Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, as the old adage goes. Clearly the assorted Left have been brushing up on their Mark Twain, if Saturday’s anti-austerity protest in London and its ensuing publicity are anything to go by.
First, there is the utterly ridiculous exaggeration of attendance: 250,000 is the figure that has been bandied around social media and endorsed by prominent lefties from Jeremy Corbyn to ‘Prosecco Socialist’ Charlotte Church (more on her later). To give that number some sort of perspective, that would imply that just shy of three times the maximum attendance of Wembley stadium managed to cram into Parliament Square and its surrounding streets - a claim that not only defies belief, but also the laws of physics. 250,000 is - coincidentally I’m sure - the estimated attendance of Martin Luther King’s march on Washington in August 1963. Oh how Saturday’s organisers, the insidious People’s Assembly, could have spun such a figure. Such a shame the actual number was probably nearer 25,000 (a far cry even from the predicted turnout of 70,000), if that: discount the loonies, anarchists and ne’er do wells, and the number of attendees starts to resemble that of a third-tier football match.
Speaking of credibility (or lack thereof), every successful national cause relies on two key facets: a fact-based message germane to the national psyche, and notable supporters in the public eye to lend some gravitas when articulating that message to the masses. This is why the aftermath of Ferguson has begun to drive change within American law enforcement. The facts undeniably spoke to an underlying racism within a collection of police departments, and the shocking figures regarding the deaths of black suspects during the arrest process or whilst in custody galvanised the nation into taking a stand. ‘No more,’ they said, and found themselves echoed in the thoughts and words of prominent figures across the entire celebrity spectrum.
This is where the anti-austerity movement starts to lose momentum. Russell Brand is no Chris Rock; Owen Jones no Lena Dunham; and Charlotte Church is certainly no Rihanna. However, despite the lack of superstardom on show, the real issue here is the specific characters involved. The problem of Owen Jones and his delusional fanbase has already been tackled by this website, and it was no surprise to see the likes of him and fellow socialist bores Jeremy Corbyn and Dianne Abbott milking the limelight; standing on their metaphorical soapboxes in the irony-seeped ‘VIP Area’ and pushing their specious claims about austerity. The real surprise was that the organisers couldn’t muster up anyone better than Brand and Church to spout ‘hip’ versions of the same ill-informed nonsense.
Brand, of course, no longer seems to be able to discern his posterior from his elbow (if he ever could). His latest bizarre claim is that he feels guilty for Labour’s loss, as he is certain that his pre-Miliband-endorsement rantings about ‘revolutions’ and ‘refusing to vote’ led whole swathes of the electorate to avoid the polling stations in May. Hubris doesn’t even begin to describe it, and at this stage I’m not entirely sure why anyone would want to let him within 5 miles of a microphone, yet there he was, blathering away in his chafing faux-Dickensian dialect.
It is Church, however, who really provides some delicious irony. Clutching at the straws of her waning stardom, she has thrown her abrasive personality into the anti-austerity cause with vigour - just ask the tweeter on whom she wished penile avulsion for merely daring to disagree with her. She has become the darling of the anti-austerity movers and shakers, especially after she had the decency to declare that she would happily pay tax at a 70% rate in order to protect public services (there’s nothing stopping her, by the way). It must be ever so awkward for Church, and those who invited her to spew that drivel on Saturday, that her actual taxation preferences have come to light - she is a listed director of no less than five companies registered to an accounting firm specialising in tax reduction and deferral. Whatever must Jeremy, Russell, Diane and the gang think! On the bright side, she’s managed to secure a Glastonbury spot - in some sort of ‘debate.’ Oh how the mighty (voiced) have fallen.
At this juncture, those opposed to austerity measures might be tempted to dismiss the aforementioned endorsement issues, claiming that it’s all about the message and that austerity is terrible and must be stopped at all costs. Therein lies the problem. Austerity is not terrible - it is necessary. We all wish for our own personal utopias filled with endless money and all the trappings of whatever lifestyle we fantasise about, but that’s not how the world works. Bad decisions were made, an economic meltdown occurred, and this government inherited near-crippling amounts of debt. Cuts had to be made - it’s that simple - and the British public haven’t even fared particularly badly by global comparison. Complain about an annual reduction of benefits from £26k to £23k in a bar in Athens and you’ll get laughed out of the joint, and while you’re there it might be worth asking the Greeks how a far-Left anti-austerity government is working out for them. You’ll find them queuing at the empty cashpoints, lamenting the impending financial ruin of their nation.
The crucial issue with the anti-austerity movement is its reliance on supposition over substance. Behind all of the ‘witty’ placards demonising the Tories, and the flashy slogans denouncing the ‘evils’ of austerity, lies an argument bereft of factual evidence. Of course there are individual tales of those who have had their benefits slashed unfairly, or their care reduced, but whenever you dig down to the level of individual cases there will always be that sort of anecdotal evidence, no matter the political situation - it’s an unfortunate byproduct of the imperfections of democracy. The fact is that, when stripped of the personal woes and clamouring hyperbole, the anti-austerity case is an insipid one. Buzzfeed, in typical fashion, listed ten stories that their reporters garnered from protesters on Saturday. These tales summed up the problem: vague complaints of how measures have ‘hit hard,’ with a complete lack of quantifiable evidence to support those claims.
Over the weekend the more indolent lefties of Twitter have, time and time again, gone back to the ‘Tories and austerity are evil’ line, in some cases going so far as to claim that government policies are literally causing the deaths of tens of thousands of British citizens. The language used by these ‘activists’ - apparently Tories want to ‘punish’ the poor and ‘kill’ the disabled - is not only disgusting and moronic, but also completely unsubstantiated, no matter how the facts are spun. The factual evidence required to support the anti-austerity movement just simply does not exist, and its supporters need to get back in touch with reality.
As for the Tories being ‘evil’, I beg to differ: if we were to scrap the anti-austerity measures we would only be passing on an immeasurably worse national debt to our children, and that, to me, seems far more evil than having to grit our teeth and make some personal sacrifices to fix our country.