2015 was the biggest year for protest since the 1970s – here’s why

And it doesn’t show signs of stopping

If it feels like there’s a protest in the UK every two minutes, it might be because 2015 had the highest level of dissent recorded since the late 1970s.

Politics lecturer at the University of Birmingham David J Bailey, who carried out the research, said: “…the frequency of protests peaked in 2010-2011 and subsided slightly in 2012 – perhaps as a result of despondency after some of the big anti-austerity movements, such as the tuition fee protests, were ignored and/or heavily repressed.

“But from 2013 onwards dissent has returned to levels witnessed during earlier stages of the anti-austerity movement, and continued to rise through to a new high in 2015.”

In the ‘80s, protests were mostly made up of strikes and wildcat strikes, while, in 2015, there was a rise in “stunts” to catch the media’s attention, Bailey said.

This was “possibly explained by the increased need to stand out in order to attract media and public attention” among all the other protests, he said.

In 2015, in terms of strikes, the transport sector was the most active, followed by the legal sector. Housing was a big issue too, with a large increase in 2015 of people trying to save their homes or communities.

Demonstrations mostly focussed on the government’s austerity measures, with 100,000 attendees at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in June and 50,000 people protesting outside the Conservative Party Conference in October.

It looks like there is no sign of these protests stopping into 2016.

Bailey said: “While the frequency of reported protest events in the UK rose in 2015 to its highest level since the end of the 1970s, 2016 looks set to bring still more discord.

“The ongoing housing crisis, the industrial dispute over junior doctor’s contracts, and the apparent willingness of Jeremy Corbyn to use his position as Labour Party leader to fuel further mobilisation and dissent (for instance, by recently attending the passenger protest against rising rail prices), suggest that 2016 will be a year in which protests, in the ongoing context of prolonged economic stagnation, continue to gather pace.”

 

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