Front banner on the Britain is Broken: General Election Now demonstration, 12 January 2019. Photo: Jim Aindow Front banner on the Britain is Broken: General Election Now demonstration, 12 January 2019. Photo: Jim Aindow

Thousands of people marched through London wearing yellow vests and demanding a General Election, reports Shabbir Lakha

On Saturday, thousands of anti-austerity protesters marched through London calling for a general election and for the removal of the Tory government. For the last few months, business in Parliament and coverage in the media has been focussed almost solely on Brexit. The Tories have practically thrown their manifesto in the bin while they’ve spent two years doing nothing but deliberating – and consistently failing – over Brexit. Meanwhile, the majority of the people of the country are facing the brunt of austerity.

With an NHS in severe crisis, homeless people dying on the streets and disabled people forced into horrendous situations because of benefit sanctions and universal credit to name just a few of the injustices the Tories are responsible, protesters marched to say enough is enough.

In France, the Yellow Vest movement sprung up in response to a regressive fuel tax but has developed into a sustained mass movement that is taking on austerity, inequality and neoliberalism, and shows no sign of stopping until Macron is forced out. They have already won a number of victories – things which were not on the political agenda before they took to the streets. In a similar vein, the People’s Assembly demonstration will have played a role in putting the prospect of a general election squarely on the table. And it will serve as a vehicle for the anger of people around the country as this failing Tory government falls deeper into crisis in the coming weeks and months.

There was a clear show of solidarity with the working class in France as protesters joined in with chants of “Macron Demission” as well as calling for Theresa May to go. And the Gilets Jaunes brought over their solidarity with two representatives of their movement, Erick Simon and Laurie Martin, addressing the rally in Trafalgar Square and showing their support.

Other speakers included John McDonnell who stressed the importance of people mobilising for a general election. Laura Pidcock MP, Owen Jones and representatives of Unite the Union and a number of organisations across the labour movement addressed the rally.

A small group of fascists attempted to attack the rally and encircle Owen Jones, and one fascist threw a bottle at a steward which resulted in him needing several stitches.

However, the several thousand at the demonstration showed clearly that the yellow vests in Britain is a progressive, anti-austerity and anti-racist movement, and is not represented by a handful of far right thugs.

The People’s Assembly has called for regional and local protests the following weekend in a bid to keep the movement on the streets, mobilise people locally in a similar way to the movement in France and to pile on the pressure on the government. One thing is clear: when Parliament is paralysed, what happens on the streets can have a significant impact on the political agenda, and as the failing Tories flounder, we have the ability to bring them down.

Photo: Jim Aindow
Photo: Jim Aindow
Photo: Jim Aindow
Photo: Jim Aindow
Photo: Jim Aindow
Photo: Jim Aindow
Photo: Jim Aindow
Photo: Jim Aindow

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.