Don’t Pay UK: Mass civil disobedience is risky – but it could work

EDITORIAL

OCTOBER 1, 2022 will be an unfortunate day of reckoning once the energy price cap predictably spikes.

With bills set to soar by thousands for the average household, something needs to give.

But Boris Johnson has refused to pass an emergency budget, No 10 confirmed this week.

Sir Keir Starmer has proposed a single bare thread policy about prepaid energy premiums – while he himself has been on holiday for a fortnight.

Britain has had no government or main opposition for the last three weeks – and it’s showing.

Gordon Brown, Martin Lewis and Sir Ed Davey have all made valuable interventions. But they’re far from power and influence.

Some Britons have decided to take it into their own hands. Enter the ‘Don’t Pay UK’ campaign.

“It’s simple: we are demanding a reduction of energy bills to an affordable level,” the campaign website reads.

“Our leverage is that we will gather a million people to pledge not to pay if the government goes ahead with another massive hike on October 1.”

They’re already a tenth of their way to the target, with over 105,000 people signed up. The campaign is garnering momentum and, taking inspiration from the Poll Tax protests, is confident it can really make an impact.

The intentions are noble – and, to a great extent, should be supported – but it’s also risky.

The organisation has somewhat protected themselves if they don’t reach the threshold, saying action will only be taken if they acheive one million pledges.

But even then, charities have warned that not paying energy bills could lead to serious consequences, including harming an individual’s credit score.

Even with a million households signed up, there will still be a game of brinkmanship afoot.

The factor that may give energy executives the advantage over working class Britons will be Westminster apathy.

Neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak are likely to lend any sort of sympathy to the campaign – and will most likely outline any meagre measures they implement as satisfactory.

Starmer, on the other hand, will likely preach the same tepid opposing lines and lack of action that have defined his tenure as Labour leader.

Without any political support, one million households could easily see their remaining hopes dashed – and even worsened.

There is hope, of course. Labour didn’t back the Poll Tax riots in the late 1980s and early 1990s, yet they were responsible for taking down Margaret Thatcher’s government through sheer people power.

Don’t Pay UK is still in its infancy, but the momentum is encouraging. Over the next month, we will see whether it can mount a serious campaign which will force the government’s hand, or simply wither away.

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Featured Image: James Bourne @ Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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