One month down, 59 to go. That month went quite quickly, right? I mean, the Queen’s Speech set the tone for a miserable five years, but we’re closer than ever to the next election. Only 1789 days left, probably.
It’s not enough to simply wish the time away: 59 months of thumb-twiddling effectively allows the government to implement any policy they like, unchallenged. Now, as much as we ever have, we need passion, not passivity. We need to demonstrate, not procrastinate; to analyse and organise.
The election result was surprising, far more emphatic than any analyst had predicted, and it can't be disputed. That was democracy in action, and in spite of my issues with the electoral system, the result was clear. But a Tory majority? Even at my most pessimistic I wasn’t prepared for this. I suppose the thing that I really struggle to comprehend is that people voted for this, in such numbers, that it was achieved. As a consequence, the next five years are going to be very, very difficult, and deeply unpleasant. We can expect a gradual erosion of public services, increased privatisation in the NHS, tax breaks for the most wealthy, and massive cuts to welfare that will affect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Think the past five years were bad? We ain't seen nothing yet.
The politics of fear triumphed, a compassionate alternative was rejected by enough of the electorate. It's upsetting: I fear for the NHS, the Welfare State, workers’ rights, and Tory policies fill me with dread and anger. But we have to turn this anger into something good. The 2015 election only hardened my resolve to be part of positive action at every turn, it has galvanised me into fighting for the things I believe in. This isn't me rejecting the will of the people but demonstrating my strength of feeling. Also, let’s not forget the size of the vote for anti-austerity parties, and Labour, who weren’t quite so unequivocal. In spite of incredibly difficult circumstances, we have cause for optimism.
Why am I so optimistic? It’s simple: arithmetically, the election result was far from conclusive. The nature of our voting system and the make-up of the UK press makes it feels falsely emphatic. Because of our flawed electoral system, it’s possible for the Tories to hold a majority in parliament in spite of only achieving 36.9% of the vote. As the ‘politics of fear triumphed’ then the vote was against rather than for anything. So do the Tories have a popular mandate for the measures they may seek to implement? No. Look at the percentages of the vote in the Electoral Reform Society’s General Election Report, look at the numbers of people joining Labour and the Green Party since the election (around 42,550 and 5000 respectively). As the electorate becomes aware of the Tories’ measures, there need to be alternatives and means through which our concerns can be expressed.
We need to challenge this Tory government wherever we can: confront their policies, their rhetoric, their ideology. We can't sit back and let these things happen, we need to actively contest them all the way. Attend rallies with your friends, go on marches, demonstrate what you believe in. And if no one is organising these, then start something on a local level. Currently I’m in contact with The People’s Assembly about starting a Falmouth group. It’s so important we add our voices, particularly in our current “sea of blue.”
As well as this demonstration, we need to provide a measured critique of the social and economic impact of these policies, which makes sense to the uncommitted and unconverted. This is why analysing and breaking down these policies is so important, the subsequent organisation is what makes the analysis tangible and provides a means of collective expression.
No matter what you do, show your support at every turn for what you believe in. I can’t attend the National Demonstration in London on Saturday 20th June, but we live in the information age, a digital, connected world. During the election, this was a problem, I built a liberal bubble through Twitter and Facebook. I had surrounded myself with voices I wanted to hear, it's very easy to curate a social media feed according to your tastes and political leanings. We had all become comfortable in this bubble, and assumed it was reflective of wider society. It wasn't.
But now all of these voices should give us real hope: so many like-minded people are out there, and now we need to organise and make our voices heard. In this digital, connected age, simultaneous protest and demonstration can and should happen regardless of where you are. If you can’t be in London on the 20th, now is the time to organise locally and be united with demonstrations across the country, using social media to show your support. Just so you know, the hashtags are #EndAusterityNow and #JuneDemo. This has to reach beyond our ‘liberal bubble,’ and physical demonstration is so powerful as a concrete representation of broad demographic reach.
I don’t like the idea of passive protest, for me, it’s a contradiction in terms. Someone told me that not voting was a protest, it isn’t; spoiling your ballot is a protest. Being there in person triumphs every time, and if you can be at the People’s Assembly National Demonstration in London on 20th June, then go, for goodness sake go. But if there is no way you can be there, do something on a local level: participate, protest as actively as you can, and add your voice to those demonstrating in London. Much better that than sitting in silence. There’s often an assumption that silence represents tacit approval or agreement: let’s be as loud as we possibly can be.
These local demonstrations are so important, allowing physical leafleting and potential involvement of people outside of our networks. A lot of this organisation is already in place, and The People’s Assembly have the network and contacts to link in with existing groups like trade unions and pressure groups.
The next five years do not have to be defined by this government. We can define them by how we react to this government. Let's maintain this engagement with politics, keep a close eye on everything that is happening, and never lose hope. This parliament will feel like one long election campaign, a battle every single week. I'm going to be very active in this fight, both locally and nationally, I hope you will be too.
Article Written For The People's Assembly by Ciaran Clarke