Thousands Protest Tories And Austerity
Above photo: Protesters gathering in Manchester today to march against the Tories (Pic: Socialist Worker)
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Manchester, UK – Thousands of demonstrators are gathering at the Castlefield’s Arena in Manchester today, Sunday, to protest against Tory austerity. The Tories are beginning their annual conference in the city.
The slogan of the protest, called by the People’s Assembly, is, “Tories out”. There is a sense that after seven years of brutal Tory rule, it’s possible to kick them out of office.
Jane from Manchester told Socialist Worker, “There’s a change going on in people’s general attitudes, people can see the affect that inequality is having on their lives.
“Jeremy Corbyn is great because he has opened people’s eyes to the lies and bigotry of the Tory party and how they look after their own.”
Delegations of trade unionists, campaigners, anti-racists, students and others have travelled on coaches from across Britain to join the march.
Peter, Unison union branch secretary in Rhondda, came with a group of local government workers from South Wales.
“We have members who have to choose between getting a meal and shoes for their children to go to school in,” he told Socialist Worker.
“The pay cap is a big issue for public sector workers, but it’s about funding of services too.
“If we don’t fight to keep them, then they will be gone.”
Jay Ginn, a Unite community member from Croydon, told Socialist Worker, “We never needed austerity. Money shouldn’t have been given to the banks and they should have built social infrastructure instead. We need to keep up the pressure on the Tories until they crumble and we get an election.”
The protest came amid deepening divisions inside the Tory party. They published a report, headed by former Tory minister Sir Eric Pickles, into their disastrous general election campaign this morning.
Aside from the usual warm words about needing more young people and ethnic minorities, it calls for top ministers to have more power over the drafting of future manifestos.
Pickles said the report wanted to produce a “stronger party”, not “blame and recrimination”. In reality, it shows a deeply divided and weak Tory government—headed by a prime minister with no authority.
We have to seize on those divisions to boot out the Tories. Peter said, “It we wait for the Tories to go then they won’t.
“But if we fight to get rid of them then there’s a chance—and replace them with something better.”
The growing popularity of Labour under left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn is adding to the Tories’ woes – and Theresa May’s leadership is in crisis. Many people on the demonstration were inspired by the surge for Corbyn.
Steven Brereton, a council worker from Lancashire, told Socialist Worker, “I left the Labour Party just before New Labour. And I joined last week after Corbyn’s conference speech because it was full of hope.
“Over the last decade we’ve lost half our staff. Morale is immeasurably low.”
Steven added that Unison general secretary Dave Prentis should “do more”. “It’s like he’s invisible,” said Steven. “People are crushed by austerity and I’m here today to say that ordinary people have a stake in society.”
There is growing anger about the Tories 1 percent public sector pay cap and the possibility of strikes. Postal workers in the CWU union are balloting for national strikes over attacks on pensions and other conditions.
Many CWU members joined the march in Manchester – and they’re optimistic about the ballot result.
Paul, a CWU member from Warrington mail centre, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had a very high return in the ballot and we expect a big yes vote.” Mark, a CWU member from Bury, added, “We’re here because privatisation has ripped up our industry. We’re fighting back and are really confident about Tuesday’s ballot result.”
Mick, another CWU member added, “More and more people have just had enough.”
Paul added, “I think the 1 percent cap will be what changes things. Let’s hope that Jeremy Corbyn gets in before strikes have to force them out.”