Video: Charlotte Church’s Inspirational Anti-Austerity Speech on June 20

28.6.15

Singer Charlotte Church preparing to make her speech to the huge anti-austerity protest in London on June 20, 2015.Last Saturday, the new Tory government was confronted by a massive anti-austerity protest, when 250,000 people marched through central London to express their dissatisfaction and disgust with the current political situation — one in which a party that gained the support of just 24.4% of the electorate, and 36.1% of those who voted, nevertheless secured 50.9% of the seats, and is committed to more of the ruinous policies implemented over the last five years — more privatisation of essential public services, including the NHS and our schools, more persecution of the poor, the unemployed and the disabled, and more enriching of the already rich, widening the chasm between the rich and poor with every day that passes.

I wrote about the anti-austerity march here and here, and my photos from the day are on Flickr here, and I hope that another opportunity for people to express their rage in significant numbers will be organised in the not too distant future. We need to meet up regularly, to reassure ourselves that we are many, and they are few, and to find ways in which we can work towards the creation of a better world.

At the end of the march last Saturday, protestors filled Parliament Square, where a succession of speakers addressed the crowd, including Labour leadership contender (and We Stand With Shaker supporter) Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Jones, Mark Steel, Caroline Lucas and Russell Brand. Also speaking was Charlotte Church, the Welsh singer-songwriter, actress and television presenter, who was a child star as a classical singer, and who delivered a powerful speech against austerity and in defense of public services. I’m posting the video of her speech below, as well as a transcript of it from her website:

NOTE: The video has been removed from YouTube, but you can watch it on the Daily Mirror’s website.

What particularly impressed me was not only Charlotte’s words, but how rare it is these days for a major mainstream celebrity to engage in political protest, even though the times we live in demand it from anyone with a conscience and an ability to see beyond the lies and distortions used to prop up an increasingly unequal society, which, moreover, is rigged to enrich the already rich at the expense of the young and the poor.

I hope you find Charlotte’s speech as engaging as the crowd in Parliament Square did eight days ago, and as I did when I saw the video, having missed the speeches on the day. As Charlotte said, “Ultimately the government’s endgame isn’t cutbacks to pay off debt. What they want to do is completely restructure our economy, shrivelling the public sector and selling our democracy to private companies.” May the struggle continue!

The text of Charlotte Church’s speech to the huge anti-austerity march in London, June 20, 2015

It’s so heartening to see so many people here. I’m not going to take up much of your time. But I do want to talk to two specific groups today. The first is those economists, academics, journalists, lawyers, public figures, celebrities, artists, who consider themselves progressive. We need to stop genre-defining our politics, and harking back to old ideologies, and start talking about the future of government, the future of democracy, our children’s future; how we can be innovative in our thinking, how we can captivate the attention of the disengaged demographics, and how we can re-engage those at the most disaffected desperate fringes of society who were convinced to vote for a new-age fascist party by “Chicken Licken” trickery from an ale-swilling, pinstripe, Enoch Powell.

One of the main reasons so many young people are turning towards the agendas of consumerist capitalism, is that its advocates have embraced the language of positivity even whilst championing the most radical deconstruction of society. David Cameron’s neo-liberal vernacular is aspirational, it rewards entrepreneurship, there’s a romanticism about it. When I was a kid that romance was always a lefty thing. This model of capitalism is built on aspiration and driven by innovation. But my God, is it destructive. On the flip side of laissez-faire economics is the big lie, that this country needs tough management, harsh decision making, austerity.

What this country needs is economic stimulation. Most economists around the world would say the same. We need to get the blood pumping, and that cannot be achieved by stringing tourniquets around the limbs of social welfare. If a mother cannot afford to feed both her children does she choose one to feed and leave the other to starve? Of course she doesn’t. She will go without until those children are able to feed themselves. That is civilised, and moral. The fact remains that whilst those whose lives depend on the benefits they receive, those less fortunate people, that the Daily Mail would call scroungers, whilst they have their welfare severed, the government will sell off its stake, our stake in Royal Bank of Scotland at a scandalous rate so that their buddies in big business can turn over millions in profit from it within a matter of hours. They will sell off our schools and our hospitals. And once it’s done it will be very difficult to reverse.

One aspect of this that really gets under my skin is that it’s all wrapped up in a proud-to-be-British package. I’m proud to be British because of our National Health Service, the welfare system, and David Bowie, not ’cause of the Union Jack! Nationalism has worked wonders for the Scots because it’s galvanised them against the Westminster elite. But rarely does pure nationalism have a positive effect, and more often than not it serves to veil racism. I’m not saying don’t be proud, I’m saying be proud for the right reasons.

We need to win back these young minds and save ourselves from decades of Yuppie rule. And the way we do that is with fresh ideas, positive messages, new theories, engaging art, and more public figures sticking their heads above the parapet.

The second group I want to talk to today is those who will be affected by austerity; austerity, that Cameron says should be a “permanent” aspect of British economics. Every single person in the country will be affected by austerity. Public services are needed by everybody. We all contribute, whether we can monetarily or not. Because contribution is not solely a fiscal matter, it is cultural, community-based, academic; it is friendship, it is love. If you are a disabled person, unable to work, whose benefits are in danger of being cut, don’t you dare think that you don’t contribute. Your existence brightens the lives of other people every single day, and that is worth so much more than the ability to pay tax. If you feel ashamed that you have to use a food bank because this government would rather see you starve than put a note in your pocket, walk tall, you have the moral high ground.

There is only one way to fight the onslaught of crusading austerity, and that is to come together in unity. I want to urge everyone: go out into your communities and meet your neighbours. Find out what they think and try to see things from their point of view. If you can afford to offer help to those in society who need it, just do it. Don’t un-friend all those on Facebook who post things that you disagree with; challenge them, engage them in debate, but kindly and with reason on your side. You never know, you might just change someone’s opinion. And more than anything we need to keep on pressuring the establishment into hearing our voice. Today has been fantastic but it is only the beginning.

Ultimately the government’s endgame isn’t cutbacks to pay off debt. What they want to do is completely restructure our economy, shrivelling the public sector and selling our democracy to private companies, in the form of TTIP, academies, G4S-controlled prisons. It is an ideological plan that is irreversible. Let us remember that the NHS was born at a time when the national debt-to-GDP ratio was significantly larger than what it is now.

Let’s show the government that we are not afraid of national debt and we will not allow our public services to be attacked. Because everybody needs them, whether you are black, asian, white, homosexual , bisexual, transgender, questioning, disabled, able-bodied, autistic, well-educated, a drop-out, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, an immigrant, a small business owner, a single mother, a single father, a childless couple, a child without parents, a nuclear family, a police officer, a politician, a journalist, a CEO, unemployed, a teacher, a nurse, a brain surgeon, a student, a convict, a pensioner, an under-18, whether you claim benefits, whether you pay taxes, we all need a strong public sector. And if we keep on keeping on they will not be able to ignore us. We will not be silenced.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers). He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the co-director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    I’ve been meaning to post this since last weekend’s massive anti-austerity protest in London – the video of (and a transcript of) singer Charlotte Church’s excellent speech in defense of the state provision of services, and against the Tories’ ideological destruction of the public sector to enrich the few at the expense of the many. Is there another mainstream celebrity prepared to speak out like this?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Zarina Bhatia wrote:

    I heard her as I was in the Peoples’ Assembly Protest in London, Thank you Andy Worthington!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Zarina. I was sorry to have missed her. I was on my bike and by the time I got to Parliament Square it was such a crush that I decided to leave, thereby missing all the speeches. Luckily – for things like this, at least – we have YouTube.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Holly Berry wrote:

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Holly. Good to hear from you.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi, Neil. I can’t even keep track of the various wheezes the corporations, their lawyers and the quisling politicians of the world are coming up with. Part of me just thinks: bring it on. Eventually, I hope, the only sane response will be clear: revolution, and, subsequently, a thorough rewriting of the law so that criminal enterprises like this – and so much of what the banks are doing now and have been since the deregulations of the 80s and 90s – will be brought to an end and we can start again with a people- and the planet-based economic model.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil Goodwin wrote:

    The tricky thing is that small councils would find themselves facing the combined legal clout of huge multi-nationals, who can afford to throw away millions on failed law suits.. so, even if you are in the right, have you the funds to prove it? this is the danger of TPP etc.. But yeah, bring it on.. but it will have to come down to mass civil disobedience in the end..

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s why I think something revolutionary will have to happen, Neil. At the every least, a government that will pass a raft of anti-corporate legislation to overturn these shameful developments, but probably much more. I would suggest that corporate and banking criminals will need to be tried, and that corporate lawyers’ firms will have to be dissolved .

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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