Will 2016 become ‘The Summer of Discontent’?
In the UK, the Panama Papers revelations have led to continued calls for David Cameron to resign. The Papers have resulted in a wave of protest from a broad coalition of left-leaning groups. Has the ‘tide turned’ against the Conservative government?
These demonstrations have been mirrored in the US by a growing series of ‘Democracy Spring’ protests. So, is 2016 destined to become ‘The Summer of Discontent’?
Last week, thousands of protestors gathered outside Parliament Square, No. 10 Downing Street and the Tory’s Spring Party Conference. The demonstrations this week saw even bigger anti-government protests, organised by the People’s Assembly and involving a range of high-profile speakers, including Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.
The demonstrations last week saw many protesters donning Panama hats in reference to the recent Panama Papers revelations and their ties to the Cameron family. Tropical music booming from more than one ghetto blaster only added to the carnival atmosphere.
Centre-stage at the protest outside No.10 was a pig-shaped piñata featuring the face of David Cameron. After being pummelled, the piñata eventually burst open, showering the cheering crowd with a stream of fake bank notes.
Raucous chants of ‘“David Cameron must resign, tax evasion is a crime” and “Cameron out!” echoed around the squares of Westminster.
The good-natured protest however, masked a deep resentment towards Cameron and the Tory government on a range of issues. Foremost amongst these is on-going tax evasion by much of the country’s wealthiest companies and individuals. Many of those protesting believe that the Tories are ‘soft’ on tax-evasion and avoidance from ‘the 1%ers’, while at the same time unfairly targeting the country’s most vulnerable people, through continued cuts to the nation’s social care services.
One protester shouted, “Cameron said, ‘We’re all in this together’. You must be fucking joking Piggy!”, much to the amusement of those within earshot.
There was a sense from many there that ‘enough was enough’ and that democracy needed to take to the streets.
The heavy police presence signalled an apparent nervousness on behalf of the authorities.
From No. 10, the crowd paraded to Grand Connaught Rooms in Holborn, where the Conservative Party were holding their Spring Party Annual Conference. The protesters’ fairly light-hearted goal was to enter the conference rooms and place the Prime Minister under citizen’s arrest. Realisation from the Police seemed to come late and they scrambled to block the Connaught Room’s main entrance before protesters arrived in big numbers.
On a day which had already seen a liberal amount of street theatre, perhaps the most bizarre was the appearance of a Conservative Party van in the midst of the protest. Strangely, the van’s arrival was apparently unrelated either to the demonstrations or the nearby Tory Conference. What followed was a sustained three-way tussle between the protesters, the driver and Police as many struggled to prevent the van’s departure.
After around half an hour, the Tory van eventually found a path through the surging crowd and the protest gradually disbanded.
It appears that the Tory government is intent on maintaining its Austerity policies. At the same time, the opposition has apparently been energised and emboldened by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn to Opposition Leadership and more recently by those infamous Government plans to cut social welfare of £12bn & the Panama Papers revelations.
It seems that we’re far from seeing the last of these demonstrations. Only time will tell if 2016 sees the coming of ‘The Summer of Discontent’.