As we rapidly approach Christmas, instead of the normal letter, I thought I would share some personal reflections on the past year.
For most people, and for the UK economy, it has been a tough year. And we have called that out repeatedly over the past 12 months. But there have also been some very heartening signs, and I thought that it would be worth sharing those.
First, as the polls above indicate, there has been a significant awakening of the British Public to the damage that this extreme right-wing version of the Conservative Party has been doing to the fabric of the UK. And that awakening is the first step to reclaiming our power.
At the end of last year, the Conservatives had been ahead for most of the previous 12 months, dented only by the Paterson corruption scandal and the revelation that Johnson had not only broken his own laws on COVID – partying wildly while others obeyed the rules – but also lied about it in Parliament. Nevertheless, 12 months ago, he still seemed firmly in charge.
But the combination of sustained poor polling and a huge number of letters to MPs from dissatisfied constituents saw him unceremoniously removed by the 1922 Committee. He was followed by the even more disastrous Truss, who was swiftly removed after her (and Kwarteng’s) so-called mini-budget put the already weak economy into free-fall, and left the bulk of the population with minimal support during the most serious cost-of-living crisis for generations. The myth of Conservative economic competence was shattered. Again the British public acted, and she was gone within weeks.
And there is a growing sense of purpose and unity among individuals and organisations who oppose the destruction of the UK’s social contract. We at the 99% Organisation have been working closely with a growing number of like-minded organisations like Open Britain, Take Back Britain, Keep our NHS Public, Patriotic Millionaires, the National Health Action Party and numerous others. Civil society more widely has become active: union membership is up and groups from nurses, teachers, railwaymen and even barristers have refused to go on accepting real-terms pay cuts in the face of the cost-of-living crisis. And other groups, not traditionally active in politics have declared that the government’s policies are simply too damaging to accept: movements like Enough is Enough and single-issue groups like Don’t Pay UK, Just Stop Oil, RSPB and National Trust have all marshalled hundreds of thousands of supporters into taking action, with many signing up in a matter of days.
Even some media which had been reluctant to criticise the government openly, have recently broken their silence. Issues like the Mone scandal and the role of Tufton Street in driving government policies are finally getting air-time.
A change of attitude is clear and so is an increased willingness to act.
From a narrow 99% Organisation perspective, 2022 has also been a good year. In January, we had just over 1,700 members – today we have over 3,600: more than twice as many. And that is vital because, as an all-volunteer organisation, everything we do is done by you, our members.
We have worked hard this year to raise awareness of the government’s policies and have increased our reach considerably. On social media, for example, my personal account now has almost 15,000 followers and the 99% Organisation account has over 4,500. Perhaps more importantly, our work is being picked up in an increasing number of new media outlets such as West Country Voices, Byline Times and National World. Our website has now had around 570,000 visits and the article on Market Fundamentalism has been read by over 120,000 people.
99% Rising, our group for younger (under 35) members has been working with Open Britain and Forward Democracy on helping to raise engagement among younger people – who stand to lose most from this government’s policies – to promote tactical voting and to support the Stop the Rot campaign. Our NHS Project, again working with others, has moved from a defensive position, trying to combat the worst features of the Health & Care Bill to a more pro-active stance: setting out how the UK can once again have a world-leading health and care system. The Herefordshire 2030 project has largely completed its analysis of the challenges and opportunities open to the county and is building stakeholder engagement to turn our ideas into action. We continue to engage with open-minded politicians across parties and to promote our ideas to them. And we are working with others to support local campaigning in the most effective ways.
So, despite the undeniable challenges the UK faces, we see many reasons to be more hopeful today than a year ago.
On that note, can I take the opportunity to thank you all for your support during the year, and wish you and your families a fantastic time over the festive period.
If you are not already a member, please do join us.
With all good wishes,
Mark E Thomas