It was not a perfect day.
On June 20th, I joined an ambiguous but nevertheless large amount of people who marched against austerity from the City to Parliament Square. I wish I didn’t have to. I voted to oust the Tories on May 7th in the only credible way to do so; by voting Labour. The protesters in this crowd, however, probably did not. They were from the SWP, TUSC, the Greens, Communists, Left Unity. It sometimes makes me wonder whether the left, or at the very least leftist puritans, enjoy being in opposition because they enjoy the outrage and opportunities to stage protests. The protest for me wasn’t a fun day out, it was a legitimate grievance of my fears and anxieties of, having grown up under the Tory-led coalition would now spend my early twenties under a Tory majority. I am anxious. Anxious because my future feels utterly bleak. It was not a trendy or fashionable day out, it was an expression of that fear. For some attending it was possibly the same, but I was as angry at the people who had pitted my future on voting TUSC or Left Unity at this protest as I was at the Tories overlooking us from their Whitehall offices.
It wasn’t a fun day out. I didn’t feel solidarity with most of the people there. I felt hurt, even betrayed. But the mere act of protesting, no matter who with, still remains a legitimate outlet for anger. It will not change the future, but it acts as a register for my and thousands of others’ discontent.
I was under no illusions, like I assume some were, that the Tories would listen to us. The very fact of the Tory Party is that it is the opposite of a movement to be influenced from below. On the contrary, I had a sinking feeling that Tory MPs were laughing at us from their Portcullis Offices. It was a gutting feeling, and the day didn’t make me hopeful for the future of an ever more fragmented left, of Labour, of the country.
But I was there for one reason; my mum didn’t know what the word ‘austerity’ meant - despite being on the receiving end of brutish cuts and wage deflation for 5 years, and facing another 5 years more. During the leaders’ debates, Google’s most searched query was ‘what is austerity?’. Too often the left is trapped in a bubble thinking everyone else is in tune with our concerns and aims. But they’re not. Which is why when I saw the media helicopters flying above us my first thought was, ‘I hope my mum is watching the news’. A single march, or any march really, won’t change anything, but if it pricks a few ears, if it raises the awareness or attention, if it makes a previously ignorant person search the true implications of these cuts, if it invokes a few Google searches about austerity, then it is a good educative tool if little else.
It may build a false sense of momentum for some on the Left, but that false momentum may be impressive on a TV screen. Those watching at home may realise that there is something there they too should be angry about. That this Tory victory is not an emphatic one. That political participation and expression of opposition does not end after an election. That there are people who refuse to be mowed over without retort or rebellion, no matter how futile that rebellion may be. We were simply there, registering a rarity to be caught on screen; Britons getting angry.
Ultimately, if there is an opportunity to show up the Tories and broadcast it, count me in.
I may have just been one spec from the cameras on that helicopter, but I was contributing to that top bulletin BBC News story nevertheless. And as it turns out, my mum watched the news that day and was inquisitive enough to ask about austerity. I was more than happy to tell her, and happier still to have went to the march.
Jade Azim, Young Fabian member and Anticipations Deputy Blog Editor