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Enough is Enough: Zarah Sultana on tackling the cost-of-living crisis

“It’s time to put people’s needs before corporate greed”: We speak to the Coventry South MP to find out more about Enough is Enough, why it’s so necessary, and how you can get involved

Yesterday, social media was set ablaze by the launch of Enough is Enough, a new left-wing movement dedicated to fighting every facet of the cost-of-living crisis, from greedy landlords and unscrupulous bosses to stagnating wages and rising energy bills. Supported by several trade unions, socialist magazine Tribune, community organisations like ACORN and the Right to Food campaign, and two Labour MPs, it plans to “push back” against a society “run only for a wealthy elite.” It has outlined a set of specific proposals aimed at realising this ambition, including rent caps, an increased minimum wage, the nationalisation of energy companies, and universal free school meals.

One of the two Labour MPs who helped launch the campaign (alongside Ian Bryne) was Zarah Sultana. The 28-year-old grew up in Birmingham, first became involved in politics during the free education movement which exploded across Britain’s universities in the early austerity years, and was elected to her seat in Coventry South in 2019. Rising to prominence during the fallout of the Corbyn years, she is one of the few remaining socialists in the House of Commons, and a regular presence at left-wing rallies and protests across the UK. The Enough is Enough campaign brings together several of the issues she’s been working on since taking office.

“We know that prices are soaring, wages are stagnating, and we’re currently experiencing an absolutely unprecedented cost-of-living crisis where millions of people are going to be plunged into poverty,” Sultana tells Dazed. “This is only going to get worse when energy bills rise in the winter.” Just today, it was announced that energy bills are expected to soar to a staggering £4,266 a year from January onwards, which is even higher than previously predicted. Rishi Sunak has pledged to offer the most vulnerable families in Britain a one-off payment of £650 to cope with these price hikes, but given the scale of the problem, this will barely make a dent. Experts have also warned that if cold weather coincidences with energy shortages this winter, the UK could experience organised blackouts.

Within Sultana’s own constituency of Coventry South, she is already hearing from constituents who are having to make difficult decisions between feeding their families and heating their homes. What makes this all the more infuriating is that it’s not happening in isolation. “At the same time, corporations like BP and Shell are making record profits,” says Sultana. “There’s a record number of billionaires at the exact same time there is a record number of food banks – these things are directly connected. We’re saying that it’s time to put people’s needs before corporate greed.”

Already, there has been an enormous flurry of interest in the campaign: its website crashed due to high demand, the launch video (featuring RMT head Mick Lynch) exceeded almost five million views within a day, and over 150,000 people have already signed up. For Sultana, this indicates that people are demanding meaningful action, and not just politicians playing lip service to the problems they’re facing. At the tail end of what has been described as “the summer of discontent” or “hot strike summer”, there is a widespread mood of both anger and enthusiasm waiting to be harnessed into action. “We’ve already been seeing so much industrial action,” says Sultana, pointing to a long list of unions – including the RMT, the CWU (the communication worker’s union), the NEU (the teacher’s union), the UCU (the university and colleges union)  and the FBU (the firefighters union) – who have all either balloted or already gone on strike.

But while it’s great that individual unions are taking action to advance the interests of their members, there is also the need for a collective movement, something which includes people who work in industries where striking is much more difficult. “This campaign is exciting because it’s bringing together trade unions, members of parliament, and socialist publications like Tribune.” This coalition also includes a range of nationwide campaign groups from around, including ACORN, a union that represents renters who are experiencing the brunt of the housing crisis. “The work they do when it comes to eviction resistance and mapping communities is such a unique and important skill set,” Sultana says. Also on board is Fans Supporting Foodbanks, a grassroots organisation that was initially set up by supporters of rival football clubs Everton and Liverpool, with the goal of harnessing football as a means to tackle food poverty in the Merseyside area. Since then, it has grown to become a nationwide movement and campaigned for the right to food to be enshrined in law. Sultana hopes that Enough is Enough will continue to bring in more community groups and organisations to create an ever larger coalition.

There’s a record number of billionaires at the exact same time there is a record number of food banks – these things are directly connected. We’re saying that it’s time to put people’s need before corporate greed”

There is widespread public support for strikes at the moment and this campaign aims to harness that energy. As it stands, if you have a vague notion that you’d like to support a picket line but aren’t already plugged into the movement, it can be difficult to find out where and when they are happening. In an effort to make this easier, Enough is Enough is teaming up with Strike Map, a website that tells people where picket lines are taking place across the UK. And if people are physically unable to show up in person, for whatever reason, the campaign aims to provide a wide range of alternative ways to show support. “The fact is that people are really struggling to make ends meet and we know that inflation is set to top 13 per cent in October, which will make this worse,” says Sultana. “This means many people cannot afford things that they probably could have done a short while ago, such as catching a bus to a picket line. But people do want to show solidarity, and this campaign will allow people to get involved in whatever capacity they can.”

“There will be community groups that people can join,” she continues, “but if that’s not something that they can take part in, there’s the social media side of things. Some people might not physically be able to go picket lines – because of work and care responsibilities and so forth – but they might want to donate to strike funds, and we will be promoting that as an option. It’s about meeting people where they are and providing them with different ways of getting involved. If you can’t come to a rally, you might be able to come to an online event. If you are unable to donate money, you still might be able to do things that aren’t financially challenging in the same way.” If you would like to get involved in Enough is Enough, the first thing you can do is sign up at its website, “People can also support the social media side of things by sharing content, get involved in the local groups which are going to form, attend picket lines, and just keep an eye out for what is coming next,” she says.

You only need to take a quick glance at the Tory leadership – with its overwhelming focus on tax cuts and trans people – to see that the government cannot be relied upon to solve the problems we’re facing. “At the end of the day, no one is going to come and save us in this cost of living crisis, so it’s about working-class people and communities coming together and fighting for ourselves,” says Sultana. “I think this is something people have been waiting for, and now that it’s here, people are really excited to get involved and to be part of the fight. Politics has become a kind of sickening spectator activity – there’s all this drama that lobby journalists are really excited about, but the real issues that communities are facing aren’t being addressed.”

While the campaign is currently focused on its five key demands, Sultana hopes it will eventually link up with other social movements and media outlets. “I think it would be really important to have gal-dem involved, alongside the perspective they bring from working with people of colour and marginalised communities.” She is also keen to incorporate the work she has been doing with Green New Deal Rising, a group that fights for decarbonisation, conservation, and global climate justice. “I see Enough as Enough as a way of bridging social movements, parliamentary politics, and the labour movement, all working together to win for working people,” says Sultana. “I’m very proud and excited to be part of it.”