Demonstrations Do Work?
Walking tours in London have always been popular. There's a Jack the Ripper walking tour, a London Icons walking tour and even a Harry Potter one. But this Saturday will see another walk grab the headlines.
The walk is nearly three miles in length, starts on the Embankment and takes in Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, wanders up Whitehall, traipses through Trafalgar Square, rambles along Regent Street and parades along Piccadilly, before, finally crossing Hyde Park Corner into Hyde Park. And best of all it's completely free and absolutely everybody is welcome to come along. But British Prime Minister David Cameron will not be attending, opposition leader Ed Miliband will attend.
It's actually a march and rally called for and organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and supported by the National Union of Students (NUS), pressure group False Economy, The Daily Mirror newspaper and others. They've named the demonstration “A Future That Works” and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets, with coaches bringing demonstrators from all over the country. Two other marches will take place in Belfast and Glasgow - 'One Nation' indeed, Mr Miliband.
This demonstration is yet another taking place during the coalition's period in government so far, and there will be another in November organised by the NUS, which is aimed at austerity measures that the TUC claim are not working and are affecting people unfairly and disproportionately.
The TUC (and others) are calling for an alternative to these punishing austerity measures and a rethink of policy and legislation, especially relating to banks and big business. This week's announcement that Starbucks hasn't paid a penny in tax in the last three years and only £8.6million in fourteen years, has provided an unexpected boost to the organisers of this demonstration. Though I'm sure the TUC are unhappy about the lack of tax paid by Starbucks, despite the boost it has given their demonstration.
So what's the lesson for British Muslims, then?
You could argue that despite a large number of demonstrators attending the anti-war march in 2003, Iraq was still invaded. But if demonstrators this Saturday believed what most of us apathetic British Muslims believed, they'd have all stayed at home and done nothing, and the coalition would be confident enough to push through even tougher austerity measures.
It's quite clear, really. Even if the demonstrations have little effect on policy (such as with the Iraq invasion), at least those in power know how we feel and what we want, and they will cave in or compromise eventually. Take a look at the polls to see Labour's lead over of the Conservatives, an indication that the mood of the nation is not in tune with the austerity measures enacted by the coalition. Demonstrations may also have an effect on shaping the policies of politicians in opposition, and unless you make your voice heard, how can these politicians then pose a challenge to the status quo? Change can only be effected through consistent pressure, demonstrations, letters to politicians and the media and raising awareness are all examples of political participation, with the aim of empowerment.
Whatever the view on demonstrations, the worst option is to do nothing. Politicians can't ignore voters forever. Unless the voters stay home and do nothing.