One of the most remarkable facts about the British public’s attitude to prolonged austerity is the lack of the kind of open revolt which has been seen in so many other countries. In Greece it has led to the dramatic rise of Syriza under the dynamic leadership of the radical Tsipras who now has a poll rating ahead of all the other parties, including the government. In Spain the resistance led by originally the indignados has crystallised into a new party named Podemos which was formed only 10 months ago, but now is equally challenging the government. In Italy the prime minister Renzi has achieved the highest rating for his Democratic Party (39%), but second is the party of the comedian Beppe Grillo in the mid-20s%, well ahead of Berlusconi’s Forza Italian on 15%. So where is the equivalent in the UK? UKIP hardly counts as a serious alternative to government, though both the SNP in Scotland and the Greens in England could be seen as in the initial stages of a challenge to the main parties, significantly both from the Left like Die Linke in Germany. The dramatic rise of almost all these movements have been sparked by deep public resistance to austerity. So why not in the UK? It may be about to happen.
The recent Populus poll found that the readiness among British voters to accept more austerity is evaporating. Most don’t believe that more austerity and cuts will be needed in the next 5 years after the 2015 election which would present quite a headache for the Tories if they win the election, given Osborne’s declared determination to impose another £25bn cuts after 2015. Voters have apparently been bemused by Cameron’s recent assertion that the worst was now over and most of the cuts had already been made, a claim wildly at variance from reality when Osbornian austerity has hardly reduced the deficit at all and it’s still not only set at around £100bn for this year but actually rising, not falling at all.
The survey found that most voters believe any remaining deficit reduction can be achieved by an efficient government cutting waste, without any serious impact on ordinary people – again sharply contradicted by the reality that the easiest cuts have already been made, so that any future cuts will be much harder and more problematic. Yet 28% of those polled said further cuts would not be needed at all. Significantly also very large majorities favoured a crackdown which would not directly affect themselves – on tax avoidance, bankers’ bonuses, a mansion tax, and excess profits on utility groups. When and if they find out that the contrary is heavily to the fore, we can expect that the dam behind which the resistance is mounting will finally collapse.