I’ll be joining thousands (hopefully hundreds of thousands) of people marching through Central London and on nto Hyde Park for the TUC demo. I won’t be doing this because I think that Cameron and his sidekick George Osborne will suddenly realise the error of their ways, and remove the chokehold of austerity from an economy they have done their best to throttle to death. I don’t even believe, as some do, that a large turnout tomorrow will show the government the extent of the opposition to their plans, and cause them to think again before going further. I hope I’m proved wrong, but I imagine tomorrow’s march will be written off by the Tories both in public and in private as a left-wing march by Labour, people who help fund Labour and people to the left of Labour.
I don’t believe tomorrow’s march will directly or indirectly bring about the end of destructive austerity. I believe the best way to stop austerity is to bring jobs and growth to the economy, under a Labour government. So I don’t march thinking that I’ll be bringing about an alternative by doing so.
No, tomorrow, we march for us. We march to remind those of us who are fighting tough and often lonely campaigns – both nationally and in our local areas – against this government and their proxies, that we are not alone. That there are others standing alongside is in our struggle. This is a march as much about solidarity as anything else.
The march is also important to show millions of people who aren’t at the march and the demonstration itself that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are fighting for a different kind of country, and a different kind of future. One in which the crises of unemployment (especially youth unemployment), housing, social care and others – all exaccerbated by the austerity government – are tackled, rather than allowed to grow.
For Ed Miliband, this march is about the crisis of politics. He’s never been shy about attending events with (and/or organised by) trade unions, which is to his credit. He’s happy to take his shiny new (for Labour) One Nation message out onto the streets of London, as he is to take it to business leaders, or people in Cardiff, Bristol – or the coalfields of County Durham. It’s not playing by the conventional rules of politics – that say an opposition leader attending demonstrations like tomorrow’s are making a tactical error – but it’s honest, true to himself, and even a little bit brave. Fair play to him.
So that’s why we march. In solidarity with others who are struggling, and those who struggle against this government. It won’t change anything – not directly – but it’s important, nonetheless – for morale. Being in opposition is awful. Demonstrations, petitions and parliamentary tactics are the weapons of attack, whilst the government has offices of state, government departments and a legislative agenda. As I march tomorrow, I’ll spend most of my time wishing we weren’t so impotent that this is all we can do. Counting down the days until 2015, when we get a chance to realy do something about the state of the country.
But I’ll be glad to have others alongside me for are also fighting for their own version of a better future. Because although there will be many differences on tomorrow’s march about what that future – that alternative – should look like, most of them will look far better than the one being offered by this government.