“Tories out” was the defiant message delivered by thousands of anti-austerity protesters, as well Labour politicians and trade union leaders, who marched on Parliament this Saturday (July 1).
Unite members from throughout the UK travelled to join the carnival-like demonstration and hear a range of speakers including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
Despite the seriousness of the message and the difficult events of the last few months, the atmosphere was jovial as the march made its way down Regents Street and past 10 Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament.
Unite retired member, Dave Townsend, 44, had travelled from Western-super-Mare with his wife Keren, 44, daughter Caitlin, 13, and son Tristan, 7.
The Townsends were protesting against cuts to their local hospital, as well as their schools and other public services.
Mr Townsend, who was a Ministry of Defence marine engineer for two decades before ill health forced his retirement, said, “We want an end to austerity and this government is not the government to give us that.
‘I worry for my children’
“I worry for my children. We live in one of the most deprived regions. There’s no job security for young people and owning their own house is now almost impossible.
“The Labour vote doubled in Western-super-Mare during this last election. If people knew then what they know now the Tories wouldn’t have got in and I don’t think it will be long until the next election.”
Addressing the protesters – many of who were carrying placards highlighting the Grenfell Tower fire and cuts to public services – at Parliament Square, Jeremy Corbyn said he was intent on forcing another general election.
He said, “We are the people, we are united and we are determined, we are not going to be divided or let austerity divide us. We are increasing in support and we are determined to force another election as soon as we can.”
Corbyn savaged the Tories for hinting they would scrap the public sector pay cap this week, before using their deal with the DUP to vote down a Queen’s Speech amendment by Labour to do exactly that.
He said, “Don’t have any illusions in these people, when they started the austerity programme they meant it and they meant it to carry on and carry on.”
Corbyn also blasted the “unbelievable” hypocrisy of Tory MPs who had praised the emergency services during the Grenfell Tower disaster and recent terror attacks.
He said, “The utter hypocrisy of government ministers and others who queued up in the chamber over there in the House of Commons to heap praise on the emergency services, the following day to cut their wages by refusing to lift the pay cap.”
‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’
Before reaching Parliament Square demonstrators, accompanied by percussionists and musicians, chanted “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” and “Theresa May on your way, Jeremy Corbyn here to stay” as they marched through central London.
Amongst Austerity Kills placards and trade union branch banners, people had fashioned their own versions of Theresa May’s now infamous “magic money tree”.
One protester was wearing a giant papier-mâché model of the Prime Minister’s head, while others carried placards referring to her running through wheat fields.
Underneath the theatrics and fun, however, were sombre messages from people worried about five more years of Tory rule.
Unite automotive member Stuart Davis, 46, had travelled from Crewe with his son Alex, 14, and his daughter Emma, 10.
‘Masses aren’t happy’
Mr Davis, who works for Bentley, said, “We’ve been coming to marches since the kids were little. It’s important that the government knows the masses aren’t happy.
“I lost my wife, Wendy, to cancer five weeks ago so I’m now a single parent. Things have changed. We’ve gone from being quite comfortable to watching everything now.
“Unfortunately I know that if we face difficulties the Tories aren’t a party interested in helping people – not the working man at least.”
Mr Davis said that Labour’s resurgence had given him hope for the future.
He said, “Jeremy gives me hope and the Labour manifesto. I was also inspired by the maiden speeches of the new Labour MPs. There’s a general feeling of change.
“People are realising they’ve lived under seven years of austerity, when last week the Prime Minister found a billion pounds from no-where just so she could stay in office.”
Once the march reached Parliament Square, the protesters held a minutes silence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Speaking after the silence, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said, “To the victims of Grenfell Tower we pledge now, we will stand with you and your families all the way through. We bring you sympathy but more importantly we bring you solidarity.
“We will not rest until every one of those families is properly housed within the community in which they want to live. Grenfell Tower symbolised for many everything that’s gone wrong in this country since austerity was imposed upon us.”
Addressing the crowd Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said it was time for the “nasty party” to go.
He said, “Theresa May – hear the message from today. You, your party and Tory cruelty have failed the people, you are not wanted. Pack your bags, get out of No 10 and take the rest of your nasty party with you. “Let Labour get on with the job of restoring dignity, decency and economic sanity to this country once again. “For the good of this country – go, and go now.”
All pics by Mark Thomas