The crowd in London’s Hyde Park at the TUC rally has little truck with the idea we need any cuts—and is raring to fight back against the Tories.
Marchers booed Labour leader Ed Miliband when he declared a Labour government would make cuts. “There will still be hard choices— it’s right that we level with people.” Miliband said to shouts of “rubbish” from the crowd.
Miliband also pledged his support for the cops. “We have with us off duty police officers,” he told the crowd. “Let us say we stand with them too.”
But protesters cheered when Miliband said Labour would repeal the government’s Health and Social Care Act and end the “privatisation experiment” in the NHS.
Miliband ended his message by banging the drum for the old Tory ideal of “one nation”. He has been pushing this theme heavily since his Labour conference speech last month.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow responded to Miliband. Protesters cheered when he said, “It’s no good Ed Miliband coming here and saying he’s with us today.
“We want him to say he’s on the side of working men and working women—and that he will refuse to put through any further cuts.”
Crow was drowned out by applause when he added, “We’ve marched twice now. It’s about time we looked at the practicalities of a general strike.”
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said, “If marching doesn’t stop them, we’ve got to do what they’ve done in Greece, Portugal and Spain. We’ve got to have strike action right across the economy.
“It’s not enough to wish it. We’ve got to make it happen. Let’s say to our trade union leaders, me included, the time has come to strike and when we strike together we can win.”
Other union leaders appeared less enthusiastic for swift and united action. Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary said that unions were “here to stand up for the millions”, not the millionaires.
Some protesters heckled Prentis over whether he backed a general strike. He replied that Unison had “voted yes for the motion considering the implication of a general strike” at the TUC congress.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said workers needed to strike together—“when the time is right and all the practicalities have been considered”.
Teachers across Britain have been passing motions calling on union leaders to call coordinated strikes this term.
Outgoing general secretary of the TUC Brendan Barber spoke, as did incoming general secretary Frances O'Grady.
Sue Marsh, author of Diary Of A Benefit Scrounger, denounced Atos, the private firm that “assesses” whether disabled people are entitled to benefits.
Protesters from Disabled People Against Cuts are currently blocking roads in central London in protest at government attacks on disabled people.
Read more of our 20 October coverage