We are the minus 99%, Britain is Broken demo, Jan 12, 2019. Photo: Jim Aindow We are the minus 99%, Britain is Broken demo, Jan 12, 2019. Photo: Jim Aindow

The Britain is Broken campaign is striking hard at the heart of austerity, writes Kevin Vickers

Following a successful London launch in November, local People’s Assembly groups have been planning and organising “Britain is Broken: We Can’t Afford the Tories” events as part of a Nationwide speaking tour. 

The tour will highlight the core domestic politics themes of health, homes, jobs and education that have been too often obscured by mainstream media programming skewed in favour of the big Brexit debate. In this is an implicit acceptance that, ultimately, in or out of the EU, people are resigned to falling living standards as the system trundles on in an eventual race to the bottom. It doesn’t have to be this way.

For the past 5 years The People’s Assembly has played a major role in organising anti-austerity rallies, demonstrations, public meetings and political events all over the country. These gave activists hope and renewed political urgency. They also gave a prominent and visible platform to anti-austerity activists and politicians, including Jeremy Corbyn. Focussed on bringing people together on the issues that most directly affect working people, the People’s Assembly has mobilised hundreds of thousands on the streets and in communities, against austerity and the Tories, and in defence of our NHS. In doing so we have collectively changed the dominant discourse both in parliament and in society more broadly. Whereas austerity was once a word David Cameron could use to cover his tracks, austerity is now widely understood for what it is: a transfer of wealth from working people to the wealthy. But the deep divisions over Brexit have taken such a prominent position in political debate that there is a risk we lose sight of how we got here.

That’s why the Britain is Broken tour is so important. For a left-led government to succeed it will need a reinvigorated anti-austerity movement at every level in society. Local groups must be encouraged and empowered to stand together and challenge the cuts that are happening in their schools, NHS and local authorities. The issue of inadequate housing and homelessness, coupled with rising rents, food prices and stagnant wages, affects almost everyone. Furthermore, local campaigns and People’s Assembly groups have had a big impact. In Milton Keynes, until recently the poster boy for homelessness in the UK, the People’s Assembly organised public meetings and protests, demanding the council take action. 

As a result Milton Keynes council implemented a “Housing First” policy and many homeless people, including some who had been on the streets for years, have now been housed. Crucially, though, the activity has led to Labour councillors joining, and instigating, demonstrations for the first time over issues like workers’ rights at Amazon and in opposition the far right. The significance of this ripple effect is hard to overstate. Similar organisation is happening in local groups all over the country. It’s this that we now need to strengthen further, forging links between activists, trade unions, community groups and elected officials. We need to build resilient networks. 

Strong social movements and political action led by local people can and do effect change. They give a voice to the voiceless and embolden politicians. “The Britain is Broken: We Can’t Afford the Tories” tour will inject a fresh sense of purpose into the movement and provide much needed focus on critical issues. 

Tour locations so far:

Manchester, Bristol, Pembrokeshire. Northampton, Milton Keynes, Suffolk, Burton, Brighton.

Bring the tour to where you are: 

Contact The People’s Assembly at [email protected].uk or 020 8525 6988