“A real pay rise, slash energy bills, end food poverty, decent homes for all and tax the rich.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking that isn’t too much to ask, especially considering the UK has one of the richest economies in the world. Well, apparently it is – for Liz Truss and her Government, anyway.
No need to panic if you’re one of the country’s highest earners, as you’ve just earned yourself a massive tax cut. Congratulations! Meanwhile, people around the UK are struggling with a financial crisis on a scale we haven’t seen since the crash in 2008. According to the Office for National Statistics, 91% of adults have reported an increase in their living costs since this time last year.
For some, this really isn’t anything new. Many families in Britain were already being haunted by the long-lasting effects of austerity and, as we go into the winter months, this crisis could prove fatal. The Bank of England has predicted that inflation could rise to 11% later this month, despite the Government setting their target as only 2%.
British people are losing their patience. People need support, people need help. Ordinary people, those who have spent their entire lives doing all they can simply to make ends meet have had enough, and groups such as Enough is Enough are encouraging us to make a stand and demand better.
That’s exactly what the people of Leicester did in Jubilee Square on Saturday 3rd October.
Since Enough is Enough started, the organisation has grown significantly, gaining support from groups (such as the CWU and the RMT) and individual MPs such as Zarah Sultana and Ian Byrne. With thousands of supporters up and down the country, Leicester certainly didn’t let the side down.
Sofia Wiking, one of the organisers, told me that the campaign was set up to unite people of all backgrounds, working together for the better good. She described how people have been hoping to form a “united front against the bosses and the Government to fight the cost of living crisis.”
“We wanted to build a mass movement,” Sofia told me, “a grassroots movement. We want everyone to take part, everyone to have an input on our demands and our tactics.”
Recently, the NUS found that 96% of students are having to cut back on their spending, and almost a third of students are left with only £50 a month after paying rent and bills. Yes, you read that correctly. Just £50 a month, and that’s before you’ve even thought about a single trip to Spoons.
“Students are hit as hard as everyone else…it’s really dire for a lot of students at the moment.”
This becomes even more alarming when you consider that, in the last decade, student accommodation prices have increased by 61% yet our maintenance loans have not changed to reflect that increase. We’re simply expected to pay, whilst also having enough left over to ensure our diet consists of more than a pack of Super Noodles a day.
Furthermore, the NUS found that 92% of students’ mental health have been affected by the current crisis – a staggering proportion of the student body when you consider the NHS waiting times for mental health treatment. Sofia explained how students have been resorting to food banks to survive; with the current bills and expenses, there’s not much left in our pockets spare for a Sunday roast.
She calls upon students to consider not only rent and food costs, but also, interestingly, the actual quality of education provided. Suggesting that our University staff are being “attacked”, she makes direct reference to issues such as “pension schemes, wages and terms of employment.” This only contributes to ongoing conversation surrounding higher education in our city, particularly – with UCU calling on a global boycott of the University of Leicester last year, following long-running disputes regarding redundancy, pay and staff treatment.
But it wasn’t just Sofia expressing concerns for students – I spoke to numerous protesters, all describing similar fears.
Robert, a final year law student at the University of Leicester, said that he attended the march as he’d had “enough of a government that is not listening to the opinions of the people.”
He mentioned austerity, telling me that “we have seen over a decade a government that hates on students and raises tuition fees”
“With the way the current economy looks, it is not favourable to us” Robert explained, “one thing I like about our generation is we like to raise awareness of these issues, but now we have awareness, we need action.”
Whilst Tom, a student from the University of Nottingham, said that he felt “something needs to change.” He described how “our system is rotten to the core and it cannot go on any longer.”
Of course, it wasn’t just students attending on Saturday; the host introduced the protest by explaining how he felt both “proud and privileged to host striking workers.” There were multiple speakers throughout the day, narrating the tales of those who weren’t given the opportunity to speak for themselves.
One particularly hard-hitting speech came from a Leicester councillor. She chose to discuss some of the youngest in our society, saying that “children’s dreams are always extraordinary, like time travel.”
“But not,” she said, “if you’re a child growing up with this Tory government.” She described how “so often the dreams of the kids in my world are ordinary things: like breakfast, a warm home, the ability to sleep without the fear of being homeless. All because this Government are making families poorer as a political choice.”
The worst part was, no one seemed shocked by what they heard. It was nothing new if you’ve watched the news in the past six months.
Instead, they came to fight and to demand change before it’s too late. There’s a reason Enough is Enough is an accurate name: people are not willing to accept callous treatment by those in power any longer.
Including those in Leicester. I know because I saw it with my own eyes.
Maddie Daly is a final year English student, interested in writing and politics. You can find her on Instagram: @maddiedaly
All photos taken by Maddie Daly