I'd thought my demo days, like my festival-going days, were well and truly over. But by the time Brother J got in touch last week to ask whether I was planning to join in, I'd already made up my mind to go on Saturday's big demonstration against the coalition's cuts.
(c) Oxzen Pics
The day pretty much lived up to expectations. There was a good turnout, with people coming from an amazing variety of organisations, and from places far and wide. From what I could see the demo was a completely peaceful and yet powerful statement about the opposition to the cuts. There was a tremendous variety of banners and placards, both mass-produced and individually hand-crafted.
It was only afterwards that we discovered there had been a few incidents of so-called anarchists smashing windows and defacing property with spray paint. Also, UK-Uncut disrupted a few business premises with occupations and sit-ins.
So does anything now change? As ever, politics is about power and who has access to it. It's not about having a reasoned debate and arriving at "the truth", which must then be noted and acted upon. We all have our own versions of the truth. The coalition certainly has theirs, which they're able to broadcast incessantly through their easy access to the mass media. Working people can only shout loudly, or march on the streets.
As for the Labour Party's version of the truth about our economic and political situation - it hasn't shifted much from the New Labour orthodoxy. There's a sort-of acknowledgement that the financial meltdown happened on their watch, and that they were somehow complicit in the crash - owing to their continuation of broadly Thatcherite and Friedmanite economics, with light-touch (ie hardly any) regulation of the City and the banks, and hardly any radical attempt to deal with growing inequality and poverty.
As to what needs to happen now - what credibility do any of our current politicians really have? On the one hand we have the Bullingdon Club, the Etonites and the millionnaires, aided and abetted by Clegg & chums (who admit that there are no substantial political differences between them and the Tories). On the other hand we have the young, Oxbridge-educated, professional politicians who now run the Labour Party and were part of the New Labour gang, even if they don't call themselves that any more.
Ed Milibean - nice, clever, posh boy with zero charisma and zero leadership ability. Ed takes the rap for being so stupid as to appoint Alan Wotsit as Shadow Chancellor - a man with no grasp of economics whatsoever, and who thankfully did a bunk as soon as he could. So Ed then rightly replaces him with the appalling (but economically savvy) Ed Balls, but stupidly replaces Balls with the even more appalling Douglas Alexander - a tosspot of the very first order. Meanwhile we hear nothing whatsoever from Mrs Balls - I can't remember her real name (Yvonne something? Cooper?) - about the great world issues, including Libya and the rest of the Arab world.
These people are basically clever prats, who have failed to differentiate themselves sufficiently from the Tories and Libdems, and failed to associate themselves with the very people the Labour Party was created to support. Power-seeking missiles, born to manuever their way to positions of influence and power in the People's Party, but not to rock the boat, or to promote or create any radical change. They're not even proper social democrats, let alone socialists. They have neither the gifts nor the intention to change the terms of the political debate and cause people to think differently about politics, social justice and social policy. They're political pygmies, and are hard, if not impossible, to support and vote for, even if you're a lifelong Labour supporter.
So who should we vote for? Ideally a new political party, a new political movement, which comes into being as a true party of the Left in Britain. A party that is led by people of conviction who can make the case for social justice, greater equality and decent public services; a party that will argue for a fair tax system and the eradication of poverty; a party that will rebalance the economy and properly regulate the banks and the City; a party that will do all the things that the Labour party was initially set up to do, and can no longer claim with any credibility that it will do, if it ever returns to power.
I don't even care if that party turns out to be non-electable - it's the party I want to vote for. As things stand, the present Labour party is the lesser of the evils on offer, but it's not a party I want to vote for. It's time for politics in this country to move on, and we need a party that's led by people who are untainted by New Labour and is led by people with experience, maturity, gravitas, imagination, wisdom, idealism, conviction and credibility.
If UKIP can appear out of nowhere on the right of the political spectrum, then it must be possible for a new party to do so on the left - providing they have good leadership and a programme that matches reality and matches the expectations of large sections of the population who are sick of what the Labour Party continues to be and to do, or not do.
The only possible alternative (for we anti-Tories) is for masses of people to stop work and peacefully occupy public spaces, withdrawing our consent to be governed by people who have no legitimate mandate for what they're doing to the country - to follow the example of the courageous Egyptians and Tunisians.
We should be clear that there is absolutely no mandate for what this government is doing since Cameron, Clegg and co totally misled the country as to their intentions to introduce and support massive changes to public services that weren't even proposed at the time of the election. Who the hell agreed that the health service should be turned upside down and largely privatised or outsourced? Who agreed that "free schools" could be set up and run by oddballs like Toby Young with handouts of large wads of public money? Who agreed to the closure of libraries and children's centres? Who agreed that bankers could carry on paying themselves massive bonuses, and banks could remain unregulated?
Sadly there will be NO mass demonstrations, NO occupations, NO irresistable demands for fresh elections, NO new government with a real mandate, and almost certainly NO new political parties. This is the pathetic reality of Britain today, in spite of the dire state of the country and the massive political coup that has taken place. The shock doctrine lives on, and most people are too confused and scared, or too damn comfortable and complacent, or too selfish and arrogant, to do anything about it.
Here's my solution for action to raise awareness.
It has to be action taken by "the people" and must not be led by the political parties or the unions. It has to be taken by people from across the awareness spectrum and the political spectrum.
We pick a Saturday in May - or possibly May Day - and call it DO NOTHING day. On that day as many people as possible should do nothing. No work. No rallies. No marches. Stay at home if you wish - but preferably gather in public spaces, hang about, chat to one another, read newspapers or books, and DO NOTHING. People who do nothing on this day will be deemed to be supporting the call for new elections on the grounds that this government has NO MANDATE for their spending cuts and changes to public services.
If the day is successful in getting people to stop work and do nothing, then the following weekend should be designated the DO NOTHING weekend. If it's successful in getting mass support then the following weekend should be designated the NO MANDATE weekend. From that weekend onward as many people as possible should continue to DO NOTHING (apart from hang around peacefully and have fun in public spaces) until the government agrees to call a new election.
The only people who should continue to DO SOMETHING should be people who work in schools, people who run hospitals and services for the elderly, etc. In other words, essential public services. Suitably qualified and experienced people who would otherwise join in with the call to DO NOTHING could volunteer to help those who are keeping the essential services going, thereby making those services even more effective. They could even volunteer to run creches and discussion groups at the DO NOTHING gatherings. Other sorts of creative and worthwhile activities could also be set up at the DO NOTHING gatherings.
It's worth a try.
All photos (c) Oxzen Pics