In the ironically grand setting of the Assembly Rooms, Owen Jones gave a rallying and convincing cry against the establishment. Encouraging the audience to tweet and get their phones out to respond throughout the talk, Jones is not only a household name but also no stranger to controversy and debate in his career as a journalist. Funny and charming, his attitude was relaxed and friendly, promoting his new book
This call to fight for a genuinely democratic society, one that benefits us all not just those at the top, is channeled through a resounding cry of solidarity, which touched every member of the audience.
This was a powerful and thought provoking talk, the room packed with fans listening intently to every word to come out of Jones’ (remarkably youthful) mouth. His idea that those who have suffered the most scrutiny from the economic downturn have been the ‘lowest’ and the powerless, not the powerful, was received with knowing nods from the audience. He reveals not only singular examples but statistics and plenty of evidence in how the concentration of power in this country still lies in the hands of a small few: the establishment.
Strolling around the stage with iPad in hand, he read his speech from the screen but also achieved a connection with the audience through engaging questions and ideas that hung in the air. This informative talk was littered with individual stories showing us just how bad the situation really is. Explaining the idea that there is a huge difference between the rich paying tax, a centralised and supposedly ‘fair’ system, and those same rich accountancy firms dodging tax but becoming wealthy benefactors for charities; Jones pointed out that this method of ‘helping’ those below is actually a reversal back to the Victorian mind set before the welfare state that has helped so many out of poverty in this country. He asks, do we really want to go back to a place where the rich simply get to decide which charity to support and get away with dodging tax?
One of the most fascinating topics discussed was the idea of the ‘revolving door’ of the establishment: the exchange between the public and private sector. This symbiotic relationship essentially means that government employees can expect high paying private sector jobs in return for facilitating laws that allow loop holes for tax avoidance, for example, or monopolies to certain companies for military equipment. This ‘socialism for the rich’ idea was communicated by Jones with passion, but he thankfully avoided becoming irate, angry or over emotional, simply giving us the facts for us to make up our own minds.
Giving us a good comprehensive history of the neo-liberals who took advantage of the market collapse in the 1970’s, and how that has affected us today, Jones proves himself to be an excellent and engaging speaker. He even gets in a few good gags, with chuckles of irony spreading throughout the captivated audience.
Jones then became an excellent chair for an interesting and challenging Q and A session, in which the organisation of the resistance, the sliver of difference between Labour and Tory and of course, the referendum were discussed. Jones was so on the money (not literally of course, or if so, it better be going towards those taxes) when he answered the difficult question: how should we vote in the referendum? He was careful not the reveal his opinion either way, but simply noted poignantly that which ever way we vote, neither guarantees a challenge to the establishment - that must come from us.
This call to fight for a genuinely democratic society, one that benefits us all not just those at the top, is channeled through a resounding cry of solidarity, which touched every member of the audience. An inspirational and absorbing talk, this is something I wish everyone could hear, because Jones is saying what really needs to be said.