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
    +69

    Comment number 442.

    Once again, many are quite happy to be divided and ruled, criticising their fellows for protesting against cuts. But these 'cuts' are selective: they damage the majority but have no effect on the wealthy minority. Also, the cuts are nothing to do with 'healing' our wealthy economy - they work in favour of big business - low taxes for the rich and shrunken state support for the poor.

  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 437.

    I struggle to see how making all these cuts will resolve anything without any real plan to create more jobs.

    Cuts result in more people out of work, so less tax generated and a higher welfare bill.

    False economy.

  • rate this
    +49

    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
    +55

    Comment number 174.

    Amazed there are so many simplistic, one-eyed "stop the cuts" opinions out there. Yes, we can stop cutting, but then we end up like Greece with massive hikes in interest rates and loss of jobs. There is no silver bullet solution out there - I think the problems in the Eurozone show this. We just have to accept that we are all going to have to accept a drop in our standard of living for some time.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 161.

    I have to drop a grade this year as a staff nurse so losing about £300 per month otherwise I will be made redundant. I am also seeing a drop in my pension which a large chunk of my wages goes towards ( which private sector workers seem to forget) also local pay grading if introduced will see my wages again reduce. Public sector workers content with frozen wages wake up! Thats just the start!

 

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