It was billed as the “Rally Against Debt”. It was supposed to be a response to the TUC sponsored March for the Alternative at the end of March. The rally was organized by UKIP, the Libertarian Party UK, The Freedom Association and the Taxpayers Alliance – the usual suspects. Out of morbid curiousity, I decided to go along. The RAD’s Facebook event page had 1,908 intending to go. I suspect the numbers will be much, much lower. To get an idea of what sort of numbers I might realistically expect, I checked the LibertarianUK forums. The numbers are small. Some of them make excuses for why they can’t go. This one is the most pathetic.
Re: Rally Against debt
Postby Agalloch » Thu May 12, 2011 9:29 am
I wanted to… but I really can’t afford it, sorry. Car is no problem, but I’d rather not drive to london, and Train means Hoter to be honest.
The commitment is underwhelming. Those who took part in the massive TUC March for the Alternative had coaches organised well in advance. These people appear to travel individually in their own cars.
Before I set off, I check the BBC News Channel. Matthew Sinclair from the Taxpayers Alliance is repeating the line about “saddling our kids with debt”. It’s intended to appeal to our parental instincts but if these people were really so concerned about our kids, they would do more to protect the environment and spend more time thinking about society and less about themselves.
The reports that I get before I arrive at Westminster tell me that the turnout is low. As I arrive at Old Palace Yard, I can easily see that there aren’t many people. They’re corralled behind a set of pedestrian barriers and there is only a handful of police. It’s an odd location for a rally and two things come to mind: first, no anti-cuts protest would be allowed this close to the Houses of Parliament and second, the RAD is only expecting small numbers. But the numbers tell us something: there is no appetite for cuts and those who advocate “faster, deeper” cuts are in a tiny minority. For all the libertarian rhetoric, these ‘protesters’ actually support the state in what’s it’s doing in terms of deficit reduction. Therefore this isn’t a protest, it’s a rally to urge the government to cut more.
There aren’t many counter-demonstrators here save for this pair of ‘anarchists’ corralled behind some barriers. The thought had crossed my mind that this could be a RAD stunt.
Most of the placards are facing the towards the focal point, which is the statue of George V, where there is a speaker, whom I cannot see or hear, addressing the crowd. The sound is terrible and seasoned protesters understand how to use public address systems. The organizers have signally failed to grasp this important point. I decide to take a seat on some steps of an adjacent building. A pair of right libertarians sit next to me and have a smoke. I can tell they’re right libertarians: their shoes and their corduroy trousers betray them. On the far side of the rally I can see a placard that reads “Ban Union Pilgrims”. Don’t ask. It looks like some kind of in-joke. In fact, there is an absence of real humour to any of the placards.
I move away from the steps and make way into the corral and stand at the rear of the rally. A bloke in an Atlanta Braves baseball cap sees that I’m wearing a similar cap and says “Snap”! I say “Hey, the Atlanta Braves” and leave it at that. I don’t want to engage these people in conversation. I’m not in the mood for it. I catch a glimpse of James Delingpole through a small gap in the crowd. I think he’s just finished speaking. I see some more placards. “Ban Unions” says one. Another says “Cut Foreign Aid”. By far the weirdest is “Cut the Debt. Read Ayn Rand”. I don’t get it. Is it supposed to be a joke?
I walk around the right flank of the crowd and see BBC London’s Paraig O’Brien who’s looking for a place to shoot a report. He tells me that he’s going to be “moving back and forth long this pavement”. I tell him “Help yourself, mate”. Like I care what he does.
It’s about 1230 and the rally looks like it’s finished. These people have no staying power. Am I surprised? Quite frankly, no.
I circulate as best I can, looking for any familiar faces. I think I can see the blogger who calls himself “Old Holborn”. He’s wearing a Guy Fawkes costume. His beergut is struggling to escape through his obscenely tight top. Guy Fawkes, eh? How ironic. To my left, I can see that Nigel Farage is about to leave. He stops to chat to what looks like a UKIP supporter.
Before I can say anything to Farage he slides off in the direction of Parliament Square. I overhear a couple of people talk about picketing the Fabian Conference. Good luck. If you people can’t organize a rally, what makes you think you can picket a meeting?
It’s just after 1pm, I leave and make my way to Victoria Street to get a coffee and find somewhere to use the loo. As I’m walking away from the rally, I think of how haphazardly it was organized. The words “piss up” and “brewery” spring to mind and these people run the country? No wonder things are the way they are. They even forgot that today is the day of the FA Cup Final but something tells me that this isn’t a crowd that likes their football. The Guardian informs us that there were 350 at the rally. I have to say it didn’t look like that to me. It looked more like a mere 150. But even if there were 350 at the rally, it’s only a small fraction of people who support the cuts or want them to go deeper.
This was really a small gathering of like-minded souls that are united by a sense of imagined injustice. Above all, they hate public services or, for that matter, anything to do with communities. If they really want to live in a country without public services, they can always go and live in Somalia.
Sinclair claimed that they were a “quiet majority”. On the basis of these numbers, I’d say he was talking out of his arse.