The 99% Organisation came into being four years ago when the book 99% was published. Our overall objective was (and is) to end mass impoverishment by peaceful means. To do this, we aimed to raise awareness of the issues facing the UK, their root causes and potential solutions and to push for policy changes to deliver those solutions along the lines of the five key actions set out in the book.

Now is a good time to take another look at the challenges facing the UK, at what we have achieved so far and what we still need to do.

The Challenges

At our 99% Organisation and book launch in September 2019, I set out what I saw as our key challenges – the recent history of mass impoverishment, which was the subject of the book, and the then very recent formation of Boris Johnson’s first cabinet, consisting largely of market fundamentalists. My presentation called for the UK to recognise this shift from one-nation Conservatism to the far-right as a constitutional emergency.

Unfortunately, that warning turned out to be prescient: mass impoverishment has accelerated – we are now facing the largest fall in living standards since records began – and the government has been systematically attacking our human rights and democratic safeguards.

Despite the Leave campaign having repeatedly made it clear that “absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the Single Market,” that is precisely what happened, and it had the predicted consequences for trade.

Since Brexit, the dismantling of the UK’s social contract has also accelerated, and even the replacement of the NHS – something that no one would have dared suggest 13 years ago – is now openly promoted. They have also used their new freedoms to reduce regulations on environmental protection and food safety, and have been removing many of our democratic safeguards. As Ken Clarke warned us, “We are dangerously close to the ‘elected dictatorship’ that Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor, warned us about half a century ago.”

The government has pioneered a new concept, the Plunderstate. This moves beyond the traditional idea of small-state Conservatism to create a system where our government acts increasingly as a mechanism for redistributing wealth from the ordinary subject citizen to the already wealthy. There is no longer any serious attempt to reduce taxes – just to ensure that the wealthiest do not have to pay them but are nevertheless able to plunder the wealth remaining in the public realm. The NHS represents a huge prize in this regard.

Politically, the opaquely-funded ‘think tanks’ based in Tufton Street have tightened their grip on UK politics: virtually every recent candidate for Conservative Party leadership, including the two most recent leaders, has been a product of the Tufton Street network.

And electorally, also, the government has been innovative – as well as making full use of the largely right-wing owned UK mass-media, they have pioneered use of social media and micro-targeting of the population, use of performative cruelty against minorities as an electoral weapon and pseudo-policies: ‘policies’ which have no prospect of achieving their stated aims but can be publicised with public funds and will serve to polarise or demoralise the population.

What we have achieved

At the time of that launch, there were just a handful of signed-up 99% members; now we are 4,000. Every one of those is a volunteer: we do not have a single employee. And yet, by working together according to our values,  we have managed to achieve some remarkable results.

We have started to raise awareness of the challenges. There have been over 500,000 unique visitors to our website: a huge number, but still less than 1% of the UK population. Our most-read article, explaining the market fundamentalist philosophy, has been read by over 130,000 people – that is roughly the circulation of The Guardian.

While we still have to break-in to widespread coverage in mainstream media, we have had increasing coverage from new media like West Country Voices, National World and Byline Times.

On social media, we have made steady inroads. On Twitter, for example, the @99organisation account has over 4,500 followers while the @mrmarkethomas account has over 16,000. Some of our Twitter threads have been seen by over 1 million people. And until the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, Twitter was a highly effective channel for us both in raising awareness and in recruiting talented and energetic new members.

And of course the book 99% was selected as one of the best economics books of 2019 by Martin Wolf, the Chief Economics Commentator of The Financial Times.

Our members have been increasingly active on the project front.

Our 99% Rising initiative has been working to ensure that these messages reach people under 35 – a critical demographic both because they will live longest with the consequences of this government’s actions and because many have become politically disengaged.

People Like Us is a newer initiative aimed at getting the messages out in a smaller – but more impactful – way by presentations to local groups of which we are members.

Our Externalisation project is looking at the fundamental – and very difficult challenge – of re-engineering the profit motive into a force for good.

And we are beginning to get political traction.

Our Herefordshire 2030 project produced a powerful report showing the steps needed to make the county fairer, greener and more prosperous and is engaging with key stakeholders in the Council, the Business Community and the Third Sector to help ensure those steps are taken.

Our NHS project – jointly with other NHS-focussed organisations – produced a groundbreaking report and launched it in Parliament. We are now following-up with the parliamentarians who attended and planning a re-run in the Scottish Parliament for early 2024 with the objective of making sure that the opposition parties have sound plans to save the NHS.

And we are increasingly building working relationships with interested MPs, across parties.

What is still to do

Even though the polls are now showing that a Conservative victory at the next election is unlikely, there is still everything to play for.

Firstly, the government has a range of powerful electoral gambits at its disposal, but not available to its opposition, and it will not hesitate to use them. And there is still time for them to turn the polls around. There are good grounds for hope that we may see the back of this extremist version of the Conservative Party, but there are none for complacency.

Secondly, in the time that remains to them, the evidence suggests that they will continue to plunder the public purse and weaken our democracy – and general awareness of this is still far too low.

And thirdly, even assuming that the next government is Labour-led, there is a real risk that policy will not be sufficiently ambitious either economically or constitutionally to protect the UK population from the impact of past and future extreme right-wing governments.

The good news is that there is increasing awareness of all these issues among the general population, and therefore a real chance of a return to sanity in UK politics.

We still need to up our game, to find ways to reach more people, to cooperate even better with other progressive organisations and to help shape policy in the opposition parties.

To all the 99% members who have done so much already, can I just say Thank you.


If you are not yet a member and would like to help in any of these areas, please let us know.

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