Thursday 25 June 2015

Different Perceptions of Austerity - a tale of two marches

It is interesting that two people can look at the same picture and see radically different things. Our perceptions are not static, our backgrounds are diverse and morally we are grounded in different soils.

I went on a demonstration in Swansea against Austerity/Public Sector Cuts recently. [June 13th] In torrential rain 7 hundred people walked to Castle Square. Although everyone was against "the cuts" there was little agreement in regard of what exactly to do about them, or possible realistic solutions.

We are one of the richest countries in the world on paper, but also one of the most indebted. Much of the picture is distorted both by politics and fantastical interpretations of economics. Yes, much money is wasted on ridiculous vanity projects and plain basic mistakes in budgeting and procurement. When times were good we were reckless and although the circumstances have changed, our attitude to spending hasn't (on the national scale, at least.)

The National UK Government, Welsh Government, Health Serice and Local Governments have clearly failed somewhere in basic financial management. The mistakes seem to be generally unrecognised, but what may have started as simple mistakes have become much more toxic. Those mistakes have been covered up and repeated. The public rightly suspect that we are not addressing the problems, both economically and in management. The financial crisis is no excuse to not become efficient. The problem is that the "cuts culture" is now so ingrained that the term "efficiency savings" actually has become a euphemism for cuts, not a way of avoiding them.

A week later [June 20th] we were on a much larger march in London on the same theme. Thankfully, very little rain compared to the downpour in Swansea. A quarter of a million people walking through the city of London to Parliament Square. Unfortunately the square wasn't big enough to take the numbers and I along with many others had to make do with a big screen and a terrible sound system to hear the end of march speeches.

Again, no-one liked what was going on in the country but still a serious lack of consensus on what to do about it. A variety of speakers said how bad things are and/or will worsen under the Tories and how we had to stand together and show our rage at the unjust situation. If we shouted loud enough the Conservative government might rethink thier policies, presumably. Could the Labour party do anything about it? Could some sort of popular uprising be the answer? Again, no consensus, only the desperate insistence that we must do something.

I honestly cannot blame the protesters for this, you understand. Our education system does not exactly train people for government restructuring. What is frustrating is that all that energy and passion and need should go to waste. Our political system is so remote and unresponsive to the people that I despair. A UK government is elected for 5 years and there is no way to change their opinions or even to effectively influence your own local representatives on the issues that arise.

In a system such as this, electing a new figurehead or even an entirely new party will not be enough. They are a part of the system themselves, and though Labour or the Lib Dems may well be the lesser of several evils, I would gently suggest that we deserve better than that. The thing we must change is how we are governed, not just by whom.

Siân Caiach,

1 comment:

  1. A very relevant post. Government spending, at all levels, is frightening. For example, it costs £30m to build 1 mile of motorway in the UK. It costs £15m per mile for a dual carriageway and £10m per mile for a normal 2-lane road. HS2 has already cost around £350m without a yard of track being laid. When numbers like this are routinely used it becomes almost impossible to put them into perspective and they become normalized. Nobody is screaming out "HOW MUCH??" and Government waste goes on while day to day maintenance and (to reference Saint David) the "little things" don't get taken care of. But these "little things" are what really matter to ordinary people.


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