Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators surged into the rally in Hyde Park. More than 20 speakers addressed the crowd—and the biggest cheers went to those putting forward a militant message.
Unite union leader Len McCluskey got the best response of the afternoon. He said it took generations to build the welfare state, and “we will not sit by as a gaggle of public schoolboys tear it down”.
“Unless they stop their attacks this will be their poll tax,” he added. “We need a plan of resistance including coordinated strike action.”
The media has focused on the speech by Ed Miliband—the first Labour leader to address a major demonstration in decades.
It’s great that he felt the need to attend—and the rank and file of the Labour Party were out in force too. Socialist Worker counted at least 68 Labour branch banners on the march.
Miliband told the crowd, “The Tories said I shouldn’t come today, but I am proud to stand with you.”
The protesters cheered him. But Miliband managed to avoid referring to class or even trade unions by defining the marchers as the “mainstream majority”.
And he faced some booing when he said, “We need some cuts, but this government is going too far.”
The public sector union Unison had the biggest presence on the day, with almost 200 banners and seas of flags. But its general secretary Dave Prentis looked to elections rather than the union’s strength to challenge the cuts.
He said, “We will march in our thousands and vote in our millions to ditch their coalition once and for all.”
In contrast, Mark Serwotka of the PCS got a huge cheer when he said, “Imagine what a difference it would make if we didn’t only march together but took strike action together.”