Not the usual suspects
The political potency of tomorrow's anti-cuts march will be decided not just by how many protesters it attracts, but who they are. If the government see a crocodile of what they might regard as "the usual suspects" snaking through London - the trade unions, political opponents, left-wing activists and a few troublemakers up for a bundle - they will breathe relatively easy. Opposition can then be managed in the traditional manner: well-rehearsed political argument and condemnation of any unpleasantness.
What would be scary for ministers is if the march attracts broader opposition, including their own traditional supporters. Then, potentially, the protest becomes a movement - much harder to control.
This week I travelled to a Tory heartland - rural Gloucestershire, where you are as likely to see a red squirrel (not very) as a red rosette. The Conservative-controlled county council has announced cuts of £114m with youth clubs, libraries and day-care centres under threat. Familiar public services may disappear.
In a village, nestling in the Cotswolds, I was greeted by a sight that might well send a shudder down the spine of a young Minister. A regiment of purposeful Gloucestershire ladies were making their way to a kitchen-table meeting. Over tea from a pot and cakes from a stand, they discussed the arrangements for tomorrow. They are planning to join the protest.
"I'm scared of going on a political march" says Chloe Lees, announcing that she has never been on a demo before.
"I don't want to be kettled. I refuse to pee in the street whatever the cause."
Nevertheless, the plans have been made and Chloe will be on a train tomorrow morning with her "Save The Libraries" placard.
"I'm taking my 74-year-old Mum," says Susan Caudron. "This is the only way to make a difference. Now we really have to get out there and show them how we feel."
Eighty-five-year-old Eugenie Summerfield adds her voice:
"I'm not fit enough to be there but I'll be with you in spirit. I'm so angry about what's happening, not just in Gloucestershire but all over the country. I'll be with you all the way."
There is authentic passion in the room. The tea-party in the Cotswolds is not politically motivated, but they have been roused by the threat to the users of familiar and well-loved public services.
"I want to stand up for these people" announces Alice Ross. "That's what I'll be doing when I go to London. I'll be standing up for the 15,000 people who signed the petition, hoping it looks like we're standing 15,000 strong." There is a determined look on her face.
I met up with a local Tory MP, Neil Carmichael, to ask what he would say to the militants in the idyll. Coincidentally, he was cutting the ribbon on a new community centre in the nearby town of Stonehouse - just the kind of Big Society initiative the county council hope might prompt people to come forward and take over the running of threatened libraries and youth clubs.
"Go behind me you will see lots of people working hard for their community. They are not marching in protest, they are doing things in action", he told me. "That's what we want to see more of and in this constituency we are seeing it all over the place, and that's really encouraging."
I took the MP's words to the tea-party, but the ladies of Gloucestershire were not impressed. "This is the Big Society and we say no!", Johanna Anderson said. "They should listen to ordinary people like us."
"We all volunteer but you don't expect to run youth services and libraries," echoed Julie Baker. "The Big Society is there but it's not there to run the country in this crazy way."
A recent Ipsos Mori survey found that 45% of Conservative voters think the cuts are being implemented too quickly, but there remains much broader support for the need to reduce the deficit and a resignation about it's consequences. However, even now the cuts have not yet really started to bite. Council plans to restructure and reduce service provision have only recently been announced.
"I'm so worried about the future for our kids, it's awful" says Susan Caudron. "I never thought I'd get to this age and feel so worried about the future."
The ladies of the Cotswolds huddled around a computer, absorbing the TUC's "Tips for New Marchers" as they planned their trip to the capital. If the trains and buses arriving from around the country include many more like them, the politics of the cuts will become very different.