Tomorrow I am travelling to Hoylake near Liverpool to join a group called Walking the Breadline in their final four days of marching to Manchester. Walking the Breadline have already been marching for a week, having started in Tredegar on 23rd September.
For more information about the group, please visit their Facebook page.
So why am I marching? I am marching to hopefully join tens of thousands of people who are demonstrating at the Tory Conference against the austerity measures implemented by this government.
Speaking for myself, I no longer believe in the austerity rhetoric. Since the financial crisis in 2008 we have been told how we all have to tighten our belts and how we are all in it together.
Yet it’s the weakest and most vulnerable members of society who are most squeezed to make up for this obscure deficit, of which nobody seems to be quite able to explain what exactly it is. Not the richest people who have the means to pay without suffering much hardship nor the bankers who caused the crisis in the first place, but those who have very little to begin with.
How can I take austerity measures seriously when we are told it is inevitable that we have to reduce benefits, penalise people for having extra bedrooms (despite no alternative housing being available), cut tax credits, freeze public sector pay and slash essential health and public services; yet somehow there is enough money to bail out bankers, go to war, fund nuclear weapons which – God help us – we will never use, and give MPs a payrise of 11%?
The media and tabloids are keen to present to us obscure ‘scroungers’ who are apparently showered with public money, rake in the benefits and are given mansions to live in. I am not saying these people don’t exist, but statistics show us that they are a tiny, tiny minority and that the vast majority of benefits recipients are working families on such low wages that they cannot make ends meet.
At a time when homelessness and Foodbank use is increasing at alarming rate, somehow our government (and the media who serve it) manage to scapegoat the weakest and most vulnerable. Somehow they try to convince us that people only use Foodbanks because it’s an easy option, that immigrants cause the housing crisis and health care crisis, that people on benefits are just too lazy to work, etc, etc.
Child poverty is ‘eradicated’ by changing the definition of the term. A reduction in unemployment is being flaunted without mentioning that a great proportion of those new jobs are on zero hour contracts, which provide nobody with a secure income.
Yet the media don’t mention the tax avoiders and evaders, the rich with offshore accounts, the corporations who manage their companies from abroad without having to contribute to the infrastructure which enables their company to function and the health/public service which keep their workers well and safe.
In the last 7 years since the financial crisis the rich in this country have only become richer and poor only poorer. That sounds neither right nor fair. And it certainly doesn't sound like austerity is working!
I no longer naively believe that those in political power necessarily have our best interest at heart. I think it is time to ask questions, challenge and hold those in power accountable.
I think it is come to leave the comfort of our sitting rooms and meet and organise with like-minded people.
If – as I used to – you think that you are not political, DON’T!
Politics is about people and about making society work. If you live in any community and have any opinion on how it should be run, then you ARE political and you have a voice.
The welfare state is at the very core of a caring and compassionate society. It’s a system which aims to meet the needs of the people without asking who they are, whether they are deserving or whether they have paid into the system enough to have ‘earned’ getting some back.
I believe austerity is about convincing us that the welfare state is outdated, inefficient and unaffordable. It is not!
Austerity measures are uncaring and heartless, even brutal.
If you are interested in becoming politically active, consider joining a political party or local pressure group.
The People’s Assembly may be a starting point. It’s a non-party-political gathering of people from different political parties and none. There are local groups up and down the country.
If you want to support the Walking the Breadline march which solely depends on the generosity and hospitality of ordinary people to feed and house the marchers, please donate your pennies here: https://www.gofundme.com/cc3g88dx
Will marching and demonstrating make a difference?
It does in the sense that it helps me realise that I am not the only one and that there are many, many people out there who feel the same.
But it is hard to be heard. I steel fence is going up around the Tory Conference centre as we speak, so it will be impossible to get anywhere near the venue.
It will be difficult to get the mainstream media to report on any anti-austerity demonstrations, or if they do it is likely to be biased against it.
So you can help by spreading the message, on social media and beyond. We ARE all in it together.
Sorry about the rant.
I think I’m ready to march now …