Tens of thousands of public sector workers and campaigners march in protest against the government’s spending cuts.
Protesters marched through central London on Saturday against public spending cuts and tax rises enacted by a government that is currently fighting accusations that it is run by an upper-class elite – such as former chief whip Andrew Mitchell.
Blowing horns and whistles, protesters filed past the Houses of Parliament behind a banner declaring “austerity is gailing”, calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to do more to revive Britain’s struggling economy.
Police estimates for the London march have not been released, but the TUC says around 100,000 people took part across Britain. In Glasgow, an estimated 5,000 people took to the streets as part of the mass protest, while another estimated 1,000 protesters marched in Belfast.
Andrew Mitchell may finally have resigned. But the culture of two nations runs right across this government. They cut taxes for millionaires. And raise taxes for ordinary families. Ed Miliband
Labour leader Ed Miliband was among dozens of speakers at a rally in Hyde Park, and joined union officials in spelling out the impact of spending cuts on public services.
“They told us austerity would help our economy grow. But our economy has not grown. It has flatlined,” he told the demonstration, and was cheered when he said:. “Andrew Mitchell may finally have resigned. But the culture of two nations runs right across this government. They cut taxes for millionaires. And raise taxes for ordinary families.”
However he was booed when he said that there would still be some cuts made under Labour. The Labour leader got a rough ride at last year’s TUC conference when he criticised strikes over pension reforms while negotiations were ongoing.
— Jessie Simmons (@JessieSimm) October 20, 2012
There were calls from some quarters for the TUC to organise a general strike following last year’s day of industrial action by public sector workers over the government’s pension reforms.
Since the government’s election in May 2010 the public sector workforce has shrank by 9 per cent with the loss of 628,000 jobs.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, told protesters that it was “about time” to look at the practicalities of a strike.
The TUC Congress last month called for the practicalities of organising a general strike to be considered, which the PCS union said was an “absolute necessity” given the scale of the spending cuts.
The government has claimed that abandoning the austerity plan that their election manifesto was based on would be disastrous. Earlier this month, David Cameron claimed that austerity was working with the budget deficit that the coalition government inherited of around 11 per cent, has been cut to 8 per cent.
At the Conservative Party conference leading party members have argued that more cuts are needed. Chancellor George Osborne said a further £16bn of savings must be found by 2015/16 to meet his target of balancing the budget within five years.