Who should pay?


A couple of weeks ago I was persuaded by my wife and daughter to give up a Saturday to go to Glasgow and demonstrate against cuts in Education services.  ‘No if, no buts, no education cuts!’

These days demonstrating about anything is not my preferred way of using a Saturday – but my wife appealed to my paternal instinct, by saying that it was likely to be the only way that we would see our son who is currently studying at Strathclyde university when he is not demonstrating against, or occasionally for, something or other.

As it happened I met not only my son and his girlfriend but a couple of old university friends. These were people who I had been on many a demonstration with in our youths – Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – Out -Out – out. Like me they had been stirred to marching once again after twenty years  of immersion in family and work. Two of them are curently teachers and one a civil servant married to a teacher.

The demonstration was polite and extra-ordinarliy quiet by the standards of my youth – giving lots of time to catch up on mutual acquaintances and reminisce about by-gone times.  Eventually we talked about what it was that had drawn us out of our normal weekend activity to once again demonstrate – even though we all had a sense that it was a somewhat futile effort. They were all motivated by a sense of injustice that ordinary people were being asked to pay for the mistakes of the super rich in our society. A feeling that I admit I share but wouldn’t have acted on if it weren’t for family persuasion.  The demonstration organisers had adopted a slogan along the lines of  ‘Why must our children pay?’ and it seemed to hit the mood of the people who were marching.

I had intended to duck out of the speeches at the end of the demonstration and head to a restaurant with son and his girlfriend – but was out voted – as they  all wanted to listen. In a passionate speech the EIS speaker picked up on the theme of  ‘Why must our children pay’ for a crisis that was remote to all but a very small minority. She attempted to undermine the logic that says the national debt incurred in bailing out the banks has to be paid for by reducing public services – stating that how it was paid for was a matter of political choice. She ended by saying that this demonstration was only the start – but notably failed to say what came next. It maybe that the sense of injustice, which turned out ‘the old farts’ to demonstrate, may just drive the next steps rather than politicians and union leaders.

Who should pay – history tell us  it is most likely that ordinary people will pay the most – but does it have to be that way?