Monday, 3 December 2012

Marching for Change : Helen Hayward

On Sat 20th October, I met members of the Middlesex University UNISON Branch outside the Savoy on the strand, ready to march on the TUC mass demonstration in London against the government austerity agenda which is clearly not working. 

There were workers from Barnet council who exchanged banter with us. I was told how the majority of Barnet services are now being privitised and outsourced and how they are battling against the further erosion of public services. Its appalling what is happening in the name of ‘savings and budget cuts’ when anybody can see that it is the bankers and the rich who are getting off scot free. 

As we formed up on the embankment in a surreal moment Barry White’s music was booming out from the PSU.  There were thousands of people from all over the country and a carnival atmosphere. Lots of marchers from the North, who were down to register a protest, teachers, civil servants, cleaners and policemen. Yes the police, they were handing out leaflets being friendly and approachable, sympathetic to the march.

The march started at mid-day and slowly meandered past Embankment station and the Houses of Parliament. There was a cacophony of noise with marchers blowing whistles, banging drums and various sound systems blaring out the Clash. I looked behind me and noted I was in august company: Jonathan Millar and his family were marching, I also spotted Angela Eagle, Labour MP in the shadow cabinet. I had a laugh seeing if I could spot any agent provocateurs, they tend to wear a clich├ęd costume of black balaclava with a brutish expression, but on this March there weren’t any.

We got to Hyde Park, had a quick perusal round the Socialist pop-up bookshop, and then made our way to the middle of the park in front of giant screens. The speeches started from firebrands such as Bob Crow, general secretary of the Transport workers. He made some hilarious points. 

All this in a week for the Tories that saw George Osbourne the Tory Chancellor upgrading himself to a first class carriage without having purchased the right ticket. Also Andrew Mitchell who was stopped by Downing street police from going through an entrance on his bike and called them ‘Plebs’, thus revealing his opinion of people trying to do their job.

Interestingly both banana skins were to do with class, how can Eton educated MPs have any idea of the suffering and misery their out of touch policies are inflicting.

Ed Milliband spoke of further austerity measures if Labour got into power, which did not go down well with people at all. Dave Prentis UNISON General Secretary spoke of the need to invest in good public services to boost the economy and strengthen communities.

It started to rain, which was our cue to leave before everyone had the same idea. Clutching the huge UNISON banner I headed off to the West End, and home weary but satisfied I had made played my part in delivering a message to the coalition government that for hundreds of thousands of working people : Austerity is Failing

Helen Hayward