline you read, I was among the 70 to 250,000 people who marched against austerity on 20th June 2015. I was also amongst the tens of thousands of people who marched for an alternative to austerity in March 2011, and I will do this again and again if I have to, because I refuse to accept austerity.
Why bother? Many people say. The Tories were elected fair and square, others keep saying. Well that’s true – 25% of the electorate voted conservative, and in our first-past-the-post system that earns you a “majority”. The thing is, I wasn’t marching against the Tories, but their policies, and would have done so had Labour or another Coalition ended up at the head of the table. I’m not protesting to get the government out – I accept that we’ve got them for at least another five years, I’m protesting against austerity and a narrative that is being drummed into us that we have to cut and cull the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable in society to address an economic issue (deficit) we did not create.
To me what is happening is simply wrong. Corpulent corporates like Vodafone, Starbucks, Boots, Cadburys, Caffe Nero and Gary Fucking Barlow can find ways to avoid paying tax, but many older people can no longer access day-care because it’s gone up from council subsidised £8 a day to £30-£50 a day. Many MPs, who already have two homes, food, TV licence, council tax and all sorts paid for (by our taxes) get a massive pay rise, whilst people at the bottom see their disability benefits and various support services being decimated. Many people who are working, earning, comfortably off and complacent complain about people on benefits having big tellies and using food banks because they are crap at managing money. Having you been to bloody Bright House?! You, too could get ill, or lose your job, what then?
The End Austerity Now demo saw people from all ages and all walks of life – not just middle class hippies – standing up for a variety of issues and causes: climate change, fracking, bedroom tax, welfare cuts, disability cuts, legal aid cuts, libraries, the NHS, mental health services, youth service budget cuts, etc etc etc. Austerity is wrong. Those who back it, who impose and inflict it, live on a different fucking planet. They scoff and snigger, as their privilege blinds them to the real lives of the many.
The camaraderie at an event like this reminds me that I’m not alone in my frustration. People travelled from all over the country, and in the throng of thousands I even bumped into someone I haven’t seen for almost twenty years. I thank the People’s Assembly for bringing us together. I love seeing the passion and wit of all these brilliant people on the streets – you are amazing and, in many instances, bloody funny.
I know the politicians will brush us off, but I don’t care. We are many, you are few. We will not be quiet.