‘End Austerity Now’ protests show how marginalised the fringe left is

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015, JC Servante

Outside of King’s College’s Strand building a crooner had dressed himself in black tie and put on a badly made mask of Iain Duncan Smith, work and pensions secretary in the government for the last five years. Out of a speaker sat next to him a cover of Frank Sinatra’s Mr Success bellowed, albeit with some minor alterations: “Screw the poor, no redress/ That’s why I’m Mr Success!”

It’s a song that captures the mindset of the fringe left that has been bad tampered since the Tories were re-enthroned with their first majority in the Commons for some twenty years. The day after the election a crowd assembled outside of Downing Street, angry that their enemy David Cameron would enjoy a few more years as prime minister, leading to the phrase “Fuck Tory scum” being scrawled on a nearby war memorial.

On Saturday June 20th, with IDS crooning merrily, a similar crowd trooped from the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street past Fleet Street and onto on the lawns of Parliament Square – a neat tour of the homes of finance, journalism, and politics, which have all felt the ire of those marginalised in the current Westminster system.

Standing outside a pub near Mansion House Michael Wright, a Socialist Party member, tried to keep his cigarette alight as he spoke to The Right Dishonourable about that election result. “I think it’s pretty clear there’s a total democratic deficit in this country,” he said, citing the fact the Tories claimed a majority on a mere quarter of registered electorate’s votes.

Why even that many voted for austerity policies is pinned on a number of demons by the fringe left, including the media and Ed Miliband’s Labour party, which was poorly represented among the protestors’ banners despite London mayoral hopeful Diane Abbott turning up to a mini-rally near the start of the march.

“The media don’t report how much hostility there is to austerity,” said Huw, an unaffiliated protestor who had travelled in from Bath. “Labour doesn’t do a very good job of making the argument against austerity,” he said, a policy he dismissed as “junk economics”.

The view that cutting public spending is damaging to growth has been widely expressed since the chancellor George Osborne first started to focus the public’s mind on deficit reduction in the wake of the financial crisis. As the Oxford economic professor Simon Wren-Lewis put it, Labour “spends too much time listening to people in the Westminster bubble and fails to spend time thinking about basic electoral strategy.”

The reason he makes this argument is that public’s support for austerity is hardly unanimous. In March of this year a survey by ComRes found that only a third wanted to maintain or increase spending cuts to close the deficit. The two-thirds that disagreed with this must have comprised many of those who did not vote for the Tories at the election.

Among them was Jean, a worker from a community health trust who came down to protest over disgust at the way cuts have affected the NHS. “I have seen the damage that’s been do to the service and the staff as individuals,” she said. “Services are getting worse, but they think they should run it like a business.”

A number of those that The Right Dishonourable spoke to at the march noted the varying fortunes of this loose band of protest groups over the last few years. The viciousness of some of these groups has already drawn negative publicity, and is not approved of by many at the march. “Privately, I think David Cameron’s a wanker,” one man admitted as the protest readied itself to set off. “But I wouldn’t put that on a banner.”

But other than show there anger at marches like this, it seems there’s little the anti-austerity crowd can do. With a fresh, if slender, mandate the Tories will surely argue that they have earnt their chance to alter the country more to their liking. And with up to five years to keep the momentum of the marches going, it’s going to be a long walk for the fringe left.

Header Image – End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015, by J.C. Servante

9 photos that sum up what the End Austerity Now march meant

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – In Conclusion

Anti-austerity campaigners and assorted leftists gathered on the streets of London last Saturday to protest against the Conservative government elected barely a month ago.

As with many of these marches the turnout was a hodgepodge of various interest groups united only in their disdain for the Tories and objection to public service cuts that the government will impose over the next parliament.

Here is the day in nine photos. (Well, ten if you include the header.)

1. No right-turns please

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – No Right Turn

2. The day’s weirdest float?

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – Hands Up For Education

3. A bit of Marxist theory

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – Austerity is a Bourgeois Construct

4. The, er, feeling is mutual

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – Ipswich Says Fuck No

5. Bit of a balls up

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – Red Unite Balls

6.  “I think I may have made a mistake.”

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – Jewish Leprechaun

7. The placard that shows its working

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – David Cameron Hypocrite

8. One of the more polite banners

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – Fucking Tories Etc

9. Savoy faces unwelcome news

End Austerity Now, 20 June 2015 – Cannot Eat Savoy

Photos by J.C. Servante. Words by Jimmy Nicholls

Ukip’s Douglas Carswell rescued by police amid anti-austerity ‘fascist’ heckles

Queen's Speech Protest, Victoria Street, May 27 2015

What might well have been forgotten as an uneventful protest after the triumphant Conservative Queen’s Speech will now be noted for an unpleasant confrontation outside the steps of New Scotland Yard, a short walk from Parliament.

Supporters of various socialist groups, including the Socialist Workers’ Party and the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, were looping back on themselves after assembling outside Downing Street and marching down Victoria Street. As the march approached the St James’s Park tube station it came across the arch-enemy in the form of Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell, who was waiting for the bus.

Socialist distaste for the Tories on these marches is hardly subtle. Many of the protestors had been happily chanting “Tory scum” as they plodded past Parliament Square.

But this is nothing compared to the fanatical response that can be elicited when Ukip is mentioned. In the eyes of a few whilst the Tories are merely callous, the Kippers are pure evil.

As such whilst Carswell was initially heckled with cries of “racist” and “fascist”, he eventually had to be escorted into a police van, which managed to drive its way through the protestors who scuttled around the front of the car.

Douglas Carswell escape by police van outside New Scotland Yard, May 27 2015

Such a move will provide ample ammunition to those wishing to discredit the anti-austerity movement, which was later addressed by the Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn opposite Downing Street, after much of the march had presumably left for the pub.

Condemning Tory plans to sell off housing associations, Corbyn lamented that his party had been rejected at the ballot box after being “insufficiently clear” about what it was trying to do. Even if this interpretation is generous it has a ring of truth to it as the Left struggles to respond to its battering at the polls.

Header Image – Queen’s Speech Protest on Victoria Street, The Right Dishonourable