Yesterday 50,000 people marched through central London carrying a peaceful but powerful message to the doors of the Houses of Parliament. Poppy and I were among them.
We were there with tens of thousands of other people in the shadow of this iconic building and listened as campaigners gave compelling speeches about this Government’s driving ideology and the impact of their savage austerity. My tics might’ve meant I was shouting ‘No cats’ instead of ‘No cuts’ but my heart and my head are fully behind the anti-austerity message.
The demonstration was organised by The People’s Assembly, a grass-roots movement that provides a national forum for anti-austerity views. Founded just a year ago it’s grown fast, demonstrating the widespread opposition to the current measures.
These measures are destroying lives and communities. They’re presented to us as a necessary bitter pill we have to swallow. They tell us ‘We have to do this or we’ll burden our children with our debt.’ Don’t swallow it. If these measures are about money, it’s about the profits being made by the wealthy few, benefitting from the decisions of their political pals. Evidence of this oozes out from Westminster. For example:
• The NHS is being privatised by stealth as Tory Health Minister Jane Ellison admitted at a private meeting. She was recorded as saying: “I don’t know how much any of you realise that with the Lansley act we pretty much gave away control of the NHS.” Gave it away to private companies whose motivation will always be to make profits rather than look after the health of the nation.
• Last year our politicians undersold the Post Office, redirecting cash from the public purse to the bank accounts of a few private companies. A recent National Audit Office investigation revealed that a small number of investors made a killing from this privatisation. The shares were sold at about just a third of their real value.
• The gap in wealth between the super rich and everyone else continues to widen. The UK is the sixth largest economy in world, but the richest 1% owns as much as over half of the rest of the population put together. As Oxfam explains on its website, this means that ‘1 in 5 of the UK population live below our official poverty line, meaning that they experience life as a daily struggle.’
This isn’t the legacy I want to hand on to the next generation. I want to pass on
• A strong National Health Service
• Reliable and humane support systems that provide a safety-net for people in need
• A society in which opportunities and life chances are more equal in every respect
When things feel tough it can feel natural to hunker down and look inwards, but now more than ever we need to look out – for each other, for our public services, and for future generations.
Over the last few years, in the face of the relentless cuts, destructive policies, and divisive language, I’ve sometimes felt very powerless. But yesterday I felt the power of people coming together. Fire-fighters, teachers, teenagers, pensioners, health workers, comedians, MPs, and artists, among many, many others. Parliament Square was packed with people assembled to demand change. For the first time in four years I started to feel hopeful.
Please add your voice to this growing movement and campaign for change. Find out more about the People’s Assembly here, listen to the speeches from the rally here and, finally, listen to the alternatives to austerity here.
Tourettes has taught me that if something isn’t working I must work to change it. Millions of us can see this Government isn’t working for us, so we must work together to change it before our public assets and services are stripped bare for the benefit of a tiny few.