Britain to launch day of action against austerity

A People's Assembly demonstration against the UK government's spending cuts
(Originally published by Equal Times)
Translations: Spanish | French

A national day of action to protest against austerity will take place across the UK tomorrow, ahead of a large demonstration outside the Bank of England next month.

The People’s Assembly, a coalition of trade unions, progressive groups and political parties is supporting organisations to arrange protests, public meetings and direct action in cities throughout the country, including London, Newcastle and Manchester.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, which supports the People’s Assembly, told Equal Times that opposing the government’s cuts was of vital importance at a time of hardship for ordinary workers:

“After the last five years the British public has seen at first hand the effects of austerity – cuts in wages, cuts to essential services and debt-ridden families struggling to pay their bills.

“The People’s Assembly will send George Osborne a clear and unequivocal message – British workers have no stomach for austerity. It will damage jobs and wages and runs the risk of derailing the fragile economic recovery.”

Since 2010, the UK government has cut public spending by around £35 billion. The ruling Conservative party - who won the elections earlier this month - plan to cut a further £55 billion by 2019 but critics have warned this will affect essential public services such as healthcare and children’s services.

Penny Hicks, Convenor of the Manchester People’s Assembly told Equal Times their protests will focus on opposing the government’s privatisation of the NHS.

“We’re partnering with the student ‘Save Our NHS” group to assemble outside Manchester Royal Infirmary. There’ll be music, speeches and an inclusive protest to say ‘we love the NHS and we don’t want you to destroy it any further.’

“As part of austerity thinking the NHS keeps coming under huge pressure. The government has promised to invest an extra £8 billion however all the experts say that a lot more than this is needed.”

Since its official launch in 2013, the People’s Assembly has held regular demonstrations and events in an attempt to challenge the government’s austerity narrative and give a voice to those who oppose the cuts.

“The reason that Britain has such a massive debt is because of the banking crisis and the mismanagement of the financial economy. The way of paying for this has been to cut back public spending meaning the most vulnerable in society have been giving the most towards paying back this debt,” says Hicks.

“The critical thing about the People’s Assembly is it’s not a party political organisation. It brings together every interested group, union and campaign to make our voice known against the government.

On June 20 the Assembly will host a large protest outside the Bank of England which they hope will be attended by hundreds of thousands of protestors. Over 60,000 people have already signed up to the event on Facebook.

The Assembly’s anti-austerity message is supported by a number of leading economists, including Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, who has been highly critical of the government’s fiscal policies.

Last month, in the lead up to the general election, Krugman authored a long piece in the Guardian in which he accused the government of fooling the British people into thinking austerity was necessary.  

All of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push has been discredited…It is rare, in the history of economic thought, for debates to get resolved this decisively,” he wrote. “The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed, to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. Hardly anyone, that is, except the coalition that still rules Britain – and most of the British media.”