Parts of London came to a standstill today as the large scale “End Austerity Now” demonstration wound its way through the city. The demonstration shut down traffic in central London at 12pm, with bus services also suspended for the duration of the march. Organized by the People’s Assembly against Austerity – an umbrella group comprised of unions, church groups, charities, organizations etc – the demonstration is estimated to have drawn between 70,000 – 250,000 protesters. The disparate nature of these groups demonstrates not only the organizational savvy of the People’s Assemby, but also the society-wide discontent over the UK’s austerity program.
The Conservative government of David Cameron has long advocated an austerity-centric approach; an approach that has proven to be controversial. Unlike many other nations, the UK under David Cameron has opted not to follow a quantitative easing program of increased government spending to boost the economy. The Conservatives have chosen instead to focus on cutting government spending in order to counter current account deficits.
Many of these cuts have fallen on the UK’s various welfare programs, causing widespread societal discontent. The recent British election was seen by many as a referendum on austerity, yet to the surprise of many observers, the Conservatives achieved a majority government. This in turn means that the UK is not due for an election for another five years, and that anti-austerity advocates have lost out on changing the direction of the country through electoral means for the time being.