Chants of, “Stop Boris!” rang out in Manchester on Sunday as up to 5,000 people marched against the Tories, who were gathering for their party conference.
The demonstration, organised by the People’s Assembly, united anger at Tory austerity, racism and inaction on climate change.
Lucy, a student and Extinction Rebellion (XR) member, was furious that “we’ve had two prime ministers in a row without a general election”. “The longer it goes on the more lives will be lost to austerity and universal credit,” she told Socialist Worker.
“We need radical, not incremental change.”
Boris Johnson began his first Tory party conference as prime minister at the helm of a divided and desperate government.
Johnson tried to take the heat off ahead of the conference by promising the “biggest hospital building programme in a generation” of £13 billion and 40 new hospitals.
The plan quickly unravelled. It turned out to amount to £2.7 billion to revamp six hospitals, with more money only coming in the decade after 2020.
One protesting GMB union rep from the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton said he was “fed up with the Tory government’s lies about austerity”. He told Socialist Worker, “We have a government by the rich, of the rich for the rich.
“Management say they’re putting ‘patients first’, but staff are working in antiquated conditions.
“They can run down the NHS and sell it off and then what goes on is not for our benefit, it’s all for the shareholders.”
Protesters braved driving rain to join the demonstration. It was lifted by delegations of health and local government workers who have struck over pay in the North West.
Paul was with a group of Addaction rehabilitation service workers from Wigan who are gearing up for another three-day strike from 9 October. He told Socialist Worker people had to get the Tories out or “it will mean more privatisation, poor pay and more services hived off”.
There was a lively group of Unison union members from Blackpool and St Helens and Knowsley hospitals. The support workers have struck six times despite management attempts to gag them.
They demand that subcontractor Compass pays them the same rate of pay that workers directly employed by the NHS receive.
Speakers put out call after call from the stage for a “socialist Labour government” that could bring about fundamental changes. Labour’s shadow business minister Laura Pidcock said, “It doesn’t have to be like this—pay stagnation, grotesque inequity, privatisation.
“The planet is on fire because of the economic system this government props up—and we are saying no more.
“On these streets is where we find our power.”
Unfortunately, Labour has not pushed for an immediate general election because it is prioritising cross-party efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Yet any form of Brexit—soft or hard, deal or no-deal—will be bad for working class people if it’s based on Tory policies.
The best response is to unite Leave and Remain working class voters in a battle to get the Tory government out now.