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


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.

And so, in response to George Osborne’s Budget, in which he is expected to announce that the 50p top tax rate is to be cut, proclaiming that it has been a failure (while ignoring the widespread accounting irregularities exposed by Channel 4 News last night), and while still maintaining that this is a government that believes in fairness and that still proclaims that “we’re all in this together,” I’ll be outside Downing Street tomorrow to try and hammer home the message — to a public that still appears to be largely comatose — that “Austerity Isn’t Working,” and that we need to wake up and seriously challenge these clowns before they destroy the country completely in the achingly long three years until the next General Election.

Below, with minor amendments, is UK Uncut’s press release for tomorrow’s event, which you can sign up for on the Facebook page:

Whether you’re unemployed or fortunate enough to still be in a job, join UK Uncut’s “Austerity Isn’t Working” Queue outside Downing St at 11am on Wednesday 21st March and help wipe the smirk off of George Osborne’s face.

Tomorrow, as the man in charge of Britain’s sinking economy, George will present his government’s third austerity budget. In it, he will set out a continuation of the cuts that have decimated Britain’s public services and put up to 6.3m people out of work.

George will tell us that “there is no alternative” to his slash-and-burn economics; that austerity is the only route to recovery. But even George can’t have failed to notice one thing — austerity isn’t working.

Whilst George attempts to get us to focus on Britain’s rosy relationship with the ratings agencies, he knows a million 16-24 year olds are out of work. As he bangs on about low borrowing costs, Britain’s female unemployment rate has hit a 25-year high. Austerity may be working for the bond markets and the banks, but it isn’t working for Britain.

This Budget Day, don’t let George get away with it. Whether you’re unemployed or fortunate enough to still be in a job, join UK Uncut’s “Austerity Isn’t Working” Queue outside Downing St at 11am on Wednesday 21st March.

By recreating of one of the most iconic images in British political history, together we can make sure the photos in the papers aren’t of George’s smug face, but of a scene that demonstrates the human cost of the government’s failed austerity policies.

The queue was initially conceived of as consisting of 630 people — one person for every ten thousand Britons seeking full time work — but that number has now been exceeded. However, many of those who said they would be there on Facebook probably won’t turn up, so please continue signing up, and come along!

As UK Uncut’s press release concludes:

On March 21st, be outside Downing St at 11am. Join the queue that will wipe the smirk off of George’s face and demand an economy that bails out people instead of banks. Austerity isn’t just unfair and unnecessary — it isn’t working. Britain’s better off with the alternatives.

See you at Downing St.

Below is a short video of an “Austerity Isn’t Working” poster being put up, guerilla- style, in Brockley, one of London’s most secretly seditious neighbourhoods, and I’d also like to mention that UK Uncut will not be the only protestors outside Downing Street tomorrow morning. Coalition of Resistance is also organising a protest with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and the Stop the War Coalition, with the messages, “Not one more cut to public spending,” “Welfare not Warfare” and “Scrap Trident.” The press release asks, “If you can, come wearing hospital scrubs, nurses uniforms, academic mortarboard and gown, a firefighter’s helmet or any other outfit that represents what this government wants to cut, privatise or scrap! Others will be dressed as bankers and politicians.” There’s also a Facebook page, and the organisers also note, “If you plan to attend wearing an outfit that represents a service being cut or can help on the day please phone Sam on 07872 481769.”

Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington is an 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). Worthington is the author of "The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison"

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