People's Assembly demonstration People's Assembly demonstration. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

The upcoming People’s Assembly protests are a crucial opportunity to remind the Tories about the crisis at home, writes Sean Ledwith

On 5 March, People’s Assembly groups across the UK will be staging demonstrations to highlight the huge social and economic problems confronting millions over the next few months and years. Boris Johnson and the Tories are hoping that the war in Ukraine which has dominated the news for the last week will continue to deflect attention away from the looming crisis at home.

Johnson is also hoping we all forget about his appalling management of the Covid catastrophe. The upcoming protests are a crucial opportunity to remind them that the labour movement will not allow that to happen. These are just two reasons to make sure the protests have a big impact - here are some more:

1Six million households are facing a cruel heat-or-eat dilemma as a consequence of a massive hike in their energy bills. The big energy firms are removing the cap on tariffs which will trigger an increase of £700 for many, taking their annual bills up to about £2000. This was announced before the war in Ukraine which exacerbate this situation even further.

2A report by National Energy Action last year indicated four million households are already caught in the insidious heat-or-eat scenario as a result of a previous rise in the energy cap. That rise in October pushed an additional 500 000 households over the edge.  With 28 million households in the UK this would mean one fifth would be in fuel poverty

3The CPI rate of inflation is already running at 5.4% and is expected to rise to 7.4% by April. This is pushing up the cost of groceries and filling up at the pumps for millions already feeling the squeeze

4Last month Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey had the gall to tell us to accept lower wages in order to keep down inflationary pressures. Bailey is promoting the establishment myth that wages are a key driver of prices and is unlikely to suffer himself even if they do.

5Also in April the Tories are pushing ahead with the hike in national insurance and the freezing of income tax thresholds. Some estimates indicate this will leave the average household £600 worse off

6At the same time most English local authorities will increase council tax. For people in the average D band property that will mean a nearly £60 p.a. increase. Mortgages will also go up in line with recent Bank of England interest rate rises.

7Rents are rising according to HomeLet Index figures at an inflation-busting rate of 8.6 %. The average monthly rent in the UK is now £1060

8Transport costs are rising with not only higher petrol and diesel prices at the pumps but also rail fares going up this month by nearly 4%

9On the plus side! – Johnson’s polling is in freefall as a consequence of the lockdown parties debacle. He is especially unpopular in the Red Wall marginals won from Labour in 2019 according to YouGov polling in January. The Tories used to regard him as an electoral asset but those days are surely over.

10There is a rising tide of resistance from workers not prepared to roll over without a fight in the face of these and other attacks from a tone deaf elite.  Everyone should be inspired by the likes of Hastings and Rother bin workers who secured a pay rise between 11%-19% after an overwhelming vote for strike action.

Find your nearest protest here.

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Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters