It’s so heartening to see so many people here. I’m not going to take up much of your time. But I do want to talk to two specific groups today. The first is those economists, academics, journalists, lawyers, public figures, celebrities, artists, who consider themselves progressive.
We need to stop genre defining our politics, and harking back to old ideologies, and start talking about the future of government, the future of democracy, our children’s future; how we can be innovative in our thinking, how we can captivate the attention of the disengaged demographics, and how we can re-engage those at the most disaffected desperate fringes of society who were convinced to vote for a new-age fascist party by “Chicken Licken” trickery from an ale-swilling, pinstripe, Enoch Powell.
One of the main reasons so many young people are turning towards the agendas of consumerist capitalism, is that its advocates have embraced the language of positivity even whilst championing the most radical deconstruction of society. David Cameron’s neoliberal vernacular is aspirational, it rewards entrepreneurship, there’s a romanticism about it. When I was a kid that romance was always a lefty thing. This model of capitalism is built on aspiration and driven by innovation.
But my God, is it destructive. On the flip side of laissez-faire economics is the big lie, that this country needs tough management, harsh decision making, austerity. What this country needs is economic stimulation, most economists around the world would say the same. We need to get the blood pumping, and that cannot be achieved by stringing tourniquets around the limbs of social welfare.
If a mother cannot afford to feed both her children does she choose one to feed and leave the other to starve? Of course she doesn’t. She will go without until those children are able to feed themselves. That is civilised, and moral. The fact remains that whilst those whose lives depend on the benefits they receive, those less fortunate people, that the Daily Mail would call scroungers, whilst they have their welfare severed, the government will sell off it’s stake, our stake in Royal Bank of Scotland at a scandalous rate so that their buddies in big business can turn over millions in profit from it within a matter of hours. They will sell off our schools and our hospitals. And once it’s done it will be very difficult to reverse.
One aspect of this that really gets under my skin is that it’s all wrapped up in a proud-to-be-British package. I’m proud to be British because of our National Health Service, the welfare system, and David Bowie, not cos of the Union Jack! Nationalism has worked wonders for the Scots because it’s galvanised them against the Westminster elite. But rarely does pure nationalism have a positive effect, and more often than not it serves to veil racism. I’m not saying don’t be proud, I’m saying be proud for the right reasons.
We need to win back these young minds and save ourselves from decades of Yuppie rule. And the way we do that is with fresh ideas, positive messages, new theories, engaging art, and more public figures sticking their heads above the parapet.
The second group I want to talk to today – is those who will be effected by austerity; austerity, that Cameron says should be a “permanent” aspect of British economics. Every single person in the country will be effected by austerity. Public services are needed by everybody. We all contribute, whether we can monetarily or not. Because contribution is not solely a fiscal matter, it is cultural, community based, academic, it is friendship, it is love.
If you are a disabled person, unable to work, whose benefits are in danger of being cut, don’t you dare think that you don’t contribute.You’re existence brightens the lives of other people every single day, and that is worth so much more than the ability to pay tax.
If you feel ashamed that you have to use a food bank because this government would rather see you starve than put a note in your pocket, walk tall, you have the moral high ground. There is only one way to fight the onslaught of crusading austerity, and that is to come together in unity.
I want to urge everyone: go out into your communities and meet your neighbours. Find out what they think and try to see things from their point of view. If you can afford to offer help to those in society who need it, just do it. Don’t unfriend all those on Facebook who post things that you disagree with; challenge them, engage them in debate, but kindly and with reason on your side. You never know, you might just change someone’s opinion. And more than anything we need to keep on pressuring the establishment into hearing our voice. Today has been fantastic but it is only the beginning.
Ultimately the government’s endgame isn’t cutbacks to pay off debt. What they want to do is completely restructure our economy, shrivelling the public sector and selling our democracy to private companies, in the form of TTIP, academies, G4S controlled prisons. It is an ideological plan that is irreversible.
Let us remember that the NHS was born at a time when the national debt to GDP ratio was significantly larger than what it is now. Let’s show the government that we are not afraid of national debt and we will not allow our public services to be attacked. Because everybody needs them, whether you are black, asian, white, homosexual , bisexual, transgender, questioning, disabled, able-bodied, autistic, well-educated, a drop-out, muslim, sikh, hindu, christian, jewish, buddhist, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, an immigrant, a small business owner, a single mother, a single father, a childless couple, a child without parents, a nuclear family, a police officer, a politician, a journalist, a C.E.O, unemployed, a teacher, a nurse, a brain surgeon, a student, a convict, a pensioner, an under-18, whether you claim benefits, whether you pay taxes, we all need a strong public sector.
And if we keep on keeping on they will not be able to ignore us. We will not be silenced.
Pictures by Mark Thomas