Sunday, 19 October 2014

This Weekend ...

... was one of political engagement.

On Friday evening I signed up for a double bill of two of my heroes at Bristol's excellent Festival of Ideas.

First up was Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the British civil liberties advocacy organisation, who spoke about her new book On Liberty. Liberty celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and Shami reflected on the differences, and similarities, of the issues it has faced then and now.  The audience was particularly interested in her views on anti-terrorist legislation and the government's proposal to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Next up was Owen Jones, left wing author and commentator, who spoke about his book The Establishment.  In his opinion the biggest threat to our democracy lies in the power exerted by those at the top (politicians, the media, directors, bankers etc) and he issues a powerful rallying call for them to be challenged.  He ended by quoting the late great Tony Benn who said 'You see there are two flames burning in the human heart all the time.  The flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope you can build a better world.'

Well on Saturday I did my bit.  I travelled up to London to take part in the TUC Britain Needs a Pay Rise march.  I'm a member of Unison and I joined tens of thousands fellow unionists, representing an impressive range of unions, to protest against the deeply damaging effects of our coalition government's austerity programme. According to Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, the avergage worker is £50 a week worse off then in 2007 and 5 million earn less than the living wage, while top directors now earn 175 times more than the average worker.  It's just not fair and we were there to tell them so.

Maybe it was just the beginnings of a cold I glibly thought would pass, or maybe it was the 14 hour round trip with all that marching/dancing to the samba band and standing listening to the speeches, but today's been a washout.  I've spent half the day in bed and the other half on the sofa.  I hope I'm not too old for this demonstrating lark because I fear there'll be need for more of before we're done with building a better world to live in.

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