06 November 2011

Occupy London

Having visited the Occupy London protest camp yesterday, I was impressed. The protestors were organised, articulate and had genuine concerns. These are not the pot smoking hippies that some of the media make out. In fact, drugs and alcohol are specifically banned on the camp - no doubt the organisers are keen to cultivate a positive media image. The protestors themselves are a disparate group of people. I met some (from the extreme end) who wanted a total destruction of the capitalist system and others who demanded more modest reforms, such as greater checks and balances in the banking system.

A common concern of the protesters is the growing inequality between the rich and poor in society. Many I spoke to were concerned about the vast sums of wealth being taken out of the real economy and hidden away in tax havens, where wealth is held by a few. Inevitably, this hording of wealth has a negative impact on the government’s ability to fund public services, like the NHS. Are the 99% of people, who rely on such services, really prepared to see significant cuts, when a Tobin style tax on the rich (whose earnings appear to increase exponentially every year), could be used to foot the bill?

The Occupy movement is a good thing because it is helping to shape the political agenda. For too long, politicians and the media have held a defeatist attitude that nothing significant can be done to tackle inequality and improve society. Some have criticised the movement for not having clear set of objectives. However, this criticism ignores the fact that this is a genuine democratic movement, where people set the agenda. Of course there are going to be differing voices from all sides, however, what is wrong with encouraging a debate?

If anyone is interested in Occupy London, they can watch a live video stream of proceeding here: www.livestream.com/occupylsx