Socialist Worker

Thousands join march in Birmingham as Tory conference begins

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2523

Thousands joined a protest outside the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham

Thousands joined a protest outside the Tory Party conference in Birmingham (Pic: Neil Terry)


Anger against austerity and racism was on show in Birmingham today, Sunday, as thousands joined a demonstration against the Tory Party conference.

It was organised by the People's Assembly who said 10,000 were on the march.

Dawn, a Unite union member, told Socialist Worker why she joined the march. "This is about the Tories' austerity—we’re here to show Theresa May that we won't take their policies.

"Lots of people want an alternative."

Philip added, "I didn't know this was going on, but I've joined it because I feel so strongly about what the Tories are doing."

The demonstration had a strong contingent of students and young workers. Camilla, a school student, told Socialist Worker, "As a student I can see what the Tories are doing to education with underfunding.

"They're decreasing funding for courses such as drama and only focusing on maths and science."

Many were furious with the Tories immigration policy that sees refugees trapped at Britain's border in Calais.

Joe, a Unison union member from Portsmouth, told Socialist Worker, "The main issue for me is the refugee crisis. We've got a duty to help refugees.

"We play a role in the world that helped cause it but aren't doing anything about it."

Tory prime minister Theresa May also wants to bring in new restrictions on European Union (EU) migrants' rights—and some Tories want to end free movement altogether.

But the demonstration also showed the potential to build a movement against it. Mrisho, a student at the University of West London, has gotten involved in the new Stand Up to Racism society. 

He told Socialist Worker, "Since coming from Tanzania four years ago, I've faced racism.

"I was racially profiled when I went to the mall and the fact that I am a Muslim means I'm pushed to one side for wearing traditional clothes."

Shouts of "Tories out now" rang out as the march made its way through Birmingham. But for many people the focus was on ousting the Tories at the next general election rather than organising against their attacks now.

Pete Goulden, West Midlands secretary of the FBU firefighters union, told Socialist Worker, "We've lost 500 firefighters in the region alone and that's beginning to have an impact on public safety.

"All we can try and do is slow that down, we can't stop it now. To stop it we need a general election and get Jeremy Corbyn elected."

Jeremy Corbyn's re-election as Labour leader last weekend had given many on the march a boost. But people were also clear that Corbyn will still face challenges from the right—inside and outside the Labour Party.

Aysha, who's part of the Labour left group Momentum in Bolton, told Socialist Worker, "I think some of the people who've been attacking Jeremy won't get behind him.

"We've got to get out there and get more people to support him."

Dawn agreed, “The first thing that we've got to do now is get behind Jeremy Corbyn—the  whole right is against him and that includes inside the Labour Party.”

The right within the Labour Party are not going to stop their attacks on Corbyn. Building a mass movement to stop the Tories’ attacks can help to bolster him against the right.

Meanwhile the Tories remain deeply divided on how to deal with “Brexit”. As the conference began this morning Tory MPs Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke both attacked May over it.

Natalie Bennet from the Green Party said, “They are a split, divided and broken Tory party—we need to remember that.


Trade unionists debate fightback at Unite the Resistance meeting

Almost 250 people joined a Unite the Resistance (UtR) meeting at the end of the rally to discuss how the unions can take the fight to the Tories.

The atmosphere was amazing. Durham teaching assistant Megan Charlton spoke about their fight against their Labour council slashing pay by 23 percent—and got a standing ovation.

More than £300 was collected for the teaching assistants—and Megan said she wanted to resist the pay attack every step of the way.

The meeting also heard from junior doctor Megan Parsons on how their dispute with the Tory government had been hugely politicised.

She explained how some junior doctors are now taking up wider questions of tackling austerity and racism.

Speakers also included Kumaran Bose a victimised food worker at Samworth Brothers in Leicester, Sean Vernell from UtR and Bfawu union president Ian Hodson.


People’s Conference calls for movement to develop

Some 250 people attended the People’s Conference held in parallel to the Tory Party conference in Birmingham last Saturday.

It was organised by the People’s Assembly.

Activists from across Britain listened to speeches and discussed how to combat the Tories’ continuing austerity.

Speakers included film director Ken Loach, Lindsey German from Stop the War, Dave Ward of the CWU union, former leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett, and Birmingham Stop the War activist Salma Yaqoob.

Several speakers said that the campaign to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn had taken energy from the movement over the summer.

But it was important not to simply watch Labour but to keep building on the streets, developing a plan for a “People’s Brexit” and build the People’s Assembly.

Ward used his speech to argue for a mass movement against the Tories’ economic plans.

He said, “If Jeremy Corbyn grew the Labour Party to over 500,000 members, we can put one million people on the streets for the TUC-backed march in April”

Former Birmingham City councillor Yaqoob said, “Mainstream politicians have been feeding racism drip by drip. We have to stand united”


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