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More silly protests

28 September 2009 by superlative

There was another anti-government protest in Brighton at the weekend, apparently attended by Sloth from The Goonies (see picture – courtesy of the Argus).

As if the Labour Party Conference weren’t disruptive enough for the citizens of Brighton, we also have to put up with vague and pointless protests cluttering up our streets.
Fortunately, this one seemed rather smaller than the Smash EDO idiocy, and by the time I ventured down to the seafront to take a look it appeared to consist of a man standing on a plinth and some bored-looking policemen. I was pleased to see that there were also stacks and stacks of unused placards on Madeira Drive, where they’d clearly not had as many people turn up as they’d been hoping for.
As with the previous protest, it was the diffuse and varied aims of this one that really made it pointless for me. Some people seemed upset about bankers’ bonuses; some didn’t want cuts in public services; some thought Vestas should be nationalised (er, bit late); some were anti-war; and some were just generally anti-anything because they think protesting is cool. The problem with that, I feel though, is that the protest doesn’t end up achieving anything, because no one is really sure why they’re there.
This one was particularly pointless because I’m sure it caused no disruption at all to the Labour Party delegates, who were safely tucked up inside the windowless Brighton Centre and probably couldn’t hear or see any of what was going on.
I also don’t really get some of the arguments that the protesters make. Some of their placards said “Fight for the right to work”, which I found odd. There isn’t an unlimited supply of jobs out there, and I don’t think the Human Rights Convention says we all have a right to a job which the government must provide and pay for.
The ‘no cuts in public services’ ones also seemed misguided. There is a huge deficit in the public finances which has to be repaired. Regardless of how it got there (I’ll come to that in a minute), it has to be remedied. The country doesn’t have secret stacks of cash it’s keeping squirrelled away – the only way to cut the deficit is to make cuts in spending, or raise taxes. They seem to think that just ‘taxing the rich’ more is going to sort it out, but it’s not realistic. Why do they think that all the major parties have acknowledged the need for cuts? Even Labour says so now, after trying to dodge the word cuts for ages. Efficiency savings won’t be enough, there need to be actual cuts, and we will all feel the effects. But the alternative is a much longer and more painful recession or depression – you can’t just ignore the problem and expect the economy to sort itself out.
There was quite a bit of talk about bankers’ bonuses too, and apportioning of blame on the banking sector for our financial woes. While I agree it was the bursting of the credit bubble and overly-risky investing by the banks that dragged the economy down, outlawing bankers bonuses is a purely populist measure that won’t actually fix the state we’re in. Yes the banks behaved badly – but the problem was that they were allowed to do so. We should be talking now about much tighter financial regulation and imposed margins on the banks’ balance sheets, to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Complaining about bonuses doesn’t address the real issue at all.
And yes it’s annoying that some of the people who caused this are still getting big bonuses. Fine. The banks shouldn’t be giving those people financial rewards, if they’ve even still got their jobs. But the issue isn’t an across-the-board one for all banks, and the backlash against the financial world will only discourage the bright and talented people we need to repair the damage from joining the sector. The same as with the social workers/Baby P thing: now no one wants to be a social worker, so there are no good social workers out there fixing a flawed system.
Anyway, I’ve digressed a little. The protest was pointless, and to me it achieved nothing except some venting of anger and to confirm for me that lots of people really don’t understand economics, politics, or how the country works in general.

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