As it happened: Anti-spending cuts protests

Key Points

  • Thousands of people have taken part in protests in central London, Glasgow and Belfast against the government's spending cuts
  • Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed a rally in Hyde Park where some union leaders called for a general strike
  • The government says austerity measures are vital to cutting the deficit, a stance backed by the Taxpayers' Alliance pressure group which reckons the protests will have no effect on policy

Join the discussion


    Welcome to live coverage of the marches taking place across the UK against the government's austerity measures. The events have been organised by the TUC, which says the policies are harming the economy. The largest march takes place in central London and starts from the Embankment at noon. Protests in Glasgow and Belfast have already begun.

    Union leaders at start of the London march

    Here's the scene on the Embankment when TUC general secretary Brendan Barber and other union leaders gathered for the start of the march, which is now under way.


    The trade unions were among the first to suggest that the government's austerity plans would harm the economy. The marches are intended to demonstrate that the opposition is now much more widespread. Anti-war campaigners, politicians and activists are also taking part. Mr Barber says the marchers want to tell the government that austerity is not working. "This is a government of broken promises," he told the BBC earlier. "They told us we were on our way to a recovery and instead we've been mired in a recession."


    Campaign group the Taxpayers' Alliance, however, has offered an alternative take. Its chief executive, Matthew Sinclair, says the cuts were needed. He says the marchers will not "make any difference to the simple arithmetic that the government is spending a lot more than it can afford to, that the government is living beyond taxpayers' means... I think that if the unions think that that is an argument they can still win, I think they are just deluded."


    There's more background to the march and the austerity cuts in our news story, which is also being updated with the latest information from the protests.

    1227: Richard Lister BBC News correspondent

    says the front of the march is now passing Big Ben, with plenty of banners and large red Unite balloons in sight. There are whistles, drums and horns with the crowd "lively" and the atmosphere "good natured".


    Campaign group UK Uncut are also taking part in the march. Spokeswoman Sarah Miller says: "The cuts are economically illiterate and punish the poorest and most marginalized members of our society for a crisis caused by the banks".


    The march in Glasgow left George Street at 1130 BST, with a rally due to take place at Glasgow Green. It is being led by former Remploy workers who lost their jobs when the government owned factories were closed.


    Events in Belfast are concluding with a rally at Custom House Square. They have been organised by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

    1238: Ian from Belfast

    emails: No I will not be going. This march is about as pointless as an ashtray on a motorbike. We need to create private sector wealth just to keep all these "services", not try to recreate East German economy circa 1965.


    Other groups taking part in the protest include the Stop The War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - which argues that committing tens of billions of pounds to a new nuclear weapons system will have disastrous implications for public services.

    1243: Chris McQuiggin from Shropshire

    emails: I'm marching today because I want to show solidarity with everyone. The government took over in tough economic times but they are taking our country down the wrong course.


    Prime Minister David Cameron, who earlier this month warned more "painful decisions" would be necessary to repair the UK economy, has 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."


    In his speech at the Hyde Park rally, Mr Miliband is expected to tell the marchers the government "has shown us self-defeating austerity, by cutting too far and too fast, is not the answer".


    Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Sajid Javid, defended the government's cuts programme when interviewed by the BBC and criticised the protest organisers. He said: "These hardline leaders are telling their trade union members that you can keep spending money you haven't got."


    The protesters are expected to start arriving at Hyde Park for the rally from 1300. They are following a well-trodden route for marches in central London that will take them by Parliament, along Whitehall and past Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly.


    The TUC is posting live news from the march with its own blog. It has also created an app for smartphones giving protesters updates, maps and resources, as well as background on its case against austerity.

    1307: Tom Symonds BBC News home affairs correspondent

    says as the march passes through Trafalgar Square there is a peaceful atmosphere, with brass bands playing and people blowing vuvuzelas. He reports that the police presence is low, but larger numbers of officers are being kept in reserve. Slogans on placards include "the plebs are revolting" and "Cameron has butchered Britain".

    1309: Rebecca, from Swansea University

    emails: We students are marching in London. Clegg is our biggest disappointment. Agreeing to triple the tuition fees when he garnered our vote on a promise not to.

    1310: Mike Poole, in Basingstoke

    emails: It's hard work that is needed now, not posturing from the likes of Labour and the TUC.

    1311: Luisa Baldini BBC News

    says that an hour after the march began, there are still protesters waiting to move off from the start of the route.


    The TUC has called its day of action "A Future That Works". As yet, there are no estimates of the numbers taking part but organisers have said they expect tens of thousands to attend.


    Ahead of the march, the Guardian's Dan Milmo examined 10 alternative ideas to austerity from across the political spectrum.

    1326: Richard Lister BBC News correspondent

    says the march is now at least a mile long and there is no sign that the numbers are thinning out. One protester told him the government's policies were "short sighted" because they would lead to many public services being privatised or outsourced. There's a continuous deafening blare of horns outside Downing Street as the march passes.

    1328: Caroline Lucas,

    former Green Party leader, tweets that the protest turnout is "amazing" and the atmosphere is "fantastic".


    More from the TUC's Brendan Barber. Speaking along the march route he said protesters were "sending a very, very powerful message" that government policies are failing. "Millions of ordinary people are suffering as a result of their policies, a real squeeze on people's wages and living standards, people fearful for their jobs. We need a change of direction."

    1344: The Metropolitan Police

    tweet: The head of the #TUC march is now in Hyde Park however the rear of the march is only just moving along Victoria Embankment #Oct20

    Protester outside Downing Street

    Passing the gates of Downing Street presented a photo opportunity for some protesters.


    In Belfast, Peter Bunting, the assistant general secretary of Irish Congress of Trade Unions warned Stormont Assembly members they must not "slavishly" implement cutbacks introduced by the Westminster government. "Let us work with our comrades and colleagues in Wales, Scotland and England to build an arc of resistance that rejects the economic diktats of the Conservative minority," he said at the Custom House Square rally.


    The TUC estimates that 100,000 people are taking part in the rally. The BBC's Industry Correspondent, John Moylan, says that figure - if confirmed - would be well down on the estimated 500,000 that took part in the protest organised by the TUC in March 2011. The Metropolitan Police has said it would not be providing an official estimate for the number of demonstrators.


    Others expected to address the rally include Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, Christine Blower, from the National Union of Teachers, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB and RMT leader Bob Crow. Public and Commercial Services union leader Mark Serwotka will call for co-ordinated strikes to be held "as soon as possible".


    Supporters of the charity War on Want have also joined the march. It argues that the crisis in the financial markets is being used as an excuse for government cuts. Bangladeshi partner organisation, the National Garment Workers' Federation, also held a rally in Dhaka to express its solidarity. "Workers and communities around the globe are paying a terrible price for a crisis they did not cause," said campaigns and policy director Ruth Tanner.

    1430: Richard Lister BBC News correspondent

    says that two hours after the protest began, the final marchers have reached Whitehall.


    Labour leader Ed Miliband is now addressing the rally in Hyde Park.


    Mr Miliband says his party stands for "all the young people in this country who want work but can't find it in Britain today".


    BBC political correspondent Alan Soady says there was booing when Mr Miliband warned that there would still be spending cuts under a Labour government. There was also audible discontent when he followed up with the words: "I have said whoever was in government now there would be some cuts."


    But he wins applause by referencing the resignation of Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell as well as the incident on Friday when the Chancellor George Osborne opted to pay for a first class train journey after turning up with a standard class ticket.


    Mr Miliband said: "Andrew Mitchell may have resigned but the culture of two nations runs right across this government. They cut taxes for millionaires and they raise taxes for ordinary families."

    Protester carrying a placard

    The row between police representatives and the former chief whip was also on the minds of protesters.

    1458: Tom Symonds BBC News home affairs correspondent

    says up to 40 protesters dressed in black have been running through Mayfair and Oxford Street in central London, followed by police. Several attempts were made to contain them by officers in vans, but the group has now arrived at the rally in Hyde Park.


    The PoliticsHome website has just published a a full transcript of Ed Miliband's speech.


    More on the speeches at Hyde Park. The Press Association reports that RMT rail union leader Bob Crow called on Mr Miliband to oppose all spending cuts. And it says he was loudly cheered when he called for a 24-hour general strike.

    1539: The Metropolitan Police

    tweets: The rear of the #TUC march is now on Park Lane #Oct20


    Speaking to BBC News at the rally in Hyde Park, Ed Miliband says of the possibility of a general strike: "I don't think it's the right thing to do, and I don't think it's on the cards." He described the incident on Friday - when Chancellor George Osborne opted to move to first class on a train from standard class - as "the latest example of a government that is out of touch and standing up for the wrong people".


    The rally in Glasgow has now ended. You can read our report of the day's events here. Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary, told protesters the government's priority should be fair taxation and a living wage, investment in quality jobs, strong trade unions and employment rights.


    As the rally in London draws to a close the Met Police says it is responding to a "number of incidents of anti-social behaviour by various groups in the Oxford Street area". In March 2011, the TUC condemned violence which broke out as protesters unconnected to its anti-spending cuts rally, clashed with police and damaged shops. Meanwhile, members of a group called Disabled People Against Cuts says they halted traffic at Marble Arch after chaining themselves together in protest at cuts to care funding and benefits.

    1600: Tom Symonds BBC News home affairs correspondent

    reports scuffles as police try to stop a group of anti-tax avoidance protesters on Oxford Street. There have been some arrests.

    1604: Craig

    in Bath, writes: I'm marching today in protest at this government full of rich people destroying public services and condemning the poorest in society to an even poorer standard of living. I want future generations to have the same chances in life I have had and that is why the plebs have marched.


    The rally in Hyde Park has now come to a close and many of the protesters have begun heading home. And that's it for our live coverage of today's events. Thank you for reading. Police have been dealing with several breakaway groups who are reported to have targeted shops in Oxford Street. You can get the latest on any developments on that front in our news story which is continuing to be updated.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.