THE BLOG
15/06/2015 04:57 BST | Updated 15/06/2016 06:59 BST

Upsurge of Activism Shows There Is a Real Alternative

Despair might be tempting - and I've met people who are almost overwhelmed by that emotion. But what's becoming stronger and more evident by the day is determination - determination to act, to protest, to stand up and be counted, to campaign for a genuine change in direction.

Sometimes in politics it's a good idea to take a step back and look at the big picture, not just think about fiscal policy, not just think about climate change policy, not just think about the day-to-day political argy-bargy, but to look at our overall direction of travel. To ask about the evidence on which it is based, look at it comparatively, internationally.

It seems clear to me that from fiscal to environmental to social policy, Britain is speeding down a dead-end road, with a brick wall fast approaching.

George Osborne is steaming ahead with his plans to lock in the "rule" that the government must run fiscal surpluses in "normal times". And the Labour "opposition"? The loyal Polly Toynbee is reduced to hoping that the leadership contenders will come out against the bill.

Osborne's approach is based on the notion that our current level of government debt was caused by over-spending by the Blair-Brown governments. That flies entirely in the face of the evidence.

And the "rule" flies in the face of the advice of the IMF - not known as a champion of higher levels of debt - which has said in an official paper approved by its chief economist that the costs of paying down Britain's debt would outweigh the benefits.

And it leaves Britain stuck in what Nobel-prizewinning economist Paul Krugman has called the austerian delusion, long abandoned by most of the rest of the world.

The evidence is that this simply doesn't add up. The Office for Budget Responsibility has pointed out the impact of our ageing population - saying that the new fiscal "rule" will be entirely untenable as early as 2023.

Then there's environmental policy. To start with the international scene, we're seeing movement in the rhetoric in dealing with climate change as the Paris climate talks approach.

Many countries, from China to Germany, are changing their direction of travel on emissions, and proving along the way that this is not just possible, but hugely rewarding - encouraging technological advance and business and community development, as well as maintaining a liveable planet.

And in Britain? Well we've got a government that is for ideological or political reasons set against the cheapest form of renewable energy, onshore wind, appears to be planning to abandon altogether the no-brainer of energy conservation, and which is stuck on the fantasy of fracking.

Finally, there's the state of society, where the strains are obvious. Child poverty is set to soar, with all the lifelong impacts on education, health and opportunities that brings. Low paid workers can't keep the lights on. Benefit recipients - particularly the disabled and the ill - are being hit by a vicious sanctions regime that's sending them flooding to the food banks.

So where does that leave us, when the Tories returned to power only a few scant weeks ago, apparently for a five-year term?

Despair might be tempting - and I've met people who are almost overwhelmed by that emotion.

But what's becoming stronger and more evident by the day is determination - determination to act, to protest, to stand up and be counted, to campaign for a genuine change in direction.

Whether it's the bicycle couriers in London organising against all of the odds for a living wage, the people of Sheffield out on the streets in huge numbers in an anti-austerity march just days after the election, or a simple petition removing anti-homeless spikes within hours, the election result has produced an upsurge of activism at all levels, on a huge range of topics. Tomorrow, I'll be seeing it in action as I join protesters on the streets of Swansea.

These are challenging circumstances, times when it's not easy to see the way forward.

The ruling ideology of the past few decades - call it neo-Thatcherism, call it neo-liberalism, call it what you like - has clearly failed even in its own terms. The age of fossil fuels is coming to an end, fast.

But there is hope. Strong grass roots movements are proving there is a real alternative to our disaster-directed course.