The Thick of It

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Marching on together

I marched on Saturday for the first time in my life. I doubt anything will change, the Tories will hold their nerve and carry on cutting regardless. What Saturday did show was a great resolve and commitment to show that the country doesn't support what is happening.

Living standards are falling substantially. Taxes are going up, which will hit the poorest hardest. The government is putting thousands of people onto the dole. That won't help as taxpayers then become a burden on the state. It is clear that the burden of paying for the deficit to be reduced won't be borne by those with the "broadest shoulders". How can it be when VAT is up and the top rate of income tax will be cut?

I got the feeling that large numbers of the people marching on Saturday, like myself, were not natural protesters. There was a fantastic family atmosphere on the main march with lots of fancy dress and music. That belied the serious issues behind the march but showed that it was nothing like the previous student protests.

What now? There'll be more of the same from the Tories while Nick Clegg will continue to make himself unpopular. In an interview with the Financial Times today he says that a Liberal Democrat budget would have been "very close" to last week's. This hot on the tails of Clegg being caught on microphone saying that there is little for his party and their Tory chums to disagree on.

Labour needs to take advantage of the swell of support for an alternative to the government agenda. According to a YouGov survey the public backs the TUC and the march, with 52% in favour and 31% against. That shows a country divided but one in which the majority is against what is happening. The biggest question is whether this translates to election results in May. It probably will and the government will brush it off as mid-term blues and say they expected the result.

For the march and the elections to mean anything they have to be the start of consistent knock-backs for the government. If that happens their confidence might suffer and the next general election would be much more interesting. Protest was the easy part. The hardest part is keeping public confidence for an alternative and winning that support in the long term.

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