Anti-austerity, obviously- what now?


The anti-austerity demonstrations in the UK yesterday achieved a first in a long time- broadcast media coverage despite the few arrests and only the occasional (literally) flare up.

But what else was achieved?

I didn’t attend any of the demos but I can imagine it was a great feeling- to be amongst great crowds of like-minded people, singing, dancing and shouting…

Apart from the that, the answer has to be; not much…

Unless we build from there- Here are a few thoughts…..

Only Connect

If everyone retreats back to their single issue “blocs” – be it education, housing, disability rights, welfare benefits.. – we won’t get anywhere. My particular area of concern is education and how this is being centralised and privatised and aimed at producing workers not citizens. But as a teacher in a Special Needs school where over 50% of the children are also entitled to free school meals I have to beconcerned about other areas of austerity. The bedroom tax means students have to move school mid-term, local authority cuts means that local authority services for our students are  cut, students who are hungry can not learn… People whose main concern is the NHS also need to know of the cuts in social care.

Etcetera… we need to stay connected.

Electoral Reform.

I have been advocating electoral reform for decades- perhaps the time has come. As the Tories are now claiming a mandate for the cuts and their policies and the need for reform has suddenly become urgent.But we need to tread carefully here- a bit of truth and reconciliation is needed…

Firstly, a change to a PR system is not the answer. It is more like changing the playing field so that we stand a chance of winning. We are playing a game of anti-austerity on a Monopoly board. Doesn’t mean we will win- look at Denmark- but it would mean we stand a chance- look at Greece, Spain. I think the Green Party in Scotland will win seats under PR in the Scottish elections because of their strong radicalindy performance…

The Green Party has proposed a progressive PR alliance in the next elections but they need to show some humility here. In the May elections they had a policy of standing in as many seats as they could afford. The result? They contributed to the defeat of at least 1 Labour MP- of the left and a vigorous animal rights campaigner. Back in the day when the Lib Dems were in favour of PR, I suggested to a friend in the Green party that he should vote Lib Dem to get PR first- I think I was right then but subsequently betrayed by the Lib Dems.

There are lots of local and national feuds between members of various parties after the Coalition and after the elections but these need to be put aside- for now- in favour of PR. As I say, that does not bring about an anti-austerity package per se but at least then we have a chance. Are we ready to forgive and move on  and agree a PR platform is the way forward?

Narrative.

I keep banging on about narrative but I really think this is important. I suspect we all believe that if we say something often enough, everyone will believe that what we say is true. Unfortunately the Tories, with their media friends, are better at it than we are. Take the words “debt” and “deficit”. These are bad things., no question. The Tories will get rid. This is our priority. Labour respond. Yes these are bad things. We will get rid. But a bit more slowly if that is ok? There is no questioning of the narrative.

And in order to get rid of the deficit?- let’s cut welfare benefits. Cutting benefits is a good thing isn’t it? Scroungers expecting us to subsidise their high living standards?

Instead of challenging that narrative we get…yes we agree but perhaps we could be alittle less savage?

And when was the last time you heard a broadcast media person question this narrative?

I’ve not heard any one in the broadcast media say, ” Would you agree that the majority of the welfare benefit goes to subsidising private landlords and corporate low pay?”

Much of my twitter timeline is full of shouty, preachy tweets to like minded people. This will not change the narrative. We need to 1) challenge the broadcast media to question statements that are presented as facts and 2) talk to those decent minded people who are not “interested in politics” about why it all matters.

A slow process. But if the anti- austerity demo is to mean more than a moment of foklore then we need to build a pragmatic coalition of mutual concern, mutual action and dialogue.

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