Socialist Worker

Protest against Tory conference in Manchester - as it happened

Socialist Worker will provide regular updates to this story throughout the day

Issue No. 2271

The front of the march

The front of the march


5.06pm:

Over 30,000 people marched today, Sunday, in a magnificent show of strength.

Workers, students, disability activists, pensioners, Labour Party activists, first-time protesters and veteran campaigners united together in Manchester against the Tories.

The day reflected the scale of resistance the government faces—and the growing determination among ordinary people to fight back.

Chants for a general strike were popular on the march. Union leaders were cheered for making militant speeches and calling for united strikes.

Today gave a glimpse of what 30 November, when millions of workers will strike together, could look like.

Strikes by millions of workers on the day could shut down Britain. Demonstrations in towns and cities can bring together everyone who hates the Tories and show the strength of our side.

30 November can kickstart a wave of resistance so strong it can stop the Tory assault.

It’s now up to every activist to make that a reality.


5.03pm:

More than 350 people crammed into the Mechanic’s Institute in central Manchester for a rousing rally organised by the Right to Work campaign. More people crowded in the doorways.

Simon Hester from Tottenham was cheered when he described August’s riots as a cry of rage. He said trade unionists had to take the fight to the Tories on 30 November.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, praised all those who struck on 30 June. “People said it wouldn’t succeed, but it was the rebirth of our movement,” he said.

“We all have something to gain from 30 November. We need a plan of action to get the best possible vote—and make it the biggest action in Britain for decades.”

Ian, an electrician, got a fantastic response when he spoke. Electricians are currently fighting bosses’ attempts to cut their pay by a third.

Ian said, 'We are trying tooth and nail to get a ballot to get out on 30 November. Unite officials say its difficult. I don't care how difficult it is—we want to be out.

“So union backed or not union backed, with or without a ballot, we are coming out on 30 November.'

Sam James from Right to Work closed the rally saying, 'Today was a magnificent day. It shows what is possible when working class people move into action.

'Now we go back from tomorrow to build 30 November into an unprecedented day with an maximum turnout across the class.'


4.17pm:

Paul Novak from the TUC announced on stage at the rally, 'What a fantastic turnout and a fantastic day – 30,000 people in Manchester today.

'On 30 November we will organise the largest mobilisation of the trade union movement in a generation.

'Together we'll fight tooth and nail for our public services. Let's fight together and win together.'

Brian Davies, a Remploy worker said, 'They say its easy to get a job'.

'It isn't,' the crowd shouted back.

He added, 'We don't want charity. Just dignity like everyone else. The Tories don't care. We'll fight and we'll fight and we'll fight some bloody more.

'If Remploy closes, me and thousands of others like me will never work again. Support our fight.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the firefighters' FBU union, told the crowd that the Tories were, 'planning to destroy our communities and public services'.

He added, 'Thatcher used to bleat 'there is no alternative'. These Tories want to finish her work.'

'We'll build our alternative starting here today. Stand together, fight together'

Terry Hoad UCU president said, 'There's never been a time when the trade union movement has had a more important job to do.'

Manchester sixth form student
 Jamil Keating was the last speaker at the outdoor rally. 
In the riots, he said, 'we were told young people in this city were feral rats. But the fact the riots spread so fast is a sign something is systematically wrong in our society.'


He added, 'As college students, we look to you, to the unions, to take our fight to the streets.'


3.48pm:

Union leaders have brought a militant message to the rally in Manchester. Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, told the crowd, “We need coordinated industrial action. If you want to call that a general strike then so be it.

“We need civil disobedience. That's the oldest form of democracy. We should take the lead from the students.

“The media would have you believe there's nothing you can do. There are some in our ranks who believe that. I reject that defeatism.

“When the working class comes together, everything is possible.”

Others spoke of the strikes they had already taken against the Tories’ assault on workers. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT teachers’ union, said she was “very proud” that the NUT was part of the 30 June pensions strikes.

“We exposed lies on pensions,” she said. “We are sure on 30 November we'll have action on much bigger scale as unions join us in the fight.

“Let's hope the sleeping giants of the trade union movement wake up to fight for growth, jobs and justice. Together we can win.”

Rena Wood from Unison said, 'The Tories want to let their friends in the City bid for our services without having to pay for pensions. That we are going all for a yes vote for industrial action.'

Mary Bousted general secretary of the teachers' ATL union said, 'No one can say we anger easily, It took us 100 years to strike on 30 June. And we will strike again on 30 November.

'The government's behaviour has been a disgrace. And if Labour doesn't support us Labour will be a disgrace as well.'

And Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said “Four brave unions—the NUT, PCS, ATL and UCU—should be congratulated for striking in June and changing the mood in this country.

“Now we're on the edge of the biggest strike for 80 years. If they carry on after 30 November we have to strike again and again until we win.

'Now’s the time to fight. Now's the time to defeat the government.”


3.10pm:

The rally is taking place after the TUC march in Manchester.

Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central, told the rally, “David Cameron is not welcome in the city.”

He said that Cameron should “go back to London with the message that you are wrong. Do it quickly or you, in the end, will have to go.”

Danielle Leadbetter got a huge cheer when she spoke about defending Sure Start. And Lee Jasper, from Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts, told the crowd, “We back the trade unions’ call for civil disobedience”.

Inside the conference, Tory chair Sayeeda Warsi has been forced to refer to “the protesters out there”. She explains the fury on the streets by saying that leadership means telling people what they don’t want to hear.

She also spoke about the student protest at Millbank last year. “We defended the picture of HM and got ready to defend the statue of Lady T,” she said.

The student protests made an impact on demonstrators too.

John Power is a GMB union shop steward from Ashton under Lyne. He told Socialist Worker, 'I'm here because of jobs going, student fees the lot. The joint strikes in november are a good idea'

His wife, Patricia Power, agreed. 'The Tories have got a shock coming to them,” she said. “Our work keeps everything going.”


2.30pm:

There are up to 200 union and campaign banners on the demonstration in Manchester. Lots of people are stressing the importance of groups of workers taking action together.

Marcher Dean Price is from the Rhonda and Cynontaf Unison branch.

He said, “It's the unity we have now that's important. What the Tories are doing affects us all.

“I am more optimistic about striking now than I have been before. The important thing is to get a big turnout in the ballot and a strong yes vote.'

Mark Sewotka, general secretary of the PCS union, told Socialist Worker, 'It's clear from the attendance and mood today that this can build into the forthcoming strikes. There's a mood to fight against the Tories' austerity packages.

“Now we need to ensure the biggest yes vote across the unions. Today's

demo is a big part of that.'

Health workers wearing “Never trust a Tory with the NHS” t-shirts are shouting “We hate Cameron”.

Health worker Pauline Stanley said of the Tory leader, “He will still get his pension. He doesn't have to worry. He doesn't use the services we provide. If we lose our jobs then our clients lose our services.”

She added, “Cameron is bad and as for Clegg, I don't know what he was invented for.”

Norma Moys works with adults with learning difficulties. 'My clients have already received letters telling them their care packages have been changed because of the cuts.

“It’s frightening them.'


2.20pm:

The jails aren’t full enough even after August’s riots. So Boris Johnson plans to throw yet more people in the cells.

He wants police to be allowed to arrest people for swearing at them. Currently police are told they can’t do this.

An instruction card given to officers reads, 'The courts do not accept police officers are caused harassment, alarm or distress by words.'

But Johnson is expected to tell Tory conference delegates that this should change. He told the Daily Mail, “It is time to restore borders to behaviour, discipline, decency and respect for the rule of law.”

Hopefully the demonstration today will cause 'alarm and distress' for the Tories.


1.51pm:

One family on the march is dressed as zombies with placards covered in fake blood. Some of the slogans include 'Generations of the living dead' and 'If you're hungry, eat the rich'.

The Tories say they have no choice but to slash public sector pensions. They say there’s no money.

In fact, the government has millions of surplus cash—and George Osborne has already drawn up plans of what to do with this “underspend”.

Lib Dem treasury secretary Danny Alexander has already identified £500 million of cash floating around government departments. As one adviser to Nick Clegg put it, “If Danny gets £500 million, God knows how much George has found”.


1.40pm:

Lots of marchers are looking forward to striking on 30 November. Firefighter Mark Taylor from Merseyside FBU union said the reason he was marching was “One word—pensions.”

He told Socialist Worker, “I’ve got six years left to work, but if the Tories make their changes it’ll be 15. I’ll definitely be striking next month.”

Gary Keary is the brigade chair of the FBU in Manchester. “We already pay 11 percent in pension contributions,” he said. “The Tories want to raise it to 14. And we’re in the middle of a four-year pay freeze.

“I’ve gone to lots of branch meetings across the brigade. In some of them workers are voting by 99 percent to back resolutions calling for industrial action.”

Tony Hammond from the Prospect union said he was marching to stop an “unprecedented” attack from the Tories. “Our union is balloting for industrial action for the first time in 25 years,” he added.

Baker Jeff McCarthy said the Tories didn’t need to make their cuts. “The country is in a mess but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “We could wipe out the deficit at the stroke of a pen if we abolished Trident.”

The mood of the march is angry but defiant. One banner reads, “Guy Fawkes—we need you”. Another daubed with red paint reads, “You cut, we bleed”.

Chewbacca from Star Wars has also joined the march. His placard reads, “Class wars—the workers fight back”.


1.40pm:

Meanwhile in London up to 1,000 people are marking 75 years since the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.

The battle saw a mass mobilisation of people on the streets stop fascists from marching through London’s East End.

Ninety-six year old veteran Max said, “We stood united in 1936 here in Cable Street and we must do so again against all fascist movements.”

Frances O’Grady, deputy general secretary of the TUC, said, “We are not just here to honour our past. We are here to say they shall not pass to the EDL and the BNP.”


1.25pm:

There will be no peace for the Tories for the rest of their conference after today’s protest. Workers at Fujitsu in Manchester are set to strike on Tuesday—and protest when their CEO addresses a fringe meeting at the Tory conference.

Alan Jenney, a victimised Unite union rep from Fujitsu in Crewe, is on today’s march. He told Socialist Worker, “This march is about numbers. The fight should not be about private sector or public sector. Everyone from all walks of life is here. We have to be united.

“People shy away from using the term general strike but it’s the only thing we can use to fight.”


1.10pm:

The march has set off.

David Cameron claims the Tories are 'firing up the engines of the British economy' by encouraging people to buy their own homes.

In reality, things are getting so desperate that record numbers of people can't afford to feed themselves.

FareShare, a leading food charity, says it is feeding 20 percent more people than it was a year ago – from 29,500 to 35,000. Meanwhile, a thinktank has found that more than one in five workers are earning less than a 'living wage'.

Video of the march setting off.


1pm:

The main march is filling the road all the way from the Hilton hotel tower on Deansgate, back past the Museum of Science and Industry and towards the old Granada studios.

The march is already noisy and packed with union banners and flags – as well as huge Unison, Unite and NUT balloons. Political stalls line the street.

Disability rights activists have joined the demonstration in Manchester. Eleanor from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) traveled from Coventry to march.

She told Socialist Worker, “It takes a lot to get me out of bed early on a Sunday morning. But I am so angry with the Tories I had to come. They are attacking the rights of disabled people.”

Private sector workers are also on the demo, including Mohammed from Rotherham, south Yorkshire, who was on his first protest. He said, “I don't work in the public sector, I am in the motor parts industry. But it’s important for the private sector to show unity. The cuts affect all of us.”

There is also big delegation of parents and their children fighting to save Sure Start in Manchester. Parent Helen Nicoll said, 'We have got to stop them shutting down Sure Start. Its about more than childcare. My partner is recovering from cancer and they helped our whole family through it.'

One FE student, Lewis Holden, is a Labour party member and has made his own placard, 'I can't believe its not Thatcher'. He said, 'I didn't want the Tories to feel welcome in Manchester.'


12.55pm:

The whole area in front of the posh Hilton hotel is a sea of blue banners and massive balloons of the Unison union section ready to lead off the march.

A big delegation of Unison union members who work in the NHS in Rotherham are filing up behind their banner. Anita Heaton, a Unison steward, told Socialist Worker that the Tories have left workers “with no alternative but to strike”.

She said, “Right across the NHS there is a general feeling of frustration and sadness about what's happening. We are dedicated people. We just want to provide our services to people.

“The Tories don't need the NHS, they can all afford private health care.”

Unison branch chair Alan Daw said workers are organising to win big strike votes among Unison members in the ballots that begin this week.

He said, 'We have been cascading leaflets and posters through all our members. Some workers are scattered around in small workplaces so it will be hard work. But we are confident we will win.'


12.40pm:

At the Tory conference chancellor George Osborne is set to announce a series of measures to slash workers’ rights.

He wants to make it easier for bosses to sack workers by changing employment tribunal legislation. Currently workers can take an employer to an employment tribunal if they’ve worked for the boss for a year. Osborne wants to change this to two years.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said the move would create a “hire and fire culture where bad employers cannot be challenged”.

The government unveiled its plans in its report One-in, One-out: Second Statement of New Regulation released last week.

It said, “We are increasing the qualifying period for employees to be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years and introducing fees for lodging employment tribunal cases to tackle vexatious claims.”

Disgustingly it said that this would “give business the confidence to take on staff”. Osborne is also to say the government will cut the number of union officers in the civil service.


12.35pm:

Video of students assembling


12.25pm:

A feeder march has joined the main protest from Salford. There were at least three Unison union banners on the 200-strong march, along with Salford and Bolton trades council banners and others.

Martin McLaughlin from Bolton trades council summed up the mood among people when he said, “We’re fed up of cuts.”

Other protesters are arriving from further afield.

Neil Bendelow, a CWU union member, traveled from Cleveland, Teesside, to march against the Tories.

He told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because of what the Tories want to do to the post office. The Tories only value one thing—bankers’ profits.

“There is plenty of money around if they taxed the bankers to the hilt.

“I support the strikes on 30 November. My wife is in Unison. We work for peanuts. You start work on a pension scheme and you don't expect them to change the rules half way through.

“Cutting everything isn't going to fix things. But Cameron and Clegg are too arrogant to see that.”


12.15pm:

Several hundred students assembled outside the University of Manchester for a feeder march onto the main demonstration.

They are making placards, putting up posters and playing instruments.

Union banners from the UCU and Unison are up, and one group has arrived with a large paper mâché vulture with scissors for a head.

Sophie, from Manchester Metropolitan University, was part of the group of students carrying the vulture.

'Cutting the arts means the arts establishment can't do outreach work. It has a detrimental effect,' she said.

'This is a symbol of the art and culture that Manchester's proud of,' she said. 'It's our culture vulture.'

The crowd is constantly swelling, and people have many reasons to be here.

'The Tories aren't welcome here,' said Amy Taylor, the University of Manchester Students' Union LGBT officer.

'I hate them. They're the class enemy.”

Amy is angry at Tory attacks on minority groups, including LGBT people.

'Cuts to LGBT services affect people. Homelessness and mental health problems are more common for LGBT people, and we're being disproportionately affected.

'The mood among students is getting more and more angry. Today is a build up to mass action to bring them down.'

Tom Brooks graduated with a degree in History and Social Sciences earlier this year, but is now looking for work.

'It's difficult finding work, interviews are few and far between,' he said. 'The only option is bar work, if you can get that.

'It's hard living on £53 a week.

'My mum's about to lose her council job thanks to the cuts.”

But Tom is hopeful about today's demonstration.

'People are fighting and resisting,' he said. 'And today can build for the 30 November public sector strikes.

'There's some demoralisation, but today can help change people's feelings. It can give them hope.'


11.20am:

Thousands of people are heading to Manchester from across Britain to protest against the Tories, who are meeting there for their annual conference.

Protesters on coaches from London ran into Tory Liam Fox at the motorway services at 10am. They chased him off, chanting 'They say cutback, we say fightback' and 'Tory scum'

In the city itself, activists spent every last minute building for the demonstration. A trade union-sponsored “battle bus” toured Salford and Manchester yesterday, Saturday.

Lee from the PCS union told Socialist Worker “Wherever we stopped we were well received. People kept beeping horns at us as we drove down the road”.

Danielle Leadbeater was one of a group of young mothers who brought their children on the bus. She said, “We’ve been out to raise awareness of the threats to Sure Start. The councillors accuse us of sitting around in our pyjamas all day—but we’ll be marching in our pyjamas on Sunday”.

Sam O’Brien from the Unison union said the bus got “a great reception in Salford and Moss Side”.

“People are clearly very angry about the cuts,” he said. “It was great to see people from the TUC and Labour Party getting involved—we had a Labour councillor on the bus.”

Sean Molloy, a 17-year old unemployed activist, told Socialist Worker “People are really angry, especially young people who have lost their EMA.”

Mark Krantz from the Right to Work campaign organised the bus. Branches of the NUJ, PCS and Unison unions, along with Greater Manchester TUC, funded it.

Tory conference delegates will be greeted by a warm “welcome to

Manchester” on almost every advertising hoarding around the venue.

But the message coming from local people is very different.

Drumming up support

Drumming up support


On the march

On the march



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Sun 2 Oct 2011, 11:30 BST
Issue No. 2271
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