Ethan Shone 12th January 2019
Thousands are set to demonstrate across the country today calling on the government to hold a general election.
Protesters have organised under the banner of “Britain is Broken” and organisers cite Brexit chaos and the grinding effect of almost a decade of austerity as the motivation for this march.
The march was called for by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity which has been involved in some of the largest demonstrations in recent years, including the NHS 70th Anniversary march last year, and organisers will hope to see another large turnout in London today, with smaller marches across the UK.
The organisation is supported by a number of trade unions and campaign groups, as well as both the Labour and Green parties.
A number of speakers will address attendees, including journalist and author Owen Jones, Labour MP Laura Pidcock and two Gilets Jaunes organisers who have travelled from France to attend.
Earlier this week, Jones was harassed outside parliament by a group of pro-Brexit protesters who have also taken inspiration from the yellow vest protests and police were criticised for not doing more following a number of similar incidents involving Conservative pro-Remain MP Anna Soubry.
Organisers will hope to emulate the turnout of the Gilets Jaunes movement in France, with their signature yellow vests featuring in much of the imagery surrounding the march and the use of #yellowvestsagainstausterity.
However, following a number of small yellow vest protests by pro-Brexiteers, which have resulted in violence and arrests in recent weeks, any clear association with the yellow vest movement may cause problems. People’s Assembly has called for this to be a peaceful demonstration.
Laura Pidcock MP, who will address crowds at the demonstration, said: “Real change happens from the bottom up and if we are to transform this country, it’s never just about what happens in the Commons Chamber.
“It’s so important that we mobilise a movement against this Government and the destruction they are wreaking day in, day out, in our communities.”
The level of inequality is awful, almost indescribable
The primary demand of protesters is a general election, which Jeremy Corbyn confirmed earlier this week in Wakefield is also the Labour Party’s first priority. In his speech, the Labour leader sought to bring together both Leave and Remain voters around the idea that the most important divide is not between them but between “the many, and the few”.
End to austerity
John is a former-teacher from Doncaster who will travel to London today by coach. He’s among those who think an imminent general election is necessary. He voted Leave but says he “doesn’t want to wage war on Remain voters” and wants the government to prioritise ending austerity over anything else.
“The level of inequality is awful, almost indescribable. Working class people need hope that there’s an end to this Tory government because Britain is broken,” he said.
Though a majority of Labour members support the party’s position, it’s not clear whether there’s majority support for a general election across the country, as evidenced in a small poll released by Sky News, which found that 37% would support a general election, while 45% were opposed.
I’ve got two kids, if I don’t fight for them, who will?”
Emma, a mum-of-two from Hattersley, Greater Manchester, wants an election too. Hattersley was one of the pilot areas for Universal Credit, the government’s controversial flagship welfare reform policy, and Emma has seen firsthand its effects.
“Where I live a lot of people are in debt with rent arrears, or they’ve been made homeless. Universal credit has affected so many people in one way or another,” she said.
“I’m ashamed that this government are allowed to carry on like they do. I work with the homeless, I do community work and I see what goes on — I see what’s wrong, there are not enough services to pick people up and to support them. So I want to fight for the future.”
Emma will travel to London and back today because, as she sees it, she’s obliged to fight against Tory austerity.
“I’ve got two kids, if I don’t fight for them, who will?”
Ethan Shone 12th January 2019