Do I Support the Strikes?

Today in the United Kingdom there is a massive strike of fire fighters, teachers, civil servants and local government staff. I heard on the radio this morning that around 1 million people are on strike. In a country with a population of 64 million, this is a considerably large proportion of the population.

The conservatives would like to place legal restrictions on strike action, requiring at least a 50% yes vote of union members before strike action can be taken. This is a preposterous idea! People don’t always participate in voting, and the numbers are not always what they seem.

In the 2010 general election that brought the coalition to power, voter turnout was at 65.1%. The percentage of votes for the Conservatives was only 36.1%. The people who voted for the Liberal Democrats were vastly not in favour in a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, and therefore, I will not consider Lib Dems votes in this equation. This means that only 23.5% of the registered voters in this country were in favour of the current government. By their own standards, adhering to a rule of action only when 50% of voters agree, they would not be in power right now. Even if the Liberal Democrat voters had been in favour of a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, they would still fail to achieve 50%, with only 38.5% of registered voters having “agreed” to the current government.

Labour – supposedly the party of the working people – is not openly supporting the strike action because of the disruption it will cause. Conservatives, of course, are infuriated that anything should interfere with “business as usual,” since they care far more about business than people. My husband’s union, NASUWT, have decided not to strike, and he is considering changing his affiliation to NUT. My political party, Left Unity, are overwhelming in support of the strikes.

Am I in support of the strikes? No! I support them in their attempt, but I condemn them for not going far enough. What is a one-day strike? Where I’m from, in Pennsylvania, the teachers have an unbelievable amount of power, because when they strike, they do it properly. The walk out – and they stay out – until their conditions are met or an agreement is reached. This means schools are often on strike for weeks at a time.

People often ask me what I like or dislike about the UK. This is one thing I dislike and think the Brits could learn a thing or two from American passion. If you want radical change, you have got to be prepared to do radical things.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

No More Austerity

Photo from No More Austerity march.From the march of 50,000 people against austerity.

Some people are driven by a need for appreciation. Some are driven by money. Not me…. I’m driven by an addiction to new experiences, and on Saturday, I did something that was a first for me: I marched in protest!

My husband, my son and I made our way to London by train and then took the underground from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus. We were running about 15 minutes late, and I was feeling anxious about whether the march had already left and we missed it…. and I hadn’t written down directions; would we find the starting point? As soon as we rose on the escalator from the depths of Oxford Circus Underground Station, I realised how unfounded these worries were. My eyes were instantly pulled toward a No More Austerity sign on the wall of the ticket hall… and then to a TFL employee with a pink mohawk. As we ascended the last steps leading to the street – carrying our pushchair, our home made sign and our child – I could feel the levels of excitement in the air rising in tandem.

On the journey, we had been painfully hungry and hoping we would have time to grab something to eat, but we completely forgot about our hunger as we drew closer to the assembled protesters and deeper into the electrifying hive of activity. We obtained a sign that read “Gove Out” and more leaflets than we knew what to do with.

Photo from No More Austerity march. Sign reads "tax the corporate moguls" with pictures of the starbucks, google and amazon logos.

We weren’t there with any particular group, but we filed in near the NUT teachers’ union. (My husband is actually a member of the NASUWT teachers’ union, so this seemed close enough). Not that this mattered as our place within the march kept changing, having to occasionally stop to sort out our child. This turned out to be an advantage, because we got to see the wide range of people who were there to protest, and perhaps more impressively, just how far some people had come to march, including considerable representation from Wales. One person in particular caught my eye, having beautifully hand-crafted a banner that shamed our paint-still-wet cardboard made hastily that morning. It was turquoise, white and purple macramé and read “Tax the Rich.”

Photo from No More Austerity march. Beautiful handmade macramé sign reads "Tax the Rich." It's colours are turquoise, purple and white.

The demonstration took us from just outside of BBC studio to the green outside Parliament. Interestingly, BBC didn’t mention a single word about the protest of 50,000 people on their doorstep. ITV mentioned it briefly.

The following day, I began to dive into my pile of pamphlets and political literature. Some of it was just plain bat shit! (Entertaining however). A lot of the literature made excellent points. One such point was made in an A3 booklet from a new political party called Left Unity. It contained several articles written by different members, and the one that really caught my eye was written by Kate Hudson called European Elections: A Rising Left Amid the Far Right Danger. The article explains that although news coverage is extremely focused on the rise of far right political parties such as UKIP, the rise in far left parties has been nearly as great and in some cases greater.

Dreading the rise of the right, I have been throwing my support behind Labour as the best alternative, although they don’t truly represent my opinions and views. Both in America and Britain, the major left wing parties have become – in fact – moderate parties, attempting to pander to both sides. Before the European Elections, I scoured the internet for a party that was on the left and pro-EU. The best I could come up with were the Liberal Democrats. Every other party was either formed on an anti-EU policy or – at best – non-committal to either side of the debate.

I have always been proud to be an unaffiliated, independent voter, open to considering the best candidate for the job regardless of their political affiliation. However, the only thing that remains constant is change, and I now feel I need to openly support the growing wing of politics that I was inaccurately led to believe was shrinking. Yesterday, I had another “first experience.” I joined Left Unity!

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com