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 239.

    No one was complaining when Labour we creating public sectors jobs like water 2007-2009. These people have the right to demonstrate, but I hate to break the news but this is just the beginning of the cuts. The western world is way over its credit card limit and luxuries like gold plated pensions will soon be history...

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    People cannot live on borrowed money forever and the same applies to countries, eventually the money has to be payed back. Never mind who's fault it is or was, the fact remains that we are hopelessly in debt and somehow the money has to be found to settle that debt. There is no quick fix.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    "Yes, we can stop cutting, but then we end up like Greece with massive hikes in interest rates and loss of jobs"

    Utter rubbish - are you living under a rock? That's PRECISELY the way we're heading thanks to austerity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Those in employment who attack the unions should remember that the terms & conditions that they enjoy even as non-union members is as a result of nearly 200 yrs of negotiating with employers and lobbying to successive governments.

    If you don't believe that or care about that then waive all of your employment rights and terms & conditions including your holidays right now.

    No ?..Oh thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    If all these groups marching had, to their minds, cuts that were acceptable, then the country would go under.
    So then they'd need to argue which groups should get a preference. Bigger chance of an Arab Israeli peace accord.
    If they all marched with blindfolds it would at least be honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Govt Deficit = Private Surplus + Net Imports

    For greater wealth and productivity: we need a bigger budget deficit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    @174. Quiltman47
    There is no silver bullet solution out there - I think the problems in the Eurozone show this.
    Well...ask Merkel and a 'Silver Bullet' solution is CUTS!
    If there really was a lot of flab then ok, but there isn't so all you will do is help stagnate the economy with them.
    Cut immigration and it's cost...lots of room there!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.


    They did this 18 months ago and it made no difference.

    Don't these marchers get a dreadful sense of deja vu?"

    Sneer it makes you feel better, but pray that next time the plebs don't conclude that being nice about it doesn't work and go for Plan B.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    If a family had no money, and was massively in debt, should they borrow more money and increase their debt so that they could buy more stuff? That's exactly what Labour and the unions are suggesting that the UK should do. It wouldn't work. It's the worst kind of short-termism. The Tories have made faults like putting-up VAT, which is a growth killer, but there does have to be cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    As an NHS employee for 31 years I have sympathy with the protest but people are trying to turn back the tide. Living standards in Europe will be forced to stand still or regress until more productive countries like China, Malaysia, Korea, Brazil catch up. There is almost nothing we do they can't do cheaper. Do something clever, start a company, join the real economy. protests will achieve nothing

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    When someone calls you "comrade", you just know things are going to get a lot worse.

    Same goes for "Fraternally".

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Unfortunately, I'm struggling to think of a single time when peaceful protest changed anything. The Conservatives, or all politicians come to that, worship big business. They don't care that their voters have to choose between eating or heating. They don't care we don't have jobs or are struggling to pay rent. They are out of touch with us. All they are interested in is their own personal greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    #153 - like Ed Millionaire Milliband

    - The first Problem with your argument is Ed Isn't a Millionaire , His wife owns the House they live in,He contributes towards the mortgage

    She earns considerably more than He does.
    Neither are in the same wealth bracket as the Millionaire Toffs cabinet.

    Our "Born to Rule" Government simply aren't very good at it

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Good to see a peaceful demonstration from a mix of different people of all ages and backgrounds, on a Saturday, to minimise disruption. Perhaps there are some here who would prefer it to degenerate into a riot to satisfy their lust for no peaceful demonstrations allowed at all?

    Plus, I don't believe all these demonstrators are all Labour voters either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Interesting to see the union leaders slagging off the "rich" and calling for the poor workers to strike and lose pay:

    Barber (TUC) - £100,000 golden handshake
    McCluskey (UNITE) - £130,000 pa
    Kenny (GMB) - £114,000 pa
    Crow (RMT) - £140,000 pa
    Blower (NUT) - £130,000 pa
    Serwotka (PCS) - £126,000 pa

    All figures are of course, plus bonuses, cars etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    These people don't seem to understand that money doesn't grow on trees.

    I actually work for local governemt and it has become a behemoth of jobsworths and where never has so little been achieved by so many.

    It's always the poorest local goverment workers who are actually providing a service(nurses, binmen, etc) who suffer.

    Cut the jobsworths and give the workers a decent wage......

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    We face a difficult new globalised world. Our country has an inflated public service and the size of the welfare state is dragging down our competitiveness.

    We constantly spend more than we earn nationally and like the USA and Europe we face bankruptcy. This is hard to accept if your on low wages but the truth is hard.

    This society is not yet ready for the solutions, austerity is nothing!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Iceland had a peaceful revolution,the bankers failed, bailed out the people and used trickle UP economics. Iceland is now fine. We, on the other hand, have corrupt rich boys who refuse to tax their corporate backers, maintaining their own profits (their investments and positions on company boards). It's a club, and we aint in it! Time for a general strike and a demand for them all to get out now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    16 Minutes ago

    #116 "Government debt actually FELL between 1997 and 2007"

    You know very well a chunk of it went 'off book' i.e. pfi for schools and hospitals which is coming back to bite those councils and NHS trusts now it is back on the books..
    I see your post is being rated down, as L/Cpl Jones said "They don't like it up em." Ah! Those rose tinted glasses, they're great.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    I do agree that cuts need to be made BUT I am getting a little sick of being told by a group of millionaire friends from Eton that although the front line services (things that normal people need like; Police forces, the NHS and support for students) must be cut back it is simply impossible to tax the rich or big corporations like Starbucks or Vodafone.


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