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Why we went to Hyde Park

March 16, 2021

Ten years ago, I wrote the following. It was about a rally in Hyde Park to protest the austerity measures the government under David Cameron introduced, ostensibly to manage the economy following the crash of 2008, but in reality to introduce hard-line market economy dogma, to reduce the government’s obligation to look out for us, and to undermine the British institutions that many people hold deal. It was the first protest I’d attended for a long time. It was very pleasant, very personable, fun. There were speeches, but we had the boy in a carry rucksack so we didn’t stay long.

Reading it back, the events of the last ten years have proven far worse than we believed they’d be. We naively believed that there would be some sense of shame, some propriety that would stop the Tories twisting the laws of the land for their own ends, some respect for the norms of civilised society that would see the country right. But no, ten years on, we’re governed by troglodytes, spivs, and right wing trouble-causers, with the press and national broadcaster in the pocket of the Conservatives, (or the other way around). And there’s no end in sight.

I’m writing this about the Policing Bill was voted through. It’s possible that anyone attending a similar rally from when he Policing Bill enters the statute books, could go to jail for ten years. Ten years for damaging a statue. Ten years for trespass. Ten years for protesting noisily. This is arguably the nastiest law pushed through Parliament by unarguably the nastiest people.

We went to Hyde Park the week before last to register our displeasure with the current Government. While most of the people I know are angry about the policies enacted by the coalition, I have seen the odd comment from people I respect on Twitter expressing the belief that the protests are somehow pathetic, or that we’re hiding from the truth of the financial situation. So here are my reasons why I was there and why I think the Government is wrong:

  • These cuts are being made for ideological reasons. This Conservative administration believes in Market Forces and Big Business, and are rearranging the nation to reflect this. Yet these changes are being delivered under the guise of emergency austerity measures. This is wrong. I don’t doubt the financial situation needs addressing, but this Government wasn’t voted in with a mandate to make changes as drastic as they are making. This is a coalition government – the side that limped over the line first allied with the team that finished third. Neither party swept to power armed with the collective will of the people – in the case of the latter, I can very seriously imagine many of the voters who backed them would have deliberately voted Labour rather than let the Tories in. The former would not have received half the votes they did if this discussion had taken place, if their dogma had been laid out before the public. The latter spoke explicitly about not making changes such as these. I dread to think the irreparable damage done to the NHS, Schools, Libraries, the Arts before we next get chance to vote on their performance. All we can do is protest, and hope our voices are heard.

  • I’m a liberal centrist. Small ‘l’. In a democracy, how can you not be. I know Capitalism has to be accomodated. I have no problem with people or companies making money. But I also believe in governance, in regulation of people and companies to ensure they have a regard for the common good. Without regulation, we are left to trust that market forces alone will guide a company to do the right thing. I don’t believe for one second that in the case of big business, that will happen. Maybe the odd time, but not enough to build a society on. Not when decisions are made thousands of miles away from where they will have the most impact. And if companies can’t be relied upon to make sound, socially responsible decisions, how can they be expected to support the Arts, Libraries, social services and all the rest of the infrastructure that a civilised society needs?

  • The changes the Government are pushing through are vast. To push through vast change requires great skill, wisdom and experience. Cameron and Osbourne are going into this with no managerial experience to either of their names. Neither has built a business. Both inherited wealth. I have no problem with that as such, except they are now at the wheel of the country and are determined to take it off-road, with a map they sketched for themselves in the Conservative Research Department. To illustrate how mad this is, it’s like putting a kid from the mail room in charge of a multinational. It’s like putting one of the ballboys in charge of the England football team. You can’t run a country using just theory – the Cold War showed us how far blind dogma got the world. It needs practical experience, which these two lack.

  • I really don’t mind that this pair are from privileged backgrounds as such but the changes they are pushing through are going to profoundly impact the lives of the general public. We are not all in it together – these cuts will not affect all people equally. For most people, there is no get-out clause, no place to retreat to if it all gets a bit much.

  • These services have taken 60 years to become the world class resource they are. I’m not blind to the faults of the NHS, the BBC, the school system, the library system etc, but it drives me nuts when people are clearly oblivious to the massive, massive benefit the country gets from having these institutions as part of our national infrastructure. I am genuinely scared that the Government is going to make irreparable damage to these organisations in the name of austerity to serve their dogma. They are too important to us.

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