It’s been a week since George Osborne personally plunged a knife into the heart of a starving puppy (I don’t read the Guardian, but assume that’s how they reported it). On the day of his Budget of Darkness, I was in London on some unrelated business and thought I’d check out the protest outside Westminster. It had been advertised on social media as including a mass “die-in”. I didn’t know what one of those was, but it sounded fun.
Also, the Facebook page for the protest advertised cheap Ray-Ban sunglasses (disgusting consumerism), and someone had misspelled “Gideon”. All the makings of a great party.
Anyway, I toddled along to the location, never having been to a protest before. The omens weren’t great on the way: the swans were lying down in St James’s Park, presumably in solidarity with the Greek people. Upon arrival, I expected a seething rabble of the oppressed masses, yearning to break free from the chains of reduced state spending…but there was just a lady sitting on her own next to some placards. Bit of a let down.
Since the protestors hadn’t yet arrived to tear down neoliberal hegemony, I thought I’d go to the pub and managed to make a rather enjoyable pint last an hour. Bengal Lancer, if you’re interested. I thought I’d choose a beer with a suitably colonialist name before getting hanged, drawn, and quartered into my intersections.
Having finished that excellent IPA I strolled back down to the Houses of Parliament, knowing that I was on the path to certain guillotine. Alas, the comrades had swollen in number to only about 30, and various members of the unwashed were ambling around handing out placards to those nearby, including myself (if you can’t beat ‘em, join the struggle). Some of them had brought a bunch of black balloons. These presumably had some sort of symbolic meaning, but they looked more than anything else like a giant blackberry. The whole thing had a nice, picnicky vibe to it. I’m sure they could have had a nice meal from the gargantuan balloon fruit, which I’m sure was organic and locally sourced (there were Green Party members about).
After half an hour there were about 100 of them gathered in one corner of the lawn, and the chants started. Surely this was it, I thought. It’s all kicking off. The spirit of the soixante-huitards has finally descended upon the streets of London. But I didn’t need to rush off to inform her Majesty. They stood in one corner of the lawn and shouted “No ifs; no buts; no welfare cuts”. Not very inventive, I know, but innovation is a terribly capitalist virtue. If a chant ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They had more interesting ones on the standards like “Oxi to Osborne”. Nice appropriation of the Greek people there, folks. They didn’t chant that though, presumably through fear of mispronunciation. I know how they feel. I’ve done Greek since Year 7 and still don’t know how to say “Osborne” properly.
“And I say no to your appropriation of the Greek protests.”
After denouncing the Chancellor in this manner, the crowd did something unexpected. They walked from one end of the lawn to the other. I tensed, ready to dive behind the statue of Gandhi if necessary, but then they stopped and shouted a bit more before releasing the balloons. The blackberry disintegrated. Probably symbolic. Or something. I still don’t know what the balloons were for, but there was a wind blowing westwards that day. I suspect the balloons were carrying messages to Putin inviting him to invade and set up a new communist state. Again, this is speculation.
After this there came the “die-in”. What was meant to happen was that they would all lie down and pretend to be dead. Interpretation of this practice varies. I think it was intended to highlight people who, they claim, have died as a result of Conservative reforms. I prefer to read it as a metaphor for the current state of the Labour Party. Anyway, I had prepared for something interesting, but they all just sat down. And that was it. Sitting down on the grass, like those swans in St James’s Park. Wasn’t enough to ruffle my feathers though. It all felt rather poultry, as a response to a budget they claimed was so fowl. (Editor’s note: sorry)
They then dispersed. It sounds frightfully dull, I know, but that’s literally all that happened. Part of me wanted to dash among them and rally the troops: “Come on chaps! This is so not 1789!” But the scowling statue of Winston Churchill dissuaded me. The revolution may be coming, but not today.
They gathered. They shouted a bit. And, in the end, they didn’t change a single comma in what the Chancellor read out in the house that day.
Overall: 3/10 would not bang the drum for these peeps.