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A snapshot of the 26 March demo

Paul Mason | 18:49 UK time, Saturday, 26 March 2011

1815: I've just left Trafalgar Square, where about 200 people are holding an impromptu rave, with a minuscule number of police present to notice the thick waft of sensimilia.

At Fortnum and Mason the demonstrators who took it over are trying to get out, texting me to point out the difference between themselves and the "black block". This latter, about 500 anarchists with black and red flags, systematically threw paintbombs, thunderflashes and flares, trashing a few shops and banks etc, causing mayhem around central London all day, and presumably into the night.

But the massive fact of today was a very large demo of trade unionists and their supporters. I estimate upwards of 250,000. Probably less than half a million but certainly bigger than the Poll Tax demo of 1990, which I witnessed.

The demographics were interesting. Unison - a union which has a reputation in the trade union movement for passivity - had mobilised very large numbers of council workers, health workers and others: many from Scotland and Wales; many from the north of England. Unite likewise, and the PCS seemed capable of mobilising very large numbers.

What this means, to be absolutely clear, is people who have never been on a demo in their lives and in no way count themselves to be political.

I also saw many small self-selected groups not mobilised by unions: family groups, school groups, speech therapy groups.

My guess is that though this is the "labour movement", a number of those marching would have voted Libdem also.

The sheer size and social depth of the demo is what all political strategists will now have to sit down and think about. I'm still thinking about it myself, but recording its size is important: the anti-war demo was bigger - maybe 1m plus - but this was certainly the biggest and most representative demo for 25 years.

At the rally Ed Miliband was heckled by a few, when he said he supported some of the cuts that are coming: Mark Serwotka, the PCS leader, not only called for no cuts at all but fired the crowd up with a call for co-ordinated strike action.

I got a sense that the labour and trade union movement slightly stunned itself with its ability mobilise so many people on the streets. That with Ed Miliband they now have a leader who they don't hate, but in turn Mr Miliband faces a challenge of what to do about this movement.

I picked up a bit of scepticism about him from the protesters; meanwhile his handlers will be pondering the problem of how "associated" he wants to be with the biggest labour protest for 20 years, because most people on the demo would be a little way to the left of the ideas Mr Miliband claims to espouse.

The big takeaway from today is that the trade union movement - though dominated by the public sector - is certainly a force to be reckoned with: what it chooses to do now will be interesting because Miliband's strategists certainly want nothing to do with the mass, co-ordinated strike movement advocated by Serwotka, Len McCluskey etc.

We tend to forget, because we obsess about political parties, that in organisational terms the unions are much bigger than the Labour Party itself. Indeed the Labour Party branch banners I saw were often carried by a few, oldish, colourfully dressed people, whereas unionists tended to be younger and very "branded" by their professions or unions, as with the Unison Filipino Nurses, the FBU etc.

Another note: we tend to think of the public sector unions as white collar or from the service industries but this was not true of today: there were many tens of thousands of manual workers in their bibs, hi-vis uniforms etc. I met binmen from Southhampton furious that they pay is being cut; and of course the Firefighters, designated "stewards" in order to deter the anarchists from coming anywhere near the demo.

At present the sporadic violence around Piccadilly is dominating the headlines. The three groups are getting coverage in inverse proportion to their importance: the anarchists with their thunderflash thowing (I've been close to this stuff all day and it is, though dangerous, fairly ritualistic); the UKUncut groups (a couple of thousand) which have managed to shut down many branches of Vodafone, Boots, various banks and Top Shop with largely nonviolent direct action; and 300,000 people who demonstrated completely peacefully, enduring for many four to five hours of marching and standing.

This passive but fairly angry mass are the people that pose the biggest political problem both for the government and the opposition; because when you can mobilise more or less your entire workplace - be it a special school, a speech therapy centr, a refuse depot, an engineering shop or a fire station - to go on a march, then "something is up".

I should add that, from what I saw, the policing was up until nightfall deliberately restrained. No kettling attempts, no baton charges even when attacked with missiles, few arrests and injuries. This must have been a high-level decision - though of course each contingent of anarchists is followed by forward intelligence teams with cameras and notebooks: for several hours a large group of masked anarchists were allowed to march around, smashing various storefronts.

It now seems like this is changing, and escalating, from the live coverage by my News Channel colleagues, which shows the Fortum & Mason invaders being arrested. But I am now off the demo and watching it on TV.

More follows, including on Newsnight, Monday.


Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    'At Fortnum and Mason the demonstrators who took it over are trying to get out, texting me to point out the difference between themselves and the "black block".'


    Little intrigued as to how 'demonstrators' who have 'taken over' a shop seem able to text a national broadcast journalist's number. Is there a directory I don't know about? Or is it restricted access?


    'I also saw many small self-selected groups not mobilised by unions: family groups, school groups, speech therapy groups.'


    A bit like the 'self-selected' groups at Mr. Easton's blog then?

    If borne out, this comment in response to the claims made rather suggests the enhancing of a narrative rather than straight reporting.


    'I got a sense that the labour and trade union movement slightly stunned itself with its ability mobilise so many people on the streets.'


    Well, luckily, there is still a difference between what some 'sense' and 'opine', and what others will, with luck, witness and report.

    Sadly, in too many quarters, that distinction seems lost. More so when a £4Bpa PR budget can get deployed under the guise of 'news'.

    Also, twitter is indeed a valuable extra tool in the social media armoury, if rather restricted by keeping one in a comfort zone defined by 'followers'.

    It is, however, not a reliable substitute for responsible, objective news gathering and portrayal, no matter how some may wish it.

    Mr. Miliband the other day expressed faux 'fears' on social divisions, in the same breath as he set up the targets noted and acted upon my the mob today. All faithfully carried and enhanced either in pursuit of ratings or agenda by too many in the media earning in excess of £100kpa with little sense of irony, hypocrisy or shame.

    The Chinese may have a point: careful what you wish for, as you just may get it.

    Me, I'd like to opt out. But in certain uniquely funded cases, I don't seem to have that option, even come voting time every few years. Odd that.

  • Comment number 2.


    Stay put and burn - the Fire Service has been cut. Or perhaps the gas will fail and you will be glad of the warmth?

    They don't remember WW11 austerity do they.

  • Comment number 3.

    Sounds like the demonstration was effectively a fairly substantial 'shot accross the bows'.

    When considering that the austerity has not even really kicked in yet and things are already pretty bad politicians would be foolish to ignore the scale of the demonstartion. They should use it as a yard stick to measure how much bigger it could get if things dont work out in the coming months.

    Trouble is the incumbents are no where near either radical enough in policy or trusted enough (thanks to expenses/ Iraq / wikileaks etc etc) to get these disafected and increasingly angry people on board even if they did suddenly adopt a radical and viable policy platform.

    They are largely irrelevent as a tangible force for significant change and are therefore part of the problem not the solution.

    Something else will probably have to emerge and capture the imagination.

    Not much sign of it yet though, the Greens and UKIP consistently fall flat somehow, it is a leadership thing I think, they need a focus, a rallying point that inspires people, as has been demonstrated in Finland how quick something can take off it such an individual (it always has to be an individual it seems) emerges.

    The incumbents are all carrying way too much baggage for the task ahead.

  • Comment number 4.

    Junk - worry ye not: they have my mobile number because I phoned them to ask what they were doing inside Fortnums. As for the rest, not sure what your problems are: my "sense" of the organisers response was gathered from talking to them, at length, and asking them questions.

  • Comment number 5.

    The Public Sectors workers protesting today, by and large, have not suffered a fraction of the economic pain that the Private Sector has been suffering for several years now.

    The Public Sector workers mostly still have their jobs, their holidays and their pensions.

    I have heard of Social Workers in one Welsh Council department wail and gnash their teeth because they had to accept one single day less holiday per year and are also now expected to work any 5 days from Mon - Sat as opposed to just working Mon - Fri.

    I heard this week of a Professor in a Welsh university, reportedly earning in the region of some 70K a year, who allegedly has not had a student in years. I am told she is not the only such Professor in this situation. I am told she blatantly boasts that her reputation justifies her huge salary and no doubt huge pension.

    When recently evaluated on a points systems with points for each student she teaches, each one she councils, how many lectures she gives and how much research she does she got zero points. A colleague of hers got 10,000 points but is on a fraction of her salary.

    I am told that her department was going to London today to protest.

    The fact that Public Sector workers are having pay freezes, holidays shortened and working hours changed does not mean that is right. But nor is it wrong.

    Virtually every single person on that protest today has working conditions, job security, wages, holidays and pensions that most Private Sector workers can only dream about.

    Every single one of them will have a better pension than I will.

    Every single one of them will retire before I do.

    I fear getting old.

    I imagine most people in the Private Sector will feel the same as myself.

    The UK Media, and the BBC in particular, has basically ignored what has been happening to the UK Private Sector work-force for a decade now. As Public Sector wages and pensions boomed under Gordon Brown the salaries and pensions of Private Sector workers have been systematically eroded.

    It is great working in the Private Sector knowing that big chunks of your national and local taxes are going towards the wages and pensions of 40K a year twitter tsars, 5-a-day-fruit and veg evangelists and other Mickey Mouse Public Sector roles.

    Whilst I was commuting 100 miles a day to and from work... whilst I was often travelling 200 miles away from home and staying in nasty B&Bs Mon to Fri just to find work... and whilst I was sometimes travelling to work elsewhere in Europe... friends of mine in the local Council were having massive sulks about being made to move 3 miles from one Council office to another one. Their anguish being that they now had to drive 5 miles to work and not just 2.

    Private Sector workers by and large have no unions to represent them. The likes of the BBC have not shown the same interest in 14 years of Private Sector decline that this protest has got in a single day. Nor does anyone I know in the Private Sector have the mobile number of BBC journalists to text.

    I enjoy your blog and your items immensely on here and on Newsnight Paul. I think you are one of the few refreshing voices in an increasingly bland BBC but...

    The blunt reality is that by and large most in the Public Sector have cared little about what has happened to UK Private Sector workers. The BBC has not been immune to such thoughts of superiority over the Private Sector.

    What was that Peter Sellers film about the unions?

    "I'm Alright Jack!".

  • Comment number 6.

    I was at the march today and am not a member of any union and don't work in the public sector. I was marching against cuts in the health service, education, libraries etc. Things that are going to affect all of us whether we work in the public sector or not.

    I am glad that at least some sections of our work force have been able to maintain decent working terms and conditions because they have effective unions. If those working in the private sector had mainained their support for unions maybe they would have been able to gain or retain good working conditions too.

    Pitting the private sector workforce against the public sector is a classice divisive tactic of 'divide and rule'. It should be all workers together and the aim should be levelling up of working conditions not dumbing them down to those experienced by many in the private sector (myself included).

  • Comment number 7.

    Very well said, meandmrsjones.

  • Comment number 8.

    Many who work in the Private Sector are self-employed contractors or part-time - quite simply, being in a union stops you getting the work in the first place.

    Trying to join or form a union after you are in such work means that when your daily, or 4 week, or 3 month, or 6 month or 12 month contract is up for renewal means that you will not be renewed in many organisations.

    Not being aware of this shows little understanding of the conditions that many who work in the Private Sector face.

    To think otherwise is just naive.

  • Comment number 9.

    Your stuff Tawse reads like what the Daily Mail would call the "politics of envy".

    You are being exploited and bullied in the workplace, messed about with on short term contracts, working hard for years yet with no chance of a fair pension.

    And all you seem to ask is, that everyone else be dragged down to your level.
    Then you demand, that they shouldn't even complain about the process of being dragged down to your level either.

  • Comment number 10.

    I was also at the demo and Fortnum and Masons as a spectator but moved away shortly after seeing one protester being helped away with his head bleeding. Otherwise as far as I can tell the police were fairly restrained at first and only retaliated when attacked with banner poles. However there is a world of difference between a demo implement applied to full riot helmet and an unprotected head receiving a heavy blow from a truncheon. Also I witnessed where two coppers in normal uniform got trapped in a doorway adjacent to a Pret but a demonstrator intervened to stop any attack taking place.

    There was a carnival atmosphere to much of the seemingly never ending march with at least three bands, a musical 'tank' a choir much chanting and some fancy dress. The government and the Lib Dems should take this march seriously because it reflected Mark Easton's picture created in his "not the usual suspects" blog. This was a genuinely popular broad range protest event and the people were angry. Next opportunity for protest is the local elections, but isn't there some sort of toff's wedding before May. You dont suppose......

  • Comment number 11.

    Always appreciate a reply. But do wonder why the name gets truncated.


    '4. At 20:48pm on 26th Mar 2011, Paul Mason wrote:
    Junk - worry ye not: they have my mobile number because I phoned them to ask what they were doing inside Fortnums.'


    Ah, that explains everything. Just one thing. I'm not a 'them', but maybe you could give me a buzz and ask me what I'm up to? I am sure you have my number, somehow. I'll be sure to text right back.


    'As for the rest, not sure what your problems are: my "sense" of the organisers response was gathered from talking to them, at length, and asking them questions.'


    Can't help much more than adding maybe it's just having an ongoing interest in what questions get asked, of whom. Or not. The edit suite is a powerful tool depending on how those who control it opt to use it. And that's after the pre-selection of who gets interviewed.

    With a few minor exceptions such as these tucked away areas with numbers in scores, the power to broadcast the length of the land to millions is as seductive as it is powerful. And with it comes great responsibility.

    Use those spidey senses wisely.

    Because it's shaping up to be a bit more interesting than maybe most would wish.

    Perhaps in no small measure through there being, as one of Mr. Miliband's colleagues pithily articulated not so long ago...

  • Comment number 12.

    No, not the politics of envy. Just realism of the Economics. Simple as that.

    If you eradicated all the Private Sector workers who think as I do it would make no difference to the economic reality that the country now faces.

    That reality is that the Public Sector in the UK is unsustainable. The sheer numbers of people working in it, the salaries and the very generous pensions are unsustainable.

    If the UK is to get out of the economic mess it is now in then tens of thousands of people in the Public Sector are going to have to lose their jobs, salaries will have to be slashed and pensions radically changed.

    Or we can just carry on regardless.

    In which case, the country will go bankrupt.

    The Public Sector jobs will just go anyway. The pensions will disappear.

    Of course, if everyone in the Public Sector took a 20% pay cut, and those earning over 50K a year had their wages reduced to 50K, then the country would be able to afford to not fire a single worker.

    But I suspect most are too selfish and consider themselves too important to agree to that.

  • Comment number 13.

    SOME anarchists, please, Paul. There were numerous anarchists in the march, myself included with my new Emma Goldman t-shirt and red-and-black-star badge on my cap. I was hoisting an NUJ flag for much of the demo and the national banner for a while as well. Red and black flags were dotted through the march.

    Not every anarchist is was kitted out in black bloc gear smashing windows, a lot of us are ordinary trade unionists like the rest.

  • Comment number 14.

    Not only non-union groups – but individuals and families not members of unions or active in a local group. Heard so many middle-class conversations, so many accents, truly a realistic mix of Britain.
    Not sure any politician is really prepared for it.

  • Comment number 15.

    tawse57 - just wondering why you would put yourself through your alleged private sector hell when you could simply join the alleged public sector heaven?

  • Comment number 16.


    So what is a 'fair' pension?

    Is it

    Work for 30 years, then expect at least another 30 years (based on current life expectancy) after you have finished to be funded by the generations that follow in the form of higher taxes and decreased living standards for them as fewer and fewer people have to support more and more of the retired 'ethnicity champions' and 'regional diversity consultants' as the population ages.

    Can you explain to me what is 'fair' about that?

    Unlike other pensions ALL public sector pensions are funded by taxes placed on your children and grandchildren, the earlier the public sector employee retires and the more public sector positions are created the heavier the burden will be on future generations to pay for them.

    What is wrong with working later anyway?

    Y'know all the above is academic really becuase the whole system is screwed and non of us under 40 will see any of the above no matter who we work for.


    Simple really.

    With the advancement of technology and mechanisation there is not enough useful work in the world for us all to do and there never will be again.

    Non of us should be working full time.

    If human kind only occupied itself in 'work' with things that we actually needed to do to be 'happy' (y'know food, shelter, medicine, hygene, opportunity to socialise,time for friends and family, time to appreciate nature plus occasional treats we feel we have earnt) then the world population would only need to work about 2 days a week I reckon and there would be no point in 'retiring' because everybodys life could be well balanced right the way through, no need to burn yourself out in your prime so you can sit on your ass when you are old!!!!!.

    The whole thing is just completely insane on such a fundamental level yet so few people can see it.

    Demonstrating to maintain pension rights is like fighting for your right to live in a dump when, thanks to technology, there is an empty palace with the doors open right next door we could all just walk right into!

  • Comment number 17.

    Meannmrsjones: "Pitting the private sector workforce against the public sector is a classice divisive tactic of 'divide and rule'."

    It is also spectatcularly disengenuous - I work in the private sector and am fully aware of our dependence upon public sector-provided infrastructure and services to operate.

    Public and private are entirely co-dependent - and many private-sector workers there today understand this.

  • Comment number 18.

    Also, Paul, it's Black Bloc, not Block. Bloc (noun) - a group of people or countries combined by a common interest or aim.

  • Comment number 19.

    The political parties do not represent the people.

    Representative democracy is not representative.

    A lot of people at the rally may regret voting Lib Dem & will vote Labour next time, but they will vote for Labour as the least worse alternative.

    But the fact that Labour have to wake up to is capitalism cannot afford social democracy.
    Even most of the people at today's demo still need to comprehend this.

    The answer will not come from Westminster.
    It will not come from electing a different set of ego's.

    Ed's father Ralph had the vision needed.
    And there was a lot of Ralph's in the crowd.

    The Socialist Party & the SWP were agitating for a General Strike.
    This is a real possibility.
    The masses are being radicalised.
    The fightback is here.

  • Comment number 20.

    "Unison - a union which has a reputation in the trade union movement for passivity"

    What is the basis for this assertion? First I've heard of it.

    If you check your facts you'll find that UNISON has more activists and branches than the rest of the trade union movement combined.

    Are you confusing the approach and rhetoric of union leaders for union activity on the ground? At local level UNISON members are very active in their communities and workplaces.

  • Comment number 21.

    Jericoa - they won't make it defined contribution because as we all know this generation are taking more than they are giving. That is the definition of people choosing defined benefit over defined contribution because otherwise they would loose out big time. To hell with the consequences - I'm Alright Jack! Just leaving a note to the kids of the future: "30 years felt about right, not sure if the numbers add up but this is socialist principles we are talking about!"

  • Comment number 22.


    "But the fact that Labour have to wake up to is capitalism cannot afford social democracy. Even most of the people at today's demo still need to comprehend this."

    This is the impression I get. I believe in people protesting for what they believe in. I feel people are saying "I want my free lunch forever and ever for me". If they had a well defined answer as to what they want and how to achieve it, great, but every spokesperson I have seen relating to this movement just want more money paying in now to be paid off by kids in the future.

    This just feels like the housing crash to me. Nobody complaining when we are all stuffing our pockets full of cash in a system that is by definition unsustainable. Then when it all blows up in our stupid faces we are moaning like mad.

    From: my house has gone up loads! Let's take money out. I'm off on holiday. I'm not going to pay some of it to charity. It's mine!

    To: The bad man made me take the loan and now I'm stuck. The state must help me out.

  • Comment number 23.

    A lot of state workers protesting are, whether they perceive it or not, part of the problem. They are an army of paper-pushers doing nothing of much worth. Change the laws / rules to slash the need for state workers. Sack them all then reduce taxes. No net worth is lost as people in this category are filling in holes or digging them. People then spend their extra money on stuff they want rather than things they are forced to pay for on pain of arrest.

    Tawse's example of the professor is perfect. These middle class layabouts are the biggest problem. They are not the firemen, nurses or (good) school teachers. So much of academia is middle class people doing nothing and enticing kids into a life of debt to pay for their rich teas. Same for all the lawyers and accountants living off the state's eclectic rules.

    How many times have you been to deal with the state and met with some miserable sod who moves at sloth-like speed, who is totally unhelpful and often appears to have had a lobotomy? How many times has that happened in Tescos? Both have exceptions. Both have rules.

    ps my mum worked for a uni for a bit. Said it was the easiest admin job +ever+. When you went to do an hour of photocopying you didn't take work to do whilst you waited - you took a book to read. Finish early every day, especially Friday. Everyone moaning about how stressed and overworked they are but doing nothing. This is my experience of working for a public body for 2 years also. Everyone has been to school and knows you can get by doing next to no work as a teacher. This is why people have zero sympathy for teachers. Although many are excellent and work all hours they can and make a massive difference, they are in the minority.

  • Comment number 24.

    why is cutting spending beyond ones means labelled 'austerity'? why do yaparrazzi use the term like its accurate?

    Kids in the supermarket wail and scream because they are wheeled past the toy section without getting any of it. Is that 'austerity'? Or just the wailings of immature minds?

    Mervy did say he was surprised why there weren't riots on the streets given the huge wealth transfer from the many to the few.

    the only alternative strategy i heard was taxation and 'investing in public services' [note the misuse of the term investment]. but neither of these produce new wealth they just merely recycle it.

    it does not address the problem that no matter how much you cut or tax it won't stop the uk getting poorer when other states ignore international standards we feel the need to follow and have a 40% advantage in currency.

    so the tories have chosen a cuts narrative and the others have chosen a tax narrative. where is the wealth creation narrative? In a zero sum game if you are not imperialist you become imperialised?

    I saw no plan for wealth creation today. merely kids being wheeled past the supermarket toy section and wailing. People trying to whisk water into a thick cream.

    violence and marches are not a substitute for a wealth creation strategy. who thinks it is? can they be counted among the rational?

    there really is nothing more to say about such demos. the blind leading the blind.

  • Comment number 25.

    Mass demonstrations and direct action has always been the source of real fear for those in power - from the Communards to the poll tax riots, from the Suffragettes to
    For those in power, "the Mob" has always been the enemy within, capable of overwhelming their power and deposing monarchs and/or governments. From the Poll tax riots to the Suffragettes, from the Communards to Tienanmen Square, some have won their campaigns, but others have gone down in history under muskets, tanks or machine guns - or have simply lost the argument.

    In Paris the solution was to rebuild the streets so that cannon grapeshot could be used to kill rioters more easily - for the communist governments in China or Eastern Europe tanks were the answer, whilst in N. Ireland sophisticated military anti-riot training and tactics contained both catholic and protestant rioters backed up with low intensity operations to target the leaders, (all at HUGE expense) however the Met Police's tactic of kettling may be just about publicly acceptable for rioting anarchists, but is totally unacceptable for peaceful marches.

    There is a layered response from the State - first the PR campaign fought in print and the electronic media - then its the mechanics of the demonstration itself with the police and support services - finally its back to the political response to the demo and more media management. For the government to successfully ride out a major demonstration, it needs to come out of the process with at least a draw, in terms of the public opinion polls afterwards - ignore the small ones, undermine the medium ones and repress popular uprisings.

    But there is a tipping point, and in democracies this is the point of no electoral return for those in power when they have created a sufficiently large and coherent opposition that feels so strongly about what they are doing that it will become so influential in the wider society that it erodes the electoral support of the government so badly that it passes the point of no return.

    That's why 300,000 on the march yesterday matters much more than

  • Comment number 26.

    In reply to #8 tawse57

    I am normally a "lurker" on here and find your writings generally very interesting and thought provoking, but I have to disagree with what you have written for #8.

    I am an experienced contractor and although most of my work has been in the private sector I've done three contracts in the public sector and do not recognise the picture you're painting. You are simply not asked about unions full stop when you sign a contract.

    If you're a contractor you would want to avoid anything which makes you liable for IR35 for financial reasons. When you sign a contract the contract is business to business and not business to individual so my company with just me as the employee could substitute another equally competent person to do the work. So as the contract is business to business you simply wouldn't ask about unions. I've never seen it done and I don't know anyone who's ever heard about that so I do wonder where you have that idea. I've also been renewed many times so again I have to say that from my experience as a contractor, as a contractor who's worked on three public sector contracts and as someone who knows a lot of other contractors you're plain wrong.

    Contractors even have a "union" - the Professional Contractors Guild which campaigns for the rights of freelancers and tries to make our lot better. You seem like you want to drag everyone down to your level. Why don't you and you workers start campaigning to make your working life easier? If you read about why Trade Unions came into being you'r know what they were started for and what they have achieved.

    I have never understood the "race to the bottom" in terms of pay and conditions. When someone tells me how they have driven 200 miles to work, live in a b+b Monday to Friday, work really long hours, aren't in a union, don't earn very much etc I do wonder what they are trying to suggest. Should we all do that? Do you want your children to have to do that? Of course not so why not try to fight back a bit. You are being exploited as #9 says. Plus when your friends were moving office would you have been happier if they have had to move 200 miles and out of town instead of do you think they were complaining about moving as ANYONE would do - particularly if they have to drop children off, get certain buses, get 2 buses instead of one, take longer to get to work. Would you be happy to be moved around, thankful just to have a job like an 1850s millworker?!

    You seem quite happy to talk the public sector down and portray them as lazy and overpaid and they should work in the private sector but would YOU employ anyone from the public sector? I don't think you would as you think they are all lazy. Where are the jobs that they are supposed to move to? As someone else painted out, the public sector isn't a heavenly place to work and as far as I know there's no barriers to working there. Why don't you give it a shot? Why don't you want to be a teacher, a social worker, a bin man, work in the benefits office with claimants, work on the old IT equipment and systems etc? Surely the threat of wage cuts or pay freezes, long hours, benefit reductions etc is something you'd take in your stride as it seems commonplace lot in your area of work.

    It's about time we started fighting to improve the lot of everyone - public and private sector workers and stop the race to the bottom to make everyones working life hellish.

    Like I said at the start your posts are normally really good and I do enjoy them, but please don't believe everything you hear! :)

  • Comment number 27.

    Tawse57, makes a good point #12 that if the public sector took a 20% wage cut (and capped wages at £50,000) then no-one need lose their job. But note, also, that the Irish civil service has taken these levels of cuts to no particular avail.

    Equally, Jericoa #16 is right to say that if we all worked at what was needed to make us happy then we would have to work much less and be much happier.

    The problem, as I see it, is that everyone (including those on the march, in Government, in the banks etc) has bought into a system in which they assume they are entitled to everything they have and must strive for more: and in which all values, including their own value, are then calculated in terms of money. They struggle is therefore, a struggle within the existing system to determine who gets what slice of the cake: while the cake is getting smaller.

    This is not (yet) a struggle to change the system. I am pretty dismissive of the "Big Society" rhetoric and the attempts to introduce a "happiness" measure alongside GDP: which I see as tokenism. But at least they suggest a societal value beyond money. The fact that no-one is buying into them shows how far we are from achieving this.

  • Comment number 28.

    Civil service red tape report exposes litany of waste

    Read More

    'As households across Wales scrimp and save to meet the costs of rocketing bills, the whistle-blowing report revealed a litany of waste, including:

    A worker travelled from London to fix an alarm in South Wales – only to find he didn’t have the part.

    Window cleaners were repeatedly sent from the Midlands and Manchester areas to bail hostels in South and Mid Wales.

    Carpenters travelled from Birmingham to repair a broken cupboard in North Wales – but decided it needed a new door and left without fixing it.

    In Gwent, a loo was blocked for a month. After complaints, an electrician was sent but left because the job needed a plumber.'

    'The report also highlighted a case in Mid Wales where two window cleaners arrived from Manchester, for a job that took an hour. They had travelled 240 miles.'

  • Comment number 29.

    # 15 hedropsforglory

    You make a good point. Why didn't I join the gravy train? It is a question I have asked myself a great deal in recent months.

    It is a question that virtually every one I know in the Private Sector has asked themselves in recent times. I was only talking with half a dozen such friends about this very question only yesterday.

    Perhaps it is because the 'closed shop' in some Public Sector bodies has never truly disappeared? Perhaps it is because who you know rather than what you can do still exists?

    Perhaps it is because some people actually understand the importance of generating real income for the economy? Or they simply wish to be self-employed and run their own businesses.

    Perhaps it is because many people were quite happily working in the Private Sector during the Blair/Brown years but failed to appreciate what they were doing to the economy - eroding the pensions of Private Sector workers via pension tax changes whilst simultaneously ramping up Public Sector salaries?

    Perhaps it is because there was a belief that Public Sector workers should be refuse collectors, nurses, doctors, teachers, fire-fighters and not, as we have now discovered, a vast bloated leech on the UK economy of middle managers creating pointless roles with bloated salaries that benefit no one.

    (Just how many Public Sector non-jobs did Gordon Brown create in the UK to create the illusion of a vibrant economy?)

    It is probably many things.

  • Comment number 30.

    25 continued - blog lost my conclusion in posting!

    that's why 300,000 matters much more than >100,000.

    Let's pull back the veil and see how the spin doctors are doing:

    first the Budget sought to redefine the agenda by trumpeting private sector growth as the only solution to creating jobs and generating growth

    they then fielded Francis Maude in a sweater to say "there is no alternative" to spending cuts and tax increases - this is the usual approach - but clearly the balance of opinion is shifting away from this claim - the proposition that Labour blew it is being reappraised in the public mind and there is real doubt about the whole direction of economic policy, not least from their own watchdog the Office for Budgetary Responsibility, whose assessment was that their de-regulation measures would have no measurable economic effect this parliament

    then a man from the Institute for Economic Affairs appeared on the BBC to argue the bloated public sector cannot be afforded and everything has to go into boosting the private sector - but the figures show that it's not working and the emotional response against seeing vital social services going is always going to win support

    the usual final response would be to link the rioters to the demonstrators - loads of pics and news footage, but this is not credible strategy as both the TUC and Labour were at great pains to distance themselves from it and to condemn the rioters.

    The government spin doctors therefore have BIG problem - once a sufficiently large head of steam builds up, a "tipping point" is reached when the influence of this trend is so strong that it erodes the electoral support of the government so deeply that there is no way back - Stop the War was Blair's point of no return - the Poll Tax rioters saw Mrs T into the dustbin of history even after the Falklands War bought her a second chance, whilst the Winter of discontent saw off Callaghan.

    Unlike going to war, economic roots to protest do have a way back in the shape of a Plan B, but in this case the coalition are hemmed in on this - without changing their leadership (a la ditch Mrs T for John Major) this is politically impossible, so the economic policy has to work, or it will be a return to centre-left for another generation.

    Also the fact that in addition to the TUC, many of the non union marchers came from the core LibDem heartland - if they are representative of their communities, the LibDems are in deep trouble - and they know it.

    "Events, dear boy, Events" as Lord Stockton so succinctly put it are running away with the coalition - economic indicators are all pointing the wrong way, the oil price hike is terrible news, the far east trade is way down following the earthquake and the EuroLand situation is bad again.

    There's no escaping the impending election nightmare for them in May when there is every prospect of the LibDems being wiped out in local government and losing the AV referendum, leaving Nick Clegg in power in Westminster whilst his Party is destroyed on the ground and his backbenchers being given a very rough by their local parties and looking at annihilation in the General Election and any prospect of electoral reform will have passed for a generation.

    I cannot think of a government more vulnerable than the Coalition in British politics since the Lib/Lab Pact - their ideology of libertarian supply side economics is going to be tested to destruction against an economic backdrop that is very heavily stacked against them. If this gamble fails - even as the result of entirely external factors - public opinion will demonise this economic model and those that advocate it for the foreseeable future.

    That leaves Ed Miliband in a very interesting position - a popular swell of support in opposition to the coalition and without the baggage Blair brought in by his commitment to the City and the comprehensive failure and rejection of libertarian policies and a consensus around the role of government in boosting industry away from imports and towards self-sufficiency.

    The worst curse in Chinese culture is: "may you live in interesting times" - and for Clegg & Cameron, times got a whole lot more interesting yesterday courtesy of the 300,000.

  • Comment number 31.

    The problem of all problems begins with how banking and the money system is allowed to function.

    All people have to do to force change in FRB and derivatives is remove their money from banks en mass.

    No need to do violence .

    When you have a bank account you participate in others and your own theft, degradation and destruction.

    For those who say: 'it does not suite my life style not to have a bank account' Your going to be taken to the wire by those who will use and exploit you and your children, further.

    We need new banking without FRB and derivatives.

    Further it away from your own harm.

  • Comment number 32.

    #26 Jonaldo

    Thank you for your advert for the Professional Contractors Group.

    It is not a question of a race to the bottom. Sorry, but it is too early in the morning and my eyes glazed over when I saw mention of mills.

    This is about basic economics.

    The UK can simply no longer afford to employ so many people in non-jobs within the Public Sector who effectively do nothing other than create roles for themselves, who create paperwork and red-tape for everyone whilst enjoying substantial benefits in terms of salary, pensions and other entitlements.

    This is an economics blog.

    In past months this blog has looked at economies such as Greece, Eire and others that have been similarly imbalanced. Most of us have agreed that they need drastic change.

    Suddenly things are different when it is the UK?

    There are many people who do wonderful, important work in the Public Sector but not all by any means.

    A nurse who works hard and looks after patients is important to our Society. A nurse who considers herself 'too posh to wipe' is of no use. How many such nurses remain in the NHS because it is too difficult or too costly to fire them?

    Doctors are important to our Society and should be paid well but should so many of them be earning well in excess of 100K a year?

    The men who come and take away my refuse each week play an important function in Society. What about the numerous Councils who now employ people, often on very generous salaries, to send out Facebook updates and Twitters - are these people really desperately needed?

    The Police Officers who risk their lives to protect us from those who wish to do us harm are important. But, as is the case of a relative of mine who turns 50 this year, should he be able to retire at 50 years on a full Police pension of £26,000 per year?

    That is higher than the average wage in many parts of the UK. That is surely wrong is it not? Can our Society afford that? The answer is no.

    It s a moot point. The UK has to undergo a masive transformation if we are to survive as a nation economically.

    If we do not undergo that change then no one in the Public Sector will have a job or a pension because there will be no money to pay for either.

    I would love to chat more but I have to go and prepare some business proposals so that I can try and earn some money this year.

  • Comment number 33.

    I heard the interview with the IEA man referred to by Richard Bunning. On the other side was my friend Paul Brandon, Chair of Right to Work Campaign, who did very well. Like he says, it's workers who create wealth. There have been huge increases in productivity and wealth over recent years, but, Ben, it's not been shared out properly - that's the problem. A small minority have taken most of it for themselves. Most families are only 2 wage packets from destitution, if they have any positive wealth at all. How Ben can believe that the baby boomers or public sector workers should take the blame for all this I really don't know. Whilst the capitalists have low wage countries to exploit this will continue unless the masses stop being fooled by the capitalist press and start to organise to ensure that they are the main beneficiaries of their own labour.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hats off to everyone who came out to show their anger and frustration yesterday, whether that was in terms of marching in unity with their colleagues, or doing a little 'degrading of the assets' of the tax dodgers. I agree with Paul, the police didn't steam in during the day, and the protesters damage was mostly symbolic - i never saw the rage really build up, apart from those that got brained by truncheons.

    The police rage must have built up, over the fact that they had to cede the streets for hours to the 'hardcore element' ('only 150 they tell me, hmmmm!), because in the evening they got their own back by attacking the party in Trafalgar Square (not the same people who had rampaged in the afternoon). People on here can say what they want, I KNOW that all that was about was giving the TSG who had suffered so much during the day a chance to get their revenge.

    As always, the media was terrible. From the Newsnight presenters' belittling of Mark Serwotka's no cuts message the day before, to the presenting of skirmishes between protesters and police as 'an attack on police' and the presenting of a police attack on protesters at Trafalgar Square as a 'skirmish'.

    All to be expected of course, as is the widespread condemnation today (heartfelt and respected from some quarters, knee jerk and ill-informed from the rest). All well and good, the TUC and Labour cover their backsides, the media expresses the requisite 'dismay' but be aware the disconnect between yourselves and the angry working class minority who joined the 'mindless violence' yesterday alongside the anarchists, and saw for themselves - marches achieve nothing at the end of the day (Iraq War?), only action saves jobs, and services, and lives.

  • Comment number 35.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 36.

  • Comment number 37.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 38.

    Thanks Paul, for a fairly good overall report of the march, except for the numbers: the Met police themselves were twittering 500,000 at 1 o'clock, when tens of 1000s of us were still moving at a glacial pace on the Embankment. We heard that the front of the march was in Hyde Park about the same time. There were many like myself who, after the four hours it took to get to Trafalgar Square decided not go the whole distance to Hyde Park - so very possible that only 250,000 or so got the end, but certainly double that or more started and got at least as far as Whitehall. It felt as big as the 2003 anti-war march to me.

    In terms of public sector 'leeches' so exercising tawse57's wrath, may I put forward that if anyone is leeching off the economy it is the big banks, who appear to have learned nothing from 2008, who are still speculating on commodities, currencies and exotic paper with debt finance while refusing loans to small businesses. As long as it is more profitable to speculate on financial instruments than invest in real economic activity the banks will continue to suck the lifeblood out of our economy. They've also made sure that taxpayers and both public and private pension funds end up holding the bag when everything goes belly-up. They are the real ones holding our children's future to ransom, not public sector pension funds.

    Yes there are quite a few overpaid civil servants out there in the public sector, many of whom got to their current positions by facilitating the banks' take-over of the economy via the privatisation of public assets, PFI, and private sub-contracting of public services like cleaners, schools, rubbish collection, etc. Most who actually provide public services, however, are earning an average wage or less, and an increasing proportion are employed by the private sector on public sector contracts, so they're getting the worst of both worlds.

    If the government really took hold of the money supply and made purely speculative finance illegal, or at least isolated it from any interaction with the productive side of the economy, more money would be immediately available for both public services we all rely on and investment in businesses engaged in real economic activity, like, presumably, tawse57's.

  • Comment number 39.

    Thank you Paul for this report. One day it will be a primary historical source, so please make sure you have a hard copy.

    Here is a good link to some general thoughts on the media focus:

    @35 In view of other recent revelations, one can't help but wonder whether there were any "agents provocateurs" amongst the 'black bloc'. I still harbour suspicions about a certain NUM ex-president, and I don't mean the late Joe Gormley.

    "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

  • Comment number 40.


    I think that is a fair and substantiated position.

    The public sector think that they are onto a 'good thing' which everyone should a sense they are right but the mechanism is wrong and actually counter-productive in the long run to what they want to achieve in principal.

    All they are doing at the moment is contributing to the collapse of the system for everybody..including themselves, private sector workers, everyone.

    As others have said on here it is pointless to drive a wedge between public and private sector workers, we are all in this together.

    The whole system needs to be overhauled top to bottom for everyone to refelct the new reality of how long we live and how little genuinly valuable productive work there is for humans to do now we have combine harvesters, dishwashers (my personal favourite), fertilizers etc etc etc.

    What the public sector needs to understand is that they are right to fight for a 'fair deal' and in principal what they want is sustainable and achievable FOR EVERYBODY but not via the current economic mechanisms and structure which is out of balance with the length of time we live.

    It is not a case of everyone working 30 years then being retired for 30 years with the following generation paying for them.

    It would take too long to go into details and I have hinted at what it may look like many times before here and organisations like NEF understand it, but in essence as I said earlier.

    ''Demonstrating to maintain pension rights is like fighting for your right to live in a dump when, thanks to technology, there is an empty palace with the doors open right next door we could ALL just walk right into!''

  • Comment number 41.

    The truth is that people who take to the streets in support of a cause tend to focus the minds of governments and their PR people wonderfully well if they turn out in sufficient numbers and the objective is clear. There are two issues here. One is that people who turn out because they are opposed to something tend not to make progress because they are not armed with alternative ideas. They are opposed in this case to public spending cuts but do not seem to have the vaguest idea where the money is going to come from to maintain the level of public spending. We have been through all this before. The miners strike, the docklands protest both failed because they did not have serious proposals as to how the mining industry could carry on running in deficit or what alternative there was to the new technology in the print industry. Being opposed to something is simply not good enough. Now add to that the involvement of hard core activists who are peripheral to the central argument but are always pleased when a band wagon comes along which they can jump on - the anarchists, the anti-globalists, those who would have us believe that the while capitalist system is to blame turn up and hijack these events and the core message simply becomes diluted.

    Expand this thinking. In Libya, we seem to have decided to go with people who know what they don't want. They don't want Gadaffi and they have taken to the streets to prove that. Do we know what we do want? This is happening across the middle east. Paul - you may remember the exchanges we had during the Budapest protests some years back. Does the situation that pertains now bear the slightest resemblance to what they were protesting against - and, on the face of it, they won?

    Direct action, if it is appropriate at all, requires people with ideas to come forward with credible alternatives. There is an intellectual process to be gone through. Anything less is pure posturing and that is what happened yesterday.

    The numbers were impressive, the messages will be tweaked in response, there are no winners, no clear messages. As bus rides go for the army of hangers on, this was impressive stuff but as an action in political activisism it seems to me to have been an exercise in futility.

  • Comment number 42.

    You're right Paul, don't pay any attention to Junk, I've seen more of his stuff on other blogs, he's just a reactionary stirrer.
    Not that we don't need contrarians, but there's wall-eyed and then there's really wall-eyed.
    Your blogs are better than most and so are your Newsnight reports. But then some people can't drag themselves away from Sky.

  • Comment number 43.

    37. At 12:57pm on 27th Mar 2011, burnallmoney wrote:
    #19 duvinrouge

    Ralph Miliband was a Trotskyist not a Stalinist/Maoist, and Trotskyists ARE in fact Libertarians....


    And are the libertarians the true anarchists? No real regulation, minimal laws (for themselves) etc.

  • Comment number 44.

    This might have been covered, but it wasn't that the stewards kept the black bloc away from the main march, so much as there was an agreement in the run-up by the black bloc and other autonomous groups that their actions would stay away from the main march. In fact, they'd intentionally spread further afield to stretch police resources, in an anarchist/autonomist reiteration of Lenin's idea of "dual power" stretching the resources of the state.

    After you left Trafalgar, there was an astonishing attack by the police on a lot of people just hanging out listening not very loudly to terrible reggae. BBC24 initially claimed the police came under 'heavy and sustained attack' which was a ridiculous misrepresentation. The police later claimed it was in fact because someone tried to damage the Olympic Clock that they waded in, but they'd been massing overwhelming forces there for a while and forming a kettle. It looked from where I stood like some kind of macho revenge attack once the media had left, or an attempt to get arrest numbers up to targets. I'd like to know how many of their 200-ish arrests were from Trafalgar.

  • Comment number 45.

    I guess its also significant, regarding the autonomous rpotests, that in 10 years I've never seen a black bloc that size, working as one solid group. Standing on the corner near Oxford Street, it was astonishing that they just seemed to keep coming. It was easily 500 as you say, which you might expect in Europe somewhere, but here their numbers are usually barely 50, even at recent student protests.

  • Comment number 46.

    Whenever you get a story about public sector workers there is always someone who, in the style of the Four Yorkshiremen in Monty Python says; "You public sector workers have it great - we in the private sector pay to go to work, we are so busy we get our 10 year children to do our overtime and although we pay for a pension we dont want the money because we are so grateful for work...."

    I work in the public sector and our recession started back in 2006. The last government required the public sector make 3% cuts per year. My pay increases have been under-inflation, now we have pay cuts and pay freezes. Our pensions, that we pay for, have had their benefits reduced in 2008. The average Local Government pension is £4000 per year. Pensions are not an add-on in local government they are an agreement between an employer and employee made over many years. Employees have paid in and now their contributions are being stolen by Mr Osborne and his millionaire friends.

    The living standards of many public sector workers have fallen for years. Where we do statistically better is because of outsourcing and privatisation. As low paid workers jobs are privatised in the public sector and become private sector jobs it pushes down the wages of the private sector averages.

  • Comment number 47.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 48.

    #46 - Stephen Townsley

    I realise how unkind this will sound and I mean no offense but simply saying that you work in the public sector is not good enough. Many people, myself included, have come to believe that the public services include functions of enormous value without which society could not function. People involved in health care (directly, not managers), policing (going on the streets, not pen pushing), education (teachers, not secretaries). If that is the sector in which you belong, all strength to your arm.

    But if you are one of those sad souls who go out with a digital camera, taking pictures of people putting the wrong colour bin bags in the wrong bins or having a cigarette during their break but are too close to the vehicle, you serve no useful purpose whatever. You are simply a well payed slave to the politically correct society which I left some time back because I could see it coming. Sadly it is moving in this direction.

    The bottom line is that the majority of public workers do very important stuff for which we should be grateful and respectful but there is a significant minority who nothing of any discernible value and without whose services we would all be better off.

  • Comment number 49.

    Paul: I've just watched the 6'oclock news. Will you please ask the headline writers and decision makers why the 200 people who were arrested are mentioned before the hundreds of thousands who weren't? Of course, this leaves a lot less time for discussion of the issues too - was that deliberate?

  • Comment number 50.

    Paul - great blog. I would be interested to know whether you consider the arrest of UKuncut for 'aggravated trespass' to have been a 'high-level decision' too . . .
    In terms of an alternative, their message certainly does articulate one such alternative, a return to corporate taxation rather than the policies of consumptive taxation which have been pursued in recent years. Do these high profile arrests suggest that their presence is beginning to have an effect, in your opinion?

  • Comment number 51.

    Watching news coverage with friends, they were led to believe the disturbance at the front of Fortnum & Mason was caused by UK Uncut - having never heard of the group before. I explained the people causing damage were not from UK Uncut. Thanks to student media site , and Twitter, we were kept informed throughout the day of what was happening with more clarity than the BBC!

  • Comment number 52.

    Yes Mme Lemel - you make an interesting point. I have never seen black bloc as big as this in UK; strangely, I am writing a long piece about your namesake at present.

  • Comment number 53.

    UK Uncutters are delightful people - the crackdown is to stop people joining.

    The black block were accepted by marchers. Nobody tut tutted that I saw.

    At an early stage of the student demo in December, the police were clubbing the students on their bare heads with near lethal force. It sickened me. Huge difference in policing this time.

    I left about 6 pm.

  • Comment number 54.

    The Japan situation is now in count down to total evacuation in my view - there will be more earthquakes and more reactors will become dangerous. They will talk of rebuilding, sorry its finished - just a matter of time. Home is where the heart is so many more will die - very tragic.

  • Comment number 55.

    Re Black Block.

    Hmmm 50 to 500 in one jump, one more order of magnitude and you have something that could probably not be easily contained.

    Quite a feasible proposition that next step could occur considering the lid has now been blown off the 'get a degree get prosperity' grand deception which sold 1/2 a generation of our youth into debt slavery with no tangible benefit for them.

    It also kept them off the streets on a diet of false hope long enough for a few people to make off with a lot of money for no valuable return to society.

    They have a right to be angry.

  • Comment number 56.

    I am another of the many who were taking part in this sort of protest for the first time. I have been a pensioner for only a couple of years, after having working for 43 years in a wide mix of private and public sector jobs, usually for below the national mean (let alone average) wage. As a result I have a modest retirement income (again below mean annual income) but can live happily on that, as I live do not have expensive tastes.

    So, why, you may wonder, would I bother to make a two hour journey to London to take part in this particular march and rally? Well, like a lot of the people I spoke with during the day (many of whom, like me, have never been trade unionists), I am outraged at the sheer injustice of Govt requiring ordinary people to pay the price for successive govts' negligence over the past 30 odd years. As 38 cityeyrie says, (among) the real leaches are the big banks. I would add that it is successive govts that have failed to regulate them and that still hasn't changed, despite plenty of hot air and empty promises from Coalition ministers.

    The other leaches are the big businesses and wealthy private individuals who use legal means to pay little or no tax. Again, it is successive govts that have failed (and still fail) to change the legislation and systems that facilitate this tax dodging. Indeed, we know that some ministers and other wealthy MPs take advantage of these tax dodges themselves. If all this dodged tax was collected, there would be little if any annual deficit. As to 'national debt', my generation (and other) generations have only recently finished repaying the debt from WW2, so having a national debt is hardly anything unusual! BTW, I am also another of the many who have always voted Lib Dem (and Lib, before that) but who are unlikely ever to do so again.

    No wonder we, the plebs, are revolting! UK Uncut volunteers (who specifically target the banks and other known tax dodgers) were the real heroes of yesterday's protests. Braver than those of us who just marched yet still totally peaceful in their civil disobedience. May their numbers swell and achievements grow.

  • Comment number 57.


    I reserve the right to keep asserting that a juvenile population cannot be shaped into a law-abiding democracy through economic manipulation. The very traits that typify immaturity, are what cause successive 'civilisations' to collapse.

    Wisdom is the key (in the social space, going forward) cleverness just will not do.

  • Comment number 58.

    Excellent. Balanced. Professional journalism/comment. By far the best I have read or heard anywhere, as you would expect from Mr Mason. @, JunkkMale - Of course many, many journalists don't make even 20K- or even 15 (i'm one of them !) and are the ones also waiting in the unemployment line. Need to research some facts first. Like Mr Mason said. Just ask primary sources.

  • Comment number 59.

    #47 burnallmoney

    Have you not read Lenin's State & Revolution?

    You don't seem to understand that communism is about freedom.
    The collective freedom of humanity to shape their future.
    Not to be led by the rate of profit of by a political party.
    Lenin promised all power to the soviets ( the organs of direct democracy), but Stalin gave us the party state because he wrongly believed in socialism in one country.
    Trotsky knew the revolution had to be international.

    Communism is the collective ownership of the means of production controlled via direct democracy.
    Not one-party dictatorships.

  • Comment number 60.

    For those on the Saturday demo

    Here is the money as debt video which explains the Fractional Reserve Banking system if you have a bank account this is part of what is happening with and to your money:-

    Watch the other parts and pass on the links to your friends .

    Its gets even worse when you learn about derivatives which are bets on the future. For example a Credit Default Swap is a bet on a default. Ever wonder why banks and building societies were trying hard to flog you a loan - mortgage maybe when they pretty much knew you were not suitable - I sure did, well they can place a bet on you defaulting. So your set up to fail for their profit. This incentivised liars loans Bill Black has spoken about this . Here he is interviewed by Max Keiser:-

    And here:-

  • Comment number 61.

    As an opportunity for educating the general public on the causes of our current woes, and for widening the public debate on what our options as a nation are, the march failed.

    Shame. Without educating the public (as suggested by flicks #60) we will just see a protracted war of attrition, fought on emotional reactions, baseless prejudice & propaganda.

    The Crime goes unnoticed, and the Collective Punishment just increases:

    "We need to shout out that our Government is rewarding speculation, corruption and malfeasance by the banks, whereas real workers, savers, the law abiding and the prudent are getting bashed, not in a verbal sense, but a very real 'standards of living' sense."

  • Comment number 62.

    @happyponderer - you say leach, I say leech - whether the metaphor is about draining important nutrients from the soil or a blood-sucking parasite it still holds. Good to see the comments taking a more sensible turn.

    For the lefties out there, here is a brilliant article by economist Michael Hudson on why Marxists have been so slow to finger the banks: most don't read past Volume 1 of Capital so miss the discussion of finance capital, and even though Marx understood the dangers of finance capital, he mistakenly thought industrial capital would eventually dominate:

  • Comment number 63.

    For me, the basic problem that the No To Cuts coalition has is a lack of narrative and of respectable leadership (by 'respectable' I mean a leader who is able to communicate with those outside the movement). Asking the Labour Party Leader to speak instantly alienates those of us who justifiably believe there is little fundamental economic policy difference between the Opposition and the Government, but who would be willing to support the movement if they showed some evidence of being capable of forming innovative policy and holding pragmatic discussion.

  • Comment number 64.

    #60 @flicks3

    It's going to get worse. Google Vix Index (dubbed the fear gauge). According to Gillian Tett, "trading in this index has exploded as investors try to speculate on volatility or protect themselves"..

  • Comment number 65.

    Just to give a bit of explanation to Fractional Reserve Banking

    Say you have 1000GBP in your account the bank can then lend that out and leverage it with say another 9000GBP . Where is the other 9k from ? well, no where its just a digital digit, it doesn't exist in reality. Yet it has to be paid back as principal and interest on top to the bank. Recommended your bank to your relatives? nice friendly staff ? So it could be your son, daughter, niece or nephew that your money plus money that doesn't exist is being lent out to. They are paying the bank back your money and money that doeskin exist plus interest. Think about that and your childrens future education and prospects in life. Then of course if you default they have a bet on that; enter the Credit Default Swap. Great being a banker isn't it.

    Hi Hawkeye - "are getting bashed, not in a verbal sense, but a very real 'standards of living' sense." yep

    #64 yes indeed

  • Comment number 66.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 67.

    Mr. Clarkson,

    Always interested in diverse viewpoints, especially in responses supported by balanced argument and facts. Speaking of which, thanks for getting the user name right, as some failed to manage.


    ''58. At 00:51am on 28th Mar 2011, Garry Clarkson wrote:
    Excellent. Balanced. Professional journalism/comment. By far the best I have read or heard anywhere, as you would expect from Mr Mason.'


    Sadly, this seems a bit low on the argument or facts aspect. More like a press release. And in going on to address my comments a tad selective, with no thoughts on the other, main points raised then?


    'Of course many, many journalists don't make even 20K*- or even 15 (i'm one of them !) and are the ones also waiting in the unemployment line.'


    Of course, you are correct. Never argued otherwise. Though it may be there is a reason for certain job-related circumstances. For instance, mistaking opinion for news. Or allowing prejudice to overcome professional objectivity. And if all else fails, as it can, there is always the resort to the sly dig...


    'Need to research some facts first. Like Mr Mason said. Just ask primary sources.'


    Not sure where he said that, but OK. And not being a professional 'n all, I am unsure what that last term means. I'll assume 'horse's... er... mouth'. Still intrigued at the level of mutual pre-arranged contact (directory enquiries tending not to run on the spot to shop invaders or reporters' personal mobiles) with and focus beyond the scope of the official TUC-organised, peaceful protest march.

    I don't have a problem with democratic rights and freedoms of speech (especially in peaceful protest), but I do have concerns these days on how some can shape what is fact to suit. And many in the media seem less and less bystanders and too often near complicit by allowing the personal to intrude on the professional, though the obsession with ratings can be another factor...

    That, I would maintain, is a media estate overly 'embedded'.

    And it is unsettling many diverse folk.

    * When I used the term 'too many in the media earning in excess of £100kpa' I had presumed that this may frame the context in a clear enough way. It seems to get used a lot by folk reporting for a living. It's a way of focussing whilst not making absolute claims. I was of course referring to those who enjoy a high profile pulpit, and choose to use it in ways that often seem to pit what they say against what they do... earn. The figure was not plucked out the sky. I just felt that it was a fair representation when some lower in the hierarchy seem around even this healthy level:

    I got that through research. Assume it's a fact as it's in the Graun.

    Here's another interesting one, given the main focus of the thread:

    Wasn't aware of that aspect, at least hereabouts, until I looked around, so thanks for the inspiration.

    Good luck with the career.

  • Comment number 68.

    Last Saturday was a good day for glaziers, merchants of sheet-ply, distributors of planed and cut timber and the provisional armed wing of Scotland Yard.

    For the rest of us it was a dreadful time.

    For myself, I had my usual visit to that senile old woman, a former denizen of Houghton Street, dying in her nursing home: a duty which always leaves me depressed as much for me as for her.

    For Zaphod Beeblebrox - two 'Eds are better than none - erstwhile leader of the Labour Party it was a bad day as he made a vacuous speech as to former glories nothing of which had anything to do with the history of the Labour Party or the experience of Milliband Freres. Why can't leaders just accept the idea that it is their duty to follow and just shut up?

    For the trade union movement it was a bad day which proved they no longer have any association with trade, economics and the well-being of the nation. To them it is all about bums on seats and the length of the subscription list. The derisory versions of the Red Flag spring readily to mind.

    Then there were the peaceful demonstrators for whom it was so bad I could weep. Decent, honest, straight-forward folk whom I both respect and admire, drawn from hearth and home, on a fools errand by those who want to play on a perfectly rational fear of change and impoverishment. They were handed out false hope by the spade-full. It would have been better if they were told the truth. Nobody is telling the truth, not even the government: the economic model is bust we are living on the debit notes we can get to sell off on a month on month basis whilst the debt is racking up into fearful figures. When will the political class, all of them, tell the people the truth?

    Then there were the putschist fools with their fantasies of revolutionary violence. They have no idea as to what they are advocating. I can understand anger as I feel it every day but you have to turn it into action for the common good otherwise there will be no glass. Breaking the windows of the Ritz is not political action; it is a cliche. But then if you want a flexible workforce which is always on its bike then you can expect alienation, alienation and alienation.

    The only golden piece in the day were the people who non-violently occupied Fortnums. They are the right stuff. This is Style. A good point made very well. It is a shame about Fortnums which used to be a good grocery store where you could always get fresh dates. Then they were bought out, put up their prices and became another ugly face of our increasingly vulgar nation.

    As a simple statement as to where we are as a people it was a good day. The trouble is that statement is out-of-date and the context is irrelevant. We have to embrace the necessary change and this goes a whole lot further than what even the government think. The money to help this change has all been spent on trivia and anything we make will be spent paying off the debt. So we have nothing but our boot-straps to pull on, except of course for those still languishing in the cells.

  • Comment number 69.

    1815... I am at Trafalgar Square er, sorry but in 1815 it wasn't even built and the battle was only ten years before...see me, Ed.

  • Comment number 70.


    You are not familiar with the 24 hour clock to which those of us who are harnessed to the power of real economy are fully accustomed. I wouldn't dream of calling it 6.15 post meridian. Possibly six in the afternoon if going to the pub...

    My atomic clock is still not on BST. Maybe I should move it closer to Fukushima.

  • Comment number 71.

    er, can you get someone down to Millbank or where ever they are rioting today, will you need a photographer for the gore? Smith: No, I can do it all on the digital, do you want very bloody or mildly distasteful? Ed: As bloody as you like only no kids hurt, and mind you don't upset any Old Bill, they saved our guys last October, anyone up drainpipes, shop windows, front doors, you know the game, plenty of spikey haired bods, and generally scruffy b......d students, all Daily Mail fodder, they love it, they've never done Harrods have they, wonder why that is? Smith: Cos it's in Knightsbridge too much of a schlep round for 'em, half of ;em can only manage a hundred yards, well some of 'em....Ed: Well , get goin, you'll ave it dark we've got to make the early editions.....

  • Comment number 72.

    Re: your link to Mark Easton's blog.

    This refers to comments made about me which are totally untrue. I am not employed by Gloucestershire College, I am not a member of the UCU and I am not actively involved in any union campaigns. But, like many thousands, I have very recently signed online petitions against NHS reforms, in support of our local libraries and against selling off our forests.

    Therefore, this comment, made by somebody I do not know and have never heard of, should not substantiate any point you are making. It is a nasty smear, nothing more.

    Susan Caudron

  • Comment number 73.


    I really like this this one, very nicely done I think -20,000 hits on u-tube thus far.


    crikey stallinic..cheer up mate, did they just release you from the cells this morning or something?

    LSE - Libyan school of economics indeed, possibly fatally tainted as a result but it does leave space for a new organisation to take over their berth ...perhaps the New London School of Economics run by NEF.

    Sounds like you may be in a position where you could have a chat with them and set it up with a few rebel lecturers from the LSE - issue afew alternative qualifications to students who attend lectures.

    Perhaps that might cheer you up.

    Optimists are activists, pessimists sit on the sidelines of life and complain. I know from all your past excellent posts that you are better than that.

  • Comment number 74.


    I would like to add this link to your list - 21,000 hits on the u-tube posting thus far for it.

  • Comment number 75.


    Nuff sed - too much unsaid.

  • Comment number 76.

    # 72 suzie123 - if you have a rare name and someone wants to trash you thanks to search engines - Google and what not anyone can write what the heck they like and it will be picked up, oh and you cant remove it - you have to ask the webmaster of the website that up loaded it and if its now non existent dont worry Google will have it cached . I do hope the ex NN editor now working for Google (I think) is reading this. People who have been in business working from home and in pre WWW hard copy business directories have had their personal home address and tel nos used from old data by online directories and posted bringing up this personal data.

  • Comment number 77.


    I am glad you recall my dig at LSE. The place is responsible for my very existence. I almost grew up there but my alma mater is elsewhere. There is nothing quite so deplorable as a child following in their parent's academic footsteps. I mean the academic world is so accomodating to its own fundament anyway that no human being should even consider that prospect. So I followed my father into politics and, like him, finally quit because I needed to look at myself in the mirror. After that it has been downhill all the way.

    I have not been inside a police cell for over forty years but I did get knocked about by the UDR for knowing `Fenians' some thirty and more years gone. At the time I would have preferred they had knocked me about for knowing Fabians but eventually both sides got the message I and others had been trying to deliver to them. It was just that they preferred to take a long time with a lot of difficulty.

    This is where we all are at the moment. Nobody is prepared to admit that not only has all the money been spent but we have also spent the last ten years and a bit more happily demolishing the means for us to produce any real value. The level of national debt is escalating daily and this cannot be left to the kids to sort out as it is by far too much.

    In the middle of the Thatcher recession I had a strange dream that one day the politicial class would spend all the money so that there was none left. It was at the time when I was wondering whether all that politics was worth the candle given all that was going on at the time. I decided then that my time would be better spent working in industry to add value rather than consume the taxpayers' funds.

    I never thought that the political class was so stupid that it would actually spend all the money, but they managed it!

    This where the country is now. We need to get our industry back up and running. At least this is now more widely understood than thirty years ago but it would seem we still want to make that process as long and as difficult as we can.

    My problem is that aged 63 there is very little time to actually do something about it and even then I will never see the final outcome.

    Jericoa, this is going to take an awful long time to put right. My guess is thirty years. If I am here in thirty years in all probability I will be like the senile old woman I go to see every Saturday afternoon. No way! No way!

  • Comment number 78.

    I wonder how much it cost to protect Top Shop and other tax avoiding businesses on Saturday. Lots I guess and it's us little people who will have to foot the bill, not the tax avoiders who actually own the businesses. It's time we as a society stopped providing services to tax avoiders. Maybe if the police refused to protect their property the tax avoiders might be more willing to cough up. No protection without taxation!!!

  • Comment number 79.


    With the economy restored through industry and trade, will we still have state sponsored sickness and state sponsored repair (physical and mental) from cradle to grave? Will politicians still be known cheats and liars, hiding in parties and protected by the Westminster ethos? Will arms (for all) still be a lead industry?
    Will we still use war as a smart way to impart our style of corruption on Johnnie foreigner? Etc. In short; will wisdom still play no part in our culture? If so - I don't want any.

  • Comment number 80.

    79 Barrie

    A good point.

    I keep saying that if we had the economy to pay for what we think we need then there would be no problem. However, we don't so we can't.

    In my view we have spent thirty years being progressively deceived into believing that with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, some dodgy accounting here and there, and the odd loan on good terms for the lender, that we could still have all that we wanted.

    We now know we can't. Until we establish that truth and integrity are the first criteria for political leadership then there is no point in actually trying to do anything much. However, we also have to accept that the first deceit is self-deceit.

  • Comment number 81.

    FOUL! I CRY SIR - FOUL! (#80)

    If we ALL get into aphorisms, the centre cannot hold. My trick is to deceive myself that I am not deceived. Top that you rascal.

  • Comment number 82.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 83.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 84.


    When you live by smoke and mirrors: CO2 controls and inherent ugliness can work against you. When the smoke clears, you are confronted with you own being - worse for Westminster: YOUR OWN DOING. They have been sowing lies in the fertile tish of Mammonic society for decades; could it be that a seed of reality has taken root in Westminster?
    I have a vision like the end of an Indiana Jones 'movie' with that terrible place and all its blighted/blighting occupants, turning to dust and whirling away as the sun comes out.

    Make it so.

  • Comment number 85.

    '72. At 12:21pm on 28th Mar 2011, suzieq123 wrote:
    Re: your link to Mark Easton's blog.'

    First off, if there was any misrepresentation in something on a BBC blog thread that I linked to, and I evidently played a part by sharing what the national broadcaster had seen fit to publish, I apologise unreservedly.

    Unfortunately, one is only as good as the information one is provided, be it from a blogger or, I regret to say, as far as I am concerned, many from the media these days who either quote sources or are a bit prone to source quotes.

    It was the latter that I felt had been overstepped, and seemed borne out. In my defence, I have consistently applied the same level of rigour as may be expected from those in the professional media, if not more so, by framing this as unsubstantiated and worthy of confirmation. That clarifications have been made has shown the value of this, though again one is only as good as what is told is, or isn't, true.

    Sadly, your name was featured prominently in support of the story premise, perhaps by the author being attracted by you very recently signing online petitions against NHS reforms, in support of our local libraries and against selling off our forests. As to whether such proactivity, which is entirely legitimate and indeed laudable (I too signed one of those three, the other two sadly not so much), is representative of the public at large per the headline point being made, still remains less evident to me.

    But such aspects of any point I might have been making that was based on inaccuracy obviously no longer stands.

    Though one might suspect any fine, upstanding English language lecturers at Colleges, members of University and College Unions (UCU), and/or those actively involved in union campaigns could be a little disconcerted that simply being mistaken for them constituted a smear.

    Whether active in protest and attracting the attention of roving reporters keen to frame stories, or not.

  • Comment number 86.

    tawse57 @ 8

    Everything that has happened to private sector workers they have done to themselves and they have no-one to blame but themselves. It is not the public sector workers fault that their private sector colleagues ditched the Union movement and collective bargaining. They jumped on the Thatcherite bandwagon naively believing the Tory BS that the Trade Union movement was the cause of all our economic problems (and had nothing to do with the actions of central banks).

    The same old Tories are now spinning the lie that the cause of all our economic problems is public sector debt and has nothing to do with the private sector debt and the loose policies of central banks that caused the crisis in the first place.

    This 'unsustainable pension' stuff @12 is also BS that covers up the fact that employers did not pay into the pension pot when they were doing well. It is only when they are not doing well that they have to pay into it and that is when they start calling it 'unsustainable'. The public sector is little different. Where did all the money go when public sector pensions were in a surplus? Politicans spent it - probably on tax cuts for the naive private sector workers. Public sector workers have the balls to not take this lying down.

  • Comment number 87.

    Jonaldo @ 26

    Judging by your excellent post you should post here more often and not just be a 'lurker'.

    Burnallthemoney @ 47

    The statement about 'the state will wither away' comes from Marx, Trotsky is just quoting him. It is not a question of the state MUST wither away, but is the inevitable consequence of the transcendence of capitalism. Marx, if he were around today, would be a communist-anarchist.

  • Comment number 88.


    Welcome back!

    Enjoyed your post. One has to ''translate tales of woe into hey Nonny Nonny'' to a certain extent to stay sane. Although I share much (almost all actually) of your assessment of the situation the sheer 'in your face' grotesque proposterousness of it all masquerading as 'intelligence and respectability' has me in hyterics sometimes and, admittedly, touching on despair at other times.

    Here we are, self styled 'kings of the Jungle, A No.1, top of the heap' and this is the best we can do as a species ...heck most of us are pretty unhappy or in a rather bland quasi zombie like state most of the time!!!

    We are rubbish!!! We are an insult to monkeys, an affront to their genetic heritage indeed.

    I will maintain my optimism on one point, 30 years to turn it around.. I reckon you could do it in 10 and should do it in 10 with the available advances in the modern world.

    I am not saying we will.. but we could.

  • Comment number 89.

    "Junk - worry ye not: they have my mobile number because I phoned them (????) to ask what they were doing inside Fortnums."

    Do you often have the phone numbers of those committing aggravated trespass?

  • Comment number 90.

    #13 Donnacha DeLong wrote:

    "SOME anarchists, please, Paul. There were numerous anarchists in the march, myself included with my new Emma Goldman t-shirt and red-and-black-star badge on my cap."

    An anarchist that protests against the shrinking of the state? Methinks you are misunderstanding what an anarchist is.

  • Comment number 91.

  • Comment number 92.

    UK Uncut seem to have come off badly in this.
    What a useful group, with their non- hierarchichal, get-out-there-and-do-it-for-yerself, around the country demonstrations against tax dodging corps.

    An indication that they were hitting the spot,
    is that the extreme right,
    that's extreme right as in transnational capital-supported Institute of Economic Affairs
    had worked up a whole publication on how 'wrong' UK Uncut have the story
    Evidence of how exactly right they must have it.

    But slack media, and who knows what other forces, have them tied up now with 'violent anarchists'
    - which may work to deter the excellent work they have been doing and undermine the strong support that they had.

    Now who might have done that? Mmmm

    The Today Program seemed to give a UK Uncut spokesperson a few seconds to make the distinction between UK Uncut and the black clothes lot
    but the style of how that opportunity was given
    means the damage done by so much reporting that confused all will not be undone so easily

    The onus is on people like Paul Mason to make the point.
    It matters that UK Uncut is not disempowered in this way

  • Comment number 93.

    Paul, as usual, I found your piece thoughtful and thought-provoking. But in your Newsnight piece tonight, you said that 'the black bloc did not split from the main march because they were never there'. Completely wrong, I'm afraid. I have photos of perhaps 400 or 500 mostly masked black bloc, many carrying red and black flags, in the middle of the march at Embankment at around 13.45. They were causing no trouble and those immediately around them didn't appear disturbed by their presence – although one woman veteran of Greenham told me she didn't like their wearing masks as it indicated they intended to cause trouble. I don't for a moment think that many marchers approved of the window-smashing etc, and I think it is probably going too far to claim, as some have, that black bloc were 'accepted' by other marchers, but the relationship of black bloc to the larger anti-cuts movement deserves more examination than your neat distinction implies. I suspect that Laurie Penny has it about right: there is such disillusionment with mainstream politics that black bloc tactics are growing in places we would never have expected a few months ago.

  • Comment number 94.

    My wife and I were on the march on Saturday, 2 old self-employed, and very concerned pensioners. We oppose the NHS proposals and Cameron's ambition to privatise virtually the rest of the state. That is the part that companies find profitable. The rest will probably wither and die especially in communities that are desperately trying to make ends meet. The state that Cameron, with the connivance of the Liberal Democrats. is trying to engineer will be irreversible without a revolution. We seem to be heading back to the eighteenth century. If he succeeds they may still allow us to vote but it will be meaningless once the contracts are signed.
    We found the marchers colourful, safe, and very friendly, and afterwards we walked down Oxford St and stopped at Boots where some UKUNCUT members were entertaining the shoppers.
    We had read about their peaceful protests and found this one to be a good natured event, with several of the group wearing fake blood soaked head bandages whilst they all sang an anti-tax dodging song. We then caught the underground from New Bond Street at just after 15.00.
    The only anarchists we saw were not on the march, but were assembling earlier in Trafalgar Sq. I have just watched Newsnight, and Paul Mason confirmed that the anarchists were not on the march. Their antics were reprehensible, which I am sure shocked most of the marchers when they caught up with events on their T.V.'s
    UKUNCUT should distance itself from such violence.

  • Comment number 95.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 96.

    UKUncut frightens the bejeezers out of the establishment, hence the counter productive tactics of the police in the video linked to at #91.

    The Met think they can frighten a few kids from protesting against tax dodgers, all they will achieve is to militicise some of the participants (expect more black clothing)

    Too late though, UKUncut has gone global.

  • Comment number 97.

    Made in Britain.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 98.


    "I am guessing you are very young."

    I wish. I'm 35.

    "What is an anarchist, what is their objective?"

    An anarchist is a person who wants to end coercive authority over all people and identifies the capitalist economic system and the existence of the state as being the primary source of coercive authority. Our objective is the end the state and the capitalist system, our methods vary. Personally, I'm an anarcho-syndicalist, dedicated to building a trade union movement controlled by the members and not by a bureaucracy and taking control of the means of production to create a society self-managed by workers on behalf of the community.

    "...and who do you think may have been 'directing' the anarchists in order to discredit the hundreds of thousands of peaceful marchers?"

    I don't agree with the premise of the question. The first part - largely the anger of those who displayed their anger. Many anarchists, like me, marched with our fellow trade unionists and had nothing to do with the black bloc. Others decided to vent their anger on symbols of capitalism and the class divisions in the UK.

    I also don't think it was their aim or the reality that that they discredit protesters - the media did that job. They did their thing while we did ours.

    More of my views here:

  • Comment number 99.

    @Kit Green
    "And are the libertarians the true anarchists? No real regulation, minimal laws (for themselves) etc."

    In the historical sense, yes - libertarian was originally a synonym for anarchist. In the modern misuse, not a chance. Anarchism opposes coercive authority, the people who call themselves libertarians today just oppose the state (or want to limit it), they don't oppose the coercion of hierarchy in the workplace.

  • Comment number 100.

    "An anarchist that protests against the shrinking of the state? Methinks you are misunderstanding what an anarchist is. "

    Nope, I have no complaint about the shrinking of the state. I don't even have an objection to the ideas of the Big Society in principle. What I have a problem with is the Tories - because they're liars. Their plans have nothing to do with mutualism or localism, they're simply trying to sell everything off to the highest bidder. Anarchists oppose the state and capitalism, as we live in the real world we have to make judgement calls as to which is most important at which point. Is the NHS, free at the point of use, better than a privatised NHS that will be motivated by profit and ultimately cost more? Yes. Are libraries good things? Yes. Would we be better off if they were all passed into public ownership and the government disappeared completely? Yes, but that's a longer term aim. Here, for example, is my proposal for the Royal Mail - neither nationalised nor privatised:


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