UK Uncut, the organisers of the “Austerity Isn’t Working” Dole Queue outside Downing Street this morning advised supporters to turn up for 11 am prompt for a recreation of the notorious “Labour Isn’t Working” poster from 1979 as a protest on Budget Day — and, lamentably, as a wake for the NHS. In the end, there were, at first, dozens and then hundreds of us — largely unaffiliated protestors — milling about outside Downing Street, tentatively striking up conversations with each other, while members of Coalition of Resistance, CND, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and Stop the War set up stall on the other side of the road, and the organisers were nowhere in sight.
At 11 o’clock, however, it all suddenly came together, as the UK Uncut activists arrived with an “Unemployment Office” banner and hundreds of us queued up in an attempt to recreate the poster that helped Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 General Election. Because Downing Street was so crowded, it was difficult to capture a good image of the queue (which was, to be fair, a rather disorderly affair), but the atmosphere was thrilling, and after the demoralising news about the NHS yesterday it was good to be with like-minded people — even if the general impression is still that most of the country has fallen into an irreversible coma.
As a result, the organisers decided to move down to the gardens opposite Parliament, where TV broadcasters had set up a raised platform to discuss the budget, and where four of them bravely tried to soldier on with their commentary as the crowd struck up a deafening and repeated cry of “Tax the rich, not the poor.” Eventually, they gave up, and as a rather more successful attempt was made to recreate the 1979 dole queue, and various “no cuts” chants rang through the balmy air, it was clear that the event had been a success, and we had hijacked the mainstream media.
My photos are below, and are available for anyone to use, although if you do, please credit me, and if possible, provide a link to this website. Click on the images to enlarge them.
I’m pleased to report that the police informed protestors that members of Parliament had complained about our protest, although we couldn’t shout loudly eight to wake everyone up. Life will proceed as though it is normal to have a shattered NHS demolished without a mandate, and in the face of almost complete professional opposition, and George Osborne will, presumably, get away with still claiming that “we’re all in it together” even though he’s just slashed the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p after claiming that it “only” raised £1 bn (even though there were widespread accounting fiddles just before it was introduced), and it constitutes a tax cut of £40,000 for each of the richest people in the UK, while the minimum wage for young people has been frozen.
The butcher Osborne has also cut corporation tax to 24 percent, which, as UK Uncut noted, is “just 4% more than someone earning £10,000 a year,” and there is also a media advisory on the website regarding his much-vaunted tax avoidance scheme, which UK Uncut describes as “PR fluff” and notes that the budget contains “new policies which make tax avoidance easier for multi-national companies and banks, such as Vodafone and Barclays,” adding, “The Treasury has admitted that £1 billion each year will be lost to the public purse as a result.”
Christina Samson, a supporter of UK Uncut, said:
We know that this budget will actively encourage big businesses and banks to avoid tax by making it easier for them to stash profits in tax havens, like Switzerland, which will cost the UK at least £1 billion every year. This has happened because the budget was written by tax dodging big businesses and banks, like Vodafone and Barclays, for their benefit.
The tax threshold for low earners might be raised but at the same time the tax rate for the rich will be cut, the anti-avoidance rules are so weak they are just PR fluff and the changes in stamp duty may be unenforceable, so let’s not be fooled into thinking that George Osborne is Robin Hood.
The fact that the government is privatising the NHS, schools and roads and cutting benefits, pensions and public services, while giving corporations a helping hand to avoid paying their fair share, shows that this government is making a choice to reward big business and punish people, resulting in unemployment, poverty and ill health.
My thanks to UK Uncut, and to everyone who turned up today. Let’s keep making our voices heard, and trying to wake our fellow citizens out of their deep sleep of apathy and denial.
The “Unemployment Office” banner at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Downing Street, March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Another protestor at the at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Downing Street, March 21, 2012 with a topical “Resus Our NHS” poster (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Another protestor at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Downing Street, March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Protestors shouting “Tax the rich, not the poor” interrupt a TV broadcast at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Parliament, March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Protest banners at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Parliament, March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
The best manifestation of the dole queue at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Parliament, March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Another view of the dole queue at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Parliament, March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Some of the people hit hardest by the government’s assault on welfare, at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration outside Parliament, March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
The emperor has no clothes: an extraordinary painting of George Osborne that accompanied us wherever we went at the “Austerity Isn’t Working” demonstration on March 21, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
how sad it is that ppls of great britain have to demonstrate like that of ppls of india.
andy worthington ir doing great job.
Thanks, Nirmal. Good to hear from you.
On Facebook, Ruth Gilburt wrote:
good for you Andy….sorry I couldn’t be there…will be on the NUT one next Weds though…. x
Lotus Yee Fong wrote:
Is US Uncut doing the same action with the same message? I really think the special relationship should be exposed for what it is, the Anglo American Empire epitomized by the island empire system, Diego Garcia B.I.O.T. and the Falklands!!
Thanks, Ruth. I wish the unions had stopped navel-gazing about their pensions, and had used their 6 million+ membership to call another huge demo. It was almost exactly a year ago that we had the massive March 26 protest: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/03/26/on-the-anti-cuts-protest-in-london-500000-say-no-to-the-coalition-governments-arrogant-ideological-butchery-of-the-british-state/
Thanks for mentioning the NUT march, next Wednesday, March 28: http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/15321
They do need to get over themselves a bit, though. This is way bigger than pensions …
Thanks, Lotus. My hope is that we’ll soon see Occupy getting active again on both sides of the Atlantic, making these kinds of common connections. A spring and summer of discontent is in order, I think …
Zilma Nunes wrote:
OHOHH…EI lOTUS , Falklans is under uk empire ..ok lol..
red necks (usa)+uk empire+fr empire+etc empire= same red bull..and i’m not drunk belive me..rsssss
Thanks, Zilma. Spot-on regarding the empires and their crimes. The imperial crusaders have decided, this time, to lay waste to their own lands as well. I imagine Osborne like a feudal lord of old, riding around on a horse and casually decapitating peasants. Steve Bell had it right early on: http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/record/82014
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