Photos: The “Austerity Isn’t Working” Protest Outside Downing Street and Parliament

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Austerity Isn’t Working: UK Uncut Protest Outside Downing Street on Budget Day, March 21, 2012

Tomorrow morning, please join me as I help the campaigning group UK Uncut cause a stir on Budget Day by lining up with hundreds of other people outside Downing Street to declare that “Austerity Isn’t Working,” recreating the Tories’ notorious “Labour Isn’t Working” poster that helped Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 General Election. Click on the image to enlarge.

If ever there was a time to say to the government that its plans are an unmitigated failure, it is surely now, with unemployment at a 17-year high, and youth unemployment and women’s unemployment at even more historic levels — over a million 16-24 years old, for example (22.5 percent of the total number of young people), cannot find a job.

In response, of course, while pushing ahead with a disastrous and unwanted NHS reform bill, the Tory-led coalition government has also savagely attacked those who are unemployed (as the recent workfare scandal demonstrated), as well as the working poor and, most wretchedly of all, the disabled — and, in particular, the disabled people who are unable to work, but whom the government is portraying as scroungers.

These assaults on the most vulnerable members of society would be disgraceful at the best of times, but represent an almost unspeakably cruel failure of empathy and responsible leadership, in the interests of the country as a whole, during an economic depression. And make no mistake, this clearly is a depression, as part of the slow collapse of the West after the self-inflicted economic crash of 2008, the refusal to deal with it adequately, and the fact that most manufacturing now takes place in other countries. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: A Doctor’s Moving Defence of Her Profession, and How Care is More Important Than Budgets

Yesterday, I published an article about the Tory-led coalition government’s ongoing attempts to destroy the NHS, after the health minister Andrew Lansley issued a new set of amendments to his Health and Social Care Bill, in an attempt to suppress dissent in the House of Lords, which only succeeded in prompting GPs and physiotherapists to issue their own official opposition to the bill.

It is but no means clear that the government can be persuaded to scrap its bill, as the entire rationale for the coalition government’s existence seems to be to remove whatever remains in public ownership and to hand it over to the private sector, even though that particular approach to politics is exactly the opposite of what we need, after the unfettered greed of bankers and the private sector led to the economic crash of 2008, whose reverberations have, perhaps fatally, undermined the economic health of the West, even while, in the UK, cynical and thoroughly unqualified ideologues like David Cameron and George Osborne attempt to pin all the blame for Britain’s economic woes on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled.

This approach — and the way it is being lapped up by a majority of the British people — marks a particularly low point in my lack of respect for politicians or my fellow citizens, and I’ll be writing more about it soon, but for now, in an effort to maintain the focus on the NHS, and the need for persistent opposition to the government’s plans from anyone who understands how extraordinary it is to have a health service paid for by general taxation, which is free at the point of entry and exit, and how important it is to hold onto this service, I’m cross-posting below an article by Dr. Clare Gerada, the chair of the Royal College of GPs — whose members last week voiced their considerable opposition to the government’s planned reforms — which was published in October in the Guardian. Read the rest of this entry »

Misery for Nothing: 2 Million on Strike in the UK, As Tories’ Economic Plans Fail

As two million workers from 29 unions went on strike today, I paid a supportive visit to the Embankment in London, and watched as a huge procession of public sector workers came down Northumberland Avenue from Trafalgar Square and the Strand, having first convened in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The timing could hardly have been better, as the strike came the day after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, admitted in his autumn statement that the whole point of the cuts and misery inflicted on everyone in Britain below the level of rich and super-rich — designed, we were told, to pay off Britain’s deficit in time for the next General Election in 2015 — had failed.

As Jonathan Freedland explained in the Guardian, “That goal had now receded to the distant horizon of 2016-17,” and “All the pain, the tax rises and spending cuts, that were meant to turn red ink black, would be, if not quite in vain, in pursuit of a goal now revealed as vanishingly remote.” Read the rest of this entry »

The UK “Riots” and Why the Vile and Disproportionate Response to It Made Me Ashamed to be British

I left the UK for a family holiday in Greece in the middle of what were termed “the riots,” a four-day explosion of violence, looting and arson that didn’t really come as a surprise to me, as it was both a bitter response to an increasingly divided society, and a dreadful demonstration of how we define ourselves through our possessions.

However, I was glad to be away as far too many of my fellow citizens responded to the outbursts of violence around the country (which were generally directed at property and the police, but in some places involved assaults on other civilians and even murders) with their own unedifying calls for vengeance.

In analyzing what happened and why, I am bound to reflect on how we became so materialistic, and on how, through New Labour’s cleverly manufactured boom years (based largely on allowing house prices to rise in the most disproportionate manner, and to encourage those with mortgages to obsess about the spiralling value of their houses to the exclusion of almost everything else), those excluded from the miracle were nevertheless bombarded with messages about how material goods are the only barometer of success in life, so that, across society as a whole, it was difficult to find people who were not obsessed by material goods, their supposed value as status symbols, and their supposed worth.

The New Labour years were a depressing time to be alive for those of us interested in political awareness about the world and values of a less material sort, and it all came crashing down between 2007 and 2008, with a global financial crisis that showed what happens when society’s barometer is greed, and when those involved in creating fiendishly clever ways of making money (however immoral their behaviour is to ordinary people with consciences) are allowed to do whatever they want, and regulations are shredded to encourage further greed on a previously unthinkable scale. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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