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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 17:45 UK time, Thursday, 30 June 2011


The strikers making up the biggest public sector walkout in a generation came to London with a smile.

The atmosphere on the march here on Whitehall was warm, friendly, even jovial. Protesters chatted amicably with the police, many of whom were sufficiently relaxed to fold their arms, or put their hands in their pockets.

The whole tone of the day, at least until mid afternoon, felt very different from the student demonstrations here before Christmas. More mature, more considered, more female. But no less determined.

Rachel, a teacher, told me she thought it was ridiculous that she'd be expected to teach a class of five year olds in her late sixties.

Another teacher replied "I hope so", with a defiant grin, when I asked him if he thought there would be more strikes like this.

The trade unions claim up to 20,000 took part in the demonstration, which snaked its way through the streets of London for three to four hours.

It was only when some marchers had gone home, and others were at a rally where trade union leaders were speaking, that the atmosphere changed.

A small group of young men - perhaps around 30 to 40 of them - dressed in black hooded tops, started to run around Parliament Square, and head for Whitehall.

I ran with them, and so did the police. Suddenly they didn't have their hands in their pockets. They were poised, and hurriedly being briefed. A row of police vans took up position at the top of Whitehall, near Trafalgar Square, and in front of the vans stood several lines of police officers.

But the mixture of bravado and excitement didn't amount to much. Within 20 minutes or so, many of the protesters had dispersed.

Many told me they expected to be back, and looked forward to being back: waving their banners, chanting their songs and sticking up for what they believe in.

Chris Mason is out political reporter, and has been covering the strikes in central London all day on 5 live. Follow him on Twitter.


  • Comment number 1.

    a corporate, establishment man sits on the wonky fence

  • Comment number 2.

    Two things about today

    1. Anyone else find it ironic that JobCentre staff are going on strike when the people that they meet every day would give their right arm to have their job? If those striking aren't happy with their pensions, fair enough. But there are thousands of people that could replace them and do just as good a job without complaining. Public sector workers should be glad they even have a job

    2. Why is it whenever there are protests there are a silly group of people who try and turn it violent? The student protests and the one in Greece turned nasty and this one almost did. Ridiculous really and not needed

  • Comment number 3.

    Not sure why this turned in to a blog. Are we to give our views on Chris attending? Or the strike itself? Or what? Scared to go off topic as I am already pre-modded. Scared to say the wrong thing as blogs should close after 7 days but the one about Don't Cry for me Maradona seems to have only lasted 5 days perhaps due to shutting down posters opinions.

    This strike has caused expensive chaos for many people and I feel very sorry for anyone affected.

  • Comment number 4.

    Where is the balance in this piece? Just protesters and union voices here.

    Average public sector salaries are higher than private sector salaries and pensions (where they are even available in the private sector) are far less lucrative then in the public sector in most cases.

  • Comment number 5.

    Shouldn’t the aspiration be to improve private sector pensions rather bring public sector pensions down to the level of private sector pensions?

    The government should really stop trying to create a them and us division between private sector and public sector workers.

    Half of public sector pensions are less than £5,600 a year. In local government half of pensioners get less than £3,000.

    Hardly gold plated.

    Let’s see MPs cut their pension and parachute payments first.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    this stupid public sector get better pensions that private blah blah blah..public sector workers signed a comntract and contribute to their own pensions and pay income tax to support everyones pensions...as was mentioned on sky why was goodwin one of the greedy bankers who created this economic disaster allowed to keep his millions ..because he had signed a contravct!! if thats good enough for a man who was a failure and on the edge of being a crook then its good enough for descent hard working men and women.

  • Comment number 9.

    So why did Ed Miliabnd betray the workers, when he was stupidly dubbed the Labour leadership candidate representing the interests of trade unions and working people!

    Simple! He never was a worker or 'left wing' just like the other opportunists who were allowed to stand in the Labour leadership contest after the last general election!

    That's why the bosses will get away with it because they control 'professional' politiicians like Miliband and his brother (aided by the BBC Trust now commanded by the unelected Ex Tory Minsiter Chris Pattent?) to say and do exactly what they want !


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