Anti-austerity marches take place


Demonstrators want the coalition to end public service cuts

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Tens of thousands of people have marched in protest at the government's austerity measures.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, among dozens of speakers who addressed crowds at the biggest march in London, received a mixed reaction. Other rallies took place in Glasgow and Belfast.

The government says austerity measures are vital to cutting the deficit.

Away from the rally, the Met Police said it had responded to anti-social behaviour in the Oxford Street area.

Organiser Trades Union Congress (TUC), which said workers and campaigners from across the UK were involved with the demonstration, estimated that more than 150,000 people took part while the Met Police has not released an estimate.

Ed Miliband: "I have said whoever was in government now there would be some cuts."

That compares with the more than 250,000 people who took part in a London anti-cuts march and rally in March 2011.

Mr Miliband, speaking at a rally in Hyde Park at the end of the march, said his party was there for "all the young people in this country who want work, but can't find it in Britain today".

He was booed when he suggested there would still be spending cuts under Labour - Union leaders recently criticised Labour for supporting a public sector pay freeze.

"I have said whoever was in government now there would be some cuts, but this government has shown that cutting too far and too fast, self-defeating austerity is not the answer, it is not the answer to Britain's problems," he said.

But there were cheers when he referenced the incident in which Chancellor George Osborne had to pay for an upgrade after he sat in a first class train carriage with a standard class ticket.

At the scene

Two hours after the march began, there was still a sea of people snaking their way from the Embankment, through Whitehall, along Piccadilly and into Hyde Park for the rally.

The party atmosphere, complete with whistles, hooters and brass bands, belied the serious message from those taking part that government cuts are too harsh.

But the placards - including "no cuts" and "24 hour general strike" - said it all.

Once in Hyde Park, listening to speakers such as Ed Miliband and union leaders, the mood was more sedate.

Such were the numbers taking part in the event that the rear of the march only arrived at Hyde Park shortly before the rally ended.

He was also cheered when he spoke about Andrew Mitchell's resignation after the chief whip admitted swearing at police officers during a Downing Street confrontation, but denied calling them "plebs".

"Andrew Mitchell may have resigned, but the culture of two nations runs right across this government," Mr Miliband said.

"They cut taxes for millionaires and they raise taxes for ordinary families."

But Conservative Business Minister Michael Fallon said later that Mr Miliband's speech showed Labour could not be trusted with public finances.

Mr Fallon said: "By turning up at a rally that opposes every single spending cut that's necessary to deal with our debts, Ed Miliband has shown that he's still in favour of more spending, more borrowing and even greater debt.

"That's what got us into this mess in the first place."

The marchers - brought to London in more than 250 coaches - had assembled along Victoria Embankment on the north bank of the Thames from 1100 BST and set off at about noon.

Banners on display included those reading "Cameron has butchered Britain", "no cuts" and "plebs on parade".

In a separate development, the Met Police said it had responded to a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour in the Oxford Street shopping area and that some arrests had been made.

At the March 2011 demonstration, there were clashes between police and protesters in Trafalgar Square - hours after a peaceful march to Hyde Park. A total of 201 arrests were made that day.

Elsewhere around the UK:

  • The BBC's Laura Maxwell, at the Glasgow march, said the people there had come from all over Scotland and the north of England to add their voice to the national demonstration. Most of the criticism there was levied at the Westminster government, but the Scottish TUC says the Scottish government has to stop hiding behind Chancellor George Osborne's public sector pay cuts, our reporter added.
  • At the Belfast rally, organised by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), assistant general secretary Peter Bunting said Stormont must not "slavishly" cut back on the say-so of the government in London. He said workers must not allow themselves to be divided into sectarian blocs, as they had been in the past.

Earlier this month, Mr Cameron warned more "painful decisions" would be necessary to repair the UK economy, adding that he would not waver from austerity measures.

And on Saturday, around the time of the start of the London march, he posted a message on Twitter stating: "Today Ed Miliband is headlining a rally calling for an end to every single spending cut needed to clear the deficit #labourisntlearning."

Brendan Barber describes the government's austerity measures as a "negative strategy"

However, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The evidence is mounting that austerity is failing.

"More than 2.5 million people are out of work, a further three million are not working enough hours to make ends meet, and wages have been falling every month for the last three years."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the "huge squeeze on wages and living standards" had led to a "massive hit on confidence and on demand in the economy".

"That's why some of our biggest companies that are sitting on big cash reserves aren't investing that and getting our economy moving again."

However, he said he did not think a general strike by unions was likely, adding: "Some of my colleagues may talk about that. I don't hear too many people calling for a general strike."

Taxpayers' Alliance: "Most of the public understand and accept cuts are needed."

Calls for a mass walk-out over spending cuts have grown in recent months, with the TUC Congress voting in September to look into the practicalities of organising one.

A government spokesman said: "It is disappointing that some unions insist on pushing for irresponsible and futile strike action which benefits no-one. As we have said time and again, pension talks will not be reopened and nothing further will be achieved through strike action."

Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said of Ed Miliband: "You can't be serious about clearing the deficit when you attend a march that calls for an end to austerity."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1399.

    The notion that the left can change the economy policy of this Government with a march is ridiculous. It is time to increase the pressure on the people who've cut taxes for the richest when there's supposedly no money.

    Oh, and stop inviting "we'll cut your livelihoods slower" Milliband to speak too. Does he really represent the left? Labour are neoliberalist cronies too, tell them to get lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1398.

    Where do all these protesters think the money comes from?

    They're wrong if they think it's their wage packets, as much of the government's revenue comes from corporation tax which stifles investment.
    We've had a bloated government payroll for decades & cutting it down to size is well overdue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1397.

    Whilst I don't normally believe in deficit spending, clearly austerity is not having the desired effect on output. Hardly surprising thou, if you reduce Government spending, a component of GDP, then output will fall.

    We can currently borrow at record low levels of interest, perhaps it is time to engage in some much needed infrastructure projects (housing, high speed rail) to kick-start recovery

  • rate this

    Comment number 1396.

    1385. Tc1234

    While there is obviously a direct relationship between public spending cuts and public sector job losses, this isn't a fight between the two sectors

    It's a fight against the austerity measures. These affect hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants, many on low incomes working in the private sector

    Once again the true message has been lost among the hate towards the public sector

  • rate this

    Comment number 1395.

    1380. jeaster300
    The unfortunate truth is that these cuts are absolutely necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1394.

    1382Mr Lee

    '' much more tax could you get from those evil businesses and unacceptably wealthy individuals?'s diddly squat...''

    How the hell do you know? Nobody does.

    Mr Lee strikes again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1393.

    Re 24 Mr Ross Sadly the way your post has been voted down quite clearly reflects one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome is folks perception of ones own worth and alleged entitlement.If you have started a business and are managing to suvive in the present climate. WELL done! Shame there's not thousands more like you !That WOULD solve many of the problems the country has.Not all tho. granted!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1392.

    I wish I had shares in Timpsons, because all these people have achieved is to wear out their shoes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1391.

    @ Steve HG,

    Why, Hastings is right, it's just jealousy, the work shy v those prepared to get up and make a living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1390.

    When the state has to pay out more than it generates

    Well 'the state' found £1.3 trillion to bail out and 'lend' to the financial sector. Where did they get £1.3 trillion from? That's right, you, me and empty promises. So, let's cut the state borrowing (from us) to give to greedy banks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1389.

    This is what Ed Miliband should have said -

    We have to keep cutting public sector jobs and creating even more in the private sector.

    We have to reverse the explosion in welfare benefits and encourage as many as possible back to work in the private sector.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1388.

    We seem to have forgotten who created this... Global banks. Full stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1387.

    Jail the rich fraudsters and tax-dodgers! They contribute nothing to society. They just commit crimes and grind the system to a halt. Then scrounge off the rest off us to bail them out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1386.

    The idea that someone is poor because someone else is rich is just lies and propaganda from unions
    This idea does not exist - ask Aunt Sally.

    How rich someone is may well be very relevant in context.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1385.

    Agree re tax avoidance - Starbucks a great example (clever accounting or not)

    But the arrogance of protesters to say they should be excluded from cuts after years of waste in the public sector is astonishing! Just because there are other populist areas where revenue could be raised, it shouldn't exclude the public sector or welfare from scrutiny. It is selfish buck passing

  • rate this

    Comment number 1384.

    1376 voice of rationality

    '... there haven't actually been any cuts yet?'

    I'll remember that on my way to work on Monday in my safe public sector job. Oh no, my mistake. Haven't done that since the cuts which haven't happened yet cut my job eighteen months ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1383.

    1374. Hastings

    While somebodies wealth isn't directly related to the poverty of another person, the wealth gap is creating an increasingly divided society.

    This tends not to improve relationships between the haves and the have nots. Whether through jealously of what the wealthy have, or just the general feeling of unfairness. Some get the silver spoon and some get the heavy load.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1382.

    So, The Bladesman strikes again (1353).

    If you were able to get your hands on the money, how much more tax could you get from those evil businesses and unacceptably wealthy individuals?

    I shall tell you the answer. In the general scheme of themes, Mr Bladesman, it's diddly squat.

    It wouldn't, IT COULDN'T begin to solve the 'structural' problem. We can't afford the welfare state as it stands..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1381.

    Well, Mr Lee

    Fair enough, well lets cut benefits to the disabled and poor and let the rich get away with it then?

    Listen, I'm far from an ideological left-winger but before funding for the poorest is cut the gov't should at least try and act on individuals/businesses that are blatantly avoiding tax. Otherwise they simply won't be re-elected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1380.

    The unfortunate truth is that these cuts are absolutely necessary. The private sector provides the majority of jobs in this country (24m). If the government crowds out investment with injections of its own, it discourages private input. This is something that the previous Labour government was guilty of in pathetic populist pandering. Economics should not be a populist science in government.


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