A left wing march of thousands of people through central London on Saturday brought together many strands of anger at the Tory government.
The march called by the People’s Assembly wanted to send a message to the Tories that they will start to face resistance again.
Organisers branded the march as “united against the Tories”. There was a focus on the blatant corruption of Tory ministers, the failures that have caused tens of thousands of excess deaths and attacks on working class people.
As Holly an health worker from Hastings, put it, “The Tories have brought me to this march. They’re corrupt and they’re taking the mickey out of workers.”
She told Socialist Worker, “They’re more worried about getting children to sing silly patriotic songs at school than they are about prosecuting their own ministers. They repeatedly break the law—and nothing happens.”
Protesters had a litany of reasons to march. One of them, who came with the CWU union, told Socialist Worker, “We want to show solidarity with the Unite and GMB unions. They are fighting against fire and rehire. We don’t want that in our own workplaces.”
He added, “It’s not just fire and rehire. There’s zero hour contracts—after ten years of austerity, these are the kind of jobs our kids have got. I’m here to defend the NHS, and for a proper social care system—that’s very important to me.”
People from many other campaigns and causes made up large sections of the march. One of the biggest sections was a bloc from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Friends of Al-Aqsa.
Even weeks after Israel’s assault on Gaza ended, thousands of people still want to march for Palestine—and turn the anger on the Tories. One marcher said, “Israel bombs Gaza, and Britain sells it bombs. We need to stop that, and we need sanctions on Israel.”
There were blocs from other campaigns too, including Kill the Bill, Extinction Rebellion and Stand Up to Racism. Esha said she came with the Stand Up To Racism bloc because “there’s never been a more important time to march.
“People are fighting institutional racism all over the world.”
Marchers from every bloc said it was important to see the different campaigns come together.
Dave, who was with Extinction Rebellion, told Socialist Worker, “This is a movement of movements. I’m really pleased that all of these issues are coming together.
“Why is the government spending money on nukes but not on fair pay for NHS key workers?”
And Rich, who joined the march wearing a T-shirt that read, “Tories are attacking everyone,” said he came on the march after joining the Kill the Bill protests. “I’m here because of the pigs,” he told Socialist Worker.
But he added he was glad to be marching alongside people from other movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, because the police bill affects everyone’s right to protest.
“The thing about Kill the Bill is that people can start to see the threat from the cops,” he said. “A year ago a lot of people from Extinction Rebellion would have said we love the cops. Now they’re marching alongside us.”
Yet underlying the unity is an argument about how to challenge the Tories.
The rally at the end of the march was top loaded with Labour politicians and trade union officials. Many of them called for Tory ministers such as Matt Hancock to resign—and raised demands such as a national social care service.
Many also criticised Labour Party leader Keir Starmer for failing to challenge the Tories, and called for a return to the policies of Labour’s 2019 manifesto. And there was still a large cheer for former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Howard Beckett from the Unite union criticised the “abject response of Labour”. He also called for people to support Steve Turner in the election for Unite’s general secretary. Yet neither he nor Turner—who chaired the rally—said what Unite would do to fight the Tories.
Some talked about more action. CWU general secretary Dave Ward said, “We can’t wait for Labour to sort itself out.
“Let the trade union movement lead the way—with all of you with us.”
Yet despite some banners from trade union branches, including from the CWU, Unite, the RMT and Aslef, there were no large union blocs. The march could have been much larger if they had mobilised properly.
Many protesters said they wanted more action. A marcher from the Palestine bloc said, “We need to keep putting pressure on the government like this, blocking roads.”
Holly said, “We need more unity on the left and show people that there is an alternative—that people are standing up to the Tories.”
And Dave, from Extinction Rebellion, said, “The police raided Extinction Rebellion’s art warehouse and took all their placards. But look around—do you see a lack of placards?
“All it takes is for people to show up. We need mass action.”