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Why haven’t there been riots about endless austerity? That may be about to happen

Communists storm the Acropolis in protest at austerity measuresOne of the most remarkable facts about the British public’s attitude to prolonged austerity is the lack of the kind of open revolt which has been seen in so many other countries. In Greece it has led to the dramatic rise of Syriza under the dynamic leadership of the radical Tsipras who now has a poll rating ahead of all the other parties, including the government. In Spain the resistance led by originally the indignados has crystallised into a new party named Podemos which was formed only 10 months ago, but now is equally challenging the government. In Italy the prime minister Renzi has achieved the highest rating for his Democratic Party (39%), but second is the party of the comedian Beppe Grillo in the mid-20s%, well ahead of Berlusconi’s Forza Italian on 15%. So where is the equivalent in the UK?

UKIP hardly counts as a serious alternative to government, though both the SNP in Scotland and the Greens in England could be seen as in the initial stages of a challenge to the main parties, significantly both from the Left like Die Linke in Germany. The dramatic rise of almost all these movements have been sparked by deep public resistance to austerity. So why not in the UK? It may be about to happen.

The recent Populus poll found that the readiness among British voters to accept more austerity is evaporating. Most don’t believe that more austerity and cuts will be needed in the next 5 years after the 2015 election which would present quite a headache for the Tories if they win the election, given Osborne’s declared determination to impose another £25bn cuts after 2015. Voters have apparently been bemused by Cameron’s recent assertion that the worst was now over and most of the cuts had already been made, a claim wildly at variance from reality when Osbornian austerity has hardly reduced the deficit at all and it’s still not only set at around £100bn for this year but actually rising, not falling at all.

The survey found that most voters believe any remaining deficit reduction can be achieved by an efficient government cutting waste, without any serious impact on ordinary people – again sharply contradicted by the reality that the easiest cuts have already been made, so that any future cuts will be much harder and more problematic. Yet 28% of those polled said further cuts would not be needed at all. Significantly also very large majorities favoured a crackdown which would not directly affect themselves – on tax avoidance, bankers’ bonuses, a mansion tax, and excess profits on utility groups. When and if they find out that the contrary is heavily to the fore, we can expect that the dam behind which the resistance is mounting will finally collapse.


  1. Jeffery Davies says:

    Dont worry boris foretold this day remember he bought ten water cannons ready for this day jeff3

  2. John reid says:

    I don’t think if there is rioting it’ll be in London and there were 2 water cannons

    1. jeffrey davies says:

      not quite correct
      Boris Johnson to buy three water cannon for Metropolitan police

      London mayor justifies the speed of the £218,000 purchase by saying the machines are needed in case of disorder this summer

      • What’s it like to be hit by a water cannon?

      1. John P reid says:

        What’s it like being hit by a water cannon, I imagine it’s cold and wet

  3. the analysis is sound, but the political conclusion does not follow. Unless there is a conscious and well organized alternative, the result will be apathy. The Obama government offered no alternative in the US, the democrat vote suffered and the Republicans had their biggest victory in the Congressional elections in decades.

    Labour and Left Unity will not offer the alternative needed, still less the People’s Assembly. What has to happen is an alternative strategy that can be used to put pressure on politicians. The deepest problem faced in the UK is the lack of any serious alternative economic policy and political machine to campaign for it. That has to be built, and is the priority for 2015. Talking about it won’t make it happen. Focussed activity has to replace hit and hope.

    trevor fisher.

  4. Barry Ewart says:

    There is a tiny party ‘Left Unity’ but Labour at present is where perhaps most working people/the working class are and most significantly it is where most of the trade unions are (who are probably the most genuine voice of working people in the UK). Of course blaming the World gives Cameron the argument that the British people need more of the austerity medicine. But of course it was never going to be the rich and powerful/Tories who were going to pay, it was working people! One of the first things the Tories did was to cut corporation tax for their big business friends, then they cut taxes on private landlords with multiple properties (private landlords now get £9b from the housing benefit budget) , then of course we had tax cuts for millionaires and of course perhaps most callously they changed the local government settlement formula. This used to be calculated (under Labour) on the size of population and need which most people would agree is fair but the Tories (with Lib Dem support) now calculate this on population size only; so whilst we have had hundreds of millions of council cuts in the North etc. down South and the South East (predominantly Tory Councils) have had few if any cuts and some have actually gained more! Labour just needs to become Progressive Labour and more radical and we shouldn’t feel downhearted – Wolfgang Streeck in the brilliant New Left Review argues the rich and powerful haven’t a clue what to do about the global financial crisis and quantitative easing has only put this off for a few years. I would also argue that Neo-Liberalism has painted itself into a corner with its incessant drive for cheap labour which has restricted the ability of working people to purchase commodities and of course for the Right substantial pay rises are out of the question as this would upset their friends the bosses. Perhaps the solution to the global financial crisis is staring us in the face – you do it by addressing global need. But capitalism’s/Neo-Liberalism strength is it is international and sadly we are not. So perhaps we need to have democratic socialist parties in every country in the World pursuing similar aims such as a Global Living Wage etc. One final plea as well as abolishing the vile bedroom tax can we also say we will compensate all those who have suffered under it!

  5. Barry Ewart says:

    Just an afterthought on Michael’s question. Perhaps the rich and powerful and their Tory cronies (with the aid of the media) are bloody good propaganda plus at divide and rule – setting neighbour against neighbour re welfare, setting a significant number of the settled population against newcomers, the private sector workers against public sector workers etc. etc. And we are crap at countering all this – I read in The Guardian on Friday that the Tories have received £50m from Hedge Funds since the last election (and with Lib Dem support) in April gave Hedge Funds £145m of tax cuts! I enthusiastically shared this information as widely as I could with others on the Left (and publicly) but instead of some on the Left using this, they chose to prefer to attack Labour! I wonder at times if some on the left are too busy self-actualising (feeling good about themselves) rather than trying to unite diverse working people FOR REAL CHANGE! Tony Benn once said the Left needs a teacher, he was wrong, WE NEED TO BE FACILITATORS. Yours in hope!

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