Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Future That Works - TUC March and Rally Central London and Hyde Park, Ed Miliband, General Strike call

'I'm So Angry I Made This Sign', chirps one protester's placard. A Trade Union Congress steward, standing opposite the Institute of Director's sumptuous Pall Mall retreat, reads Karl Marx's Capital.
  Walking sticks and wheelchairs are in force as the National Pensioners Convention gathers beside Caviar House, next to the Ritz hotel on Piccadilly. The Ritz windows are firmly shuttered. 
  It's Saturday, 20 October 2012 and it's clear this central London march and rally by working people isn't going to be as massive as the last show of strength in March 2011 when slogans and paint splattered the Ritz facade.
   But an estimated 150,000 people marching from the Embankment to a Hyde Park rally, billed by the TUC as A Future That Works, is still an impressive mobilisation against the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government's austerity economics and cuts to jobs and public services.

General strike call
Thousands of marchers in a huge column wield colourful and inventively funny banners and placards. Many only reach Hyde Park as the rally speeches end. 
   They miss hearing union leader after union leader pressuring Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to endorse their call for a general strike against the coalition government's austerity programme.
   Miliband (above), a member of the Unite and USDAW unions, and MP for Doncaster North, accuses the government of "dividing our they cut taxes for millionnaires and raise taxes for ordinary families.They leave young people out of work whilst the bonuses and the banks carry on."

What a Miliband-led government would do?
Miliband attacks Prime Minister David Cameron for contriving "a sink or swim society". A Labour government would tax bankers bonuses, Miliband  pledges. Labour would build "100,000 new homes" and repeal the Coalition's law that allows the National Health Service to be privatised. 
  Much of Miliband's denigration of the government goes down well with the growing Hyde Park crowd. But most silently greet and a few boo Miliband's admission that a future  "One Nation" Labour government would still have to take "tough choices" and also make cuts.

'Who Do They Think They Are'?
But Miliband's 'jam tomorrow' promise isn't going to sway union leaders and activists - particularly as the next general election remains three years away. The general strike issue is likely to come up again soon after the march.
  Activist and writer Owen Jones had tweeted earlier that morning,"This is the time for the plebs", a reference to Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell who resigned this week over allegations he had called police 'plebs' as they guarded the Prime Minister's Downing Street home.
   But perhaps one of the most surprising judgements on Cameron and the coalition arises well away from the throbbing drumbeats on central London streets. Saturday's lead story front page headline on the right-wing Daily Mail newspaper screams 'Who Do They Think They Are?'    The story refers to Mitchell's 'pleb' comment but also tells a damming tale about the government's 'axe man', Chancellor George Osborne. 
  The paper reports that Osborne travelled first class on a train.
A Cabinet Minister travels first what's the story there then?
Apparently, Osborne could only show the ticket inspector a standard class ticket. Pleb.

Paul Coleman, London, October 2012.

Words & Photos Copyright Paul Coleman 2012

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