The attendance of over 200 people at our Budget Day Rally, which brought together several anti-austerity groups in York, was overwhelming. The attendees ranged from teenagers from the Youth Fight for Jobs movement, to young families with children, to union representatives, to pensioners. Few sectors of society are lucky enough to remain untouched by the new wave of cuts, and the election of a Tory majority this year has turned dissatisfaction into a real drive to enact the change this country needs.
The rally heard from Nikos, a locally-based Syriza member, He encouraged us by speaking of the overwhelming success Greece had experienced only days earlier in rejecting austerity and the hope this could give to movements across Europe.
George Osbourne’s emergency budget presented something of a nightmarish 5-year vision for so many in the United Kingdom. Reductions in working tax credits, the decimation of some disability benefits, and a devastating blow to Britain’s youth in the form of sweeping benefits cuts to 18-21 year olds, all serve to highlight the Conservative Party’s determination to reinforce what is, sadly, this country’s status quo. Unless something is done, the poor and the vulnerable will become even more disenfranchised in order that those with a vested interest in preserving their position of power and wealth may continue to sit at the top of the socioeconomic pile. Our rally was intended to highlight the unjustness of this inequality and question the demonization of the young and the financially unstable which has become endemic throughout David Cameron’s rule.
The rally was structured as an open mic session for people to offer their own perspective on the implications of the budget. Anne Lloyd, from the York Feminist Network, shared how the budget will affect women: the fact that 90% of tax credits are paid to women, tax credits which are to reduce dramatically and leave many of the poorest even poorer, shows the disproportionate way Osbourne’s budget will affect the genders. Several older members of the People’s Assembly expressed the view that the current government was even more divisive and unjust than that of Thatcher.
The ideology-driven budget of austerity delivered this month throws into stark relief the way the Conservative government is, in the words of one member of our rally, “giving help with one hand while pulling the carpet from under people’s feet with the other”. The increase in minimum wage, touted as a positive move in redressing the inequality of wealth in modern society, does not come close to balancing out the deficit families will experience with the loss of tax credits. The young are being abandoned, with the stripping away of housing benefit and complete removal of university grants. Our rally was a great success, peaceful, insightful, and well-attended, and we hope that such events will encourage people to question the validity of Britain’s obsession with an austerity-driven economy which does not work.