Today I did something I haven’t done in absolutely ages. I went on a demo.
Readers of the early days of Reese’s Rants may remember that I went on a lot of demos; between 2011 and 2014 I felt like I was almost permanently on a demo – anti cuts, anti austerity – you name it I was there.
Then something changed. The Tories were elected again last year – democratically by a public who seemed to think that they were doing a good job. I found this baffling and abhorrent but it gave me a massive reality check. It made me think there had to be other ways of doing things. Basically I felt that we had to make people see the world differently before change could happen. Get into their minds and alter their perception of life. Which is basically one of the reasons why I started writing my novel The Flats.
But sometimes it is good to go on a demo. I think demos work when they are targeted towards a specific issue, rather than a vague expression of generic malcontent. Today’s demo was against The Housing Bill, which I think is an evil piece of legislation as it will destroy council housing by removing the right to life time tenancies. Council housing is a wonderful thing but it is under attack in a society where profit is the only real goal – the subject of my novel The Flats.
I am a middle class ponce who has never been a council tenant. I am a property owner and a landlord. I am the enemy in the eyes of people like Class War, who were at the demo. I don’t like Class War as I believe in solidarity – probably why I am a staunch trade unionist as well. However, I although I don’t personally need a council house myself, I know that my city runs on the labour of low income workers and in the absence of a highly developed and affordable transport system, they need to live in London to service this 24 hour city. Could the Nigerian cleaner who gets up at 5am to clean the offices of Goldman Sachs on the minimum wage, do this if she had to travel in from Slough? Could hospital porters on night shifts in UCH work as well if they had to travel in from Luton? Debatable. London needs to house its workers in London and the market does not provide affordable housing. The market provides absurd ‘luxury’ flats, sprouting like toadstools across London. They are bought off plan by foreign investors, though that may change if there is a global economic downturn. We live in a global world where capital can flow out just as fast as it can flow in.
Anyway, back to the demo. I went with my friends Faridah and Alice and bumped into a lot of my Labour party friends. I was also excited to meet a hero of mine – the writer and journalist Paul Mason. He was filming with another friend of mine – strange how we are all connected – and seemed genuinely pleased that I had read his book. No, Paul, the pleasure is all mine – your book Postcapitalism is totally awesome. I also chatted to quite a few other people – the social aspect of demos is not to be underestimated.
Will the demo make a difference? I don’t know. It probably won’t get reported much – demos are not really news these days – but if enough people keep talking the message will get across. I think lobbying the House of Lords is probably key – the Lords threw out Tory plans to abolish tax credits and recently threw a spanner in the works to a proposal to axe disability benefits. A demo in itself is never enough but if it inspires and connects people then it is definitely of value – possibly why demonstrations are banned in totalitarian countries.
A demo is symbolic of the possibility of change.