Monday, 28 March 2011
Lancastrians In London TUC Anti-Cuts March: Personal Report
They say it was half a million at the Great TUC Anti Cuts Protest March in London last Saturday. Half the march never even made it to Hyde Park. For that to happen it would've had to start off at about 9am, not noon. It was a miracle we made it as far as Trafalgar Square, three and a half hours after the march began. 'Why are you stopping?' asked a copper, kindly. 'You're doing this for us too, you know.' We had a special NUT train to catch and it took us two hours to get back to the station, through the endless sea of people with placards throughout the streets and Underground. People were still arriving in Trafalgar Square for hours after, with aching feet. It was a natural place for a second rally.
On the way to Victoria Embankment to join the March I noticed 3 police vans in front of the Vodaphone shop and about 10 policeman inside the doors of TopShop. Who is paying for this? Not them, the tax-dodgers.
We'd heard there might be a bit of direct action. It seemed more than likely. A million people marching peacefully didn't change anything back in 2003. It's a lesson paid for with the blood of thousands. We don't discount the possibility of getting kettled. A friend gave me a lemon on the train. 'I have been tear-gassed twice,' she said (she hails from overseas). 'It is not so bad'. Lemon juice protects the skin and throat, I learn. I emphatically do not want to get caught up in anything of the sort. My mum has voluntarily gone into a care home while I come on this protest. Delays getting back will cost a fortune.
I stand alongside fire-fighters in uniform. And a street band from More Music in Morecambe. The Embankment is packed from end to end with thousands upon thousands. From every sidestreet they pour steadily in. Overhead Waterloo Bridge is packed end to end with crowds bearing placards, all marching our way. Above our heads at the parapet suddenly appears a giant Postman Pat, waving down at us. The postal workers are here! (My local postie works hard for his keep). More Music strike up the Postman Pat theme song, and we sing along and whistle our whistles in our thousands as Pat opens his arms in a giant embrace and conducts us. The kids are thrilled to bits. It's glorious.
Leaflets pass inviting us to a ruck, with instructions and directions to tax dodging business premises. Vodaphone. Top Shop, Boots, banks. I have no idea where these addresses are. For all I know they are on the route of the march. Whatever. I'm with the Fire Brigade and thousands of teachers, nurses, doctors, carers, parents, children, community workers, bagpipers.... I've never been safer.
I'm marching with Lancaster Women Against the Cuts. Women are getting the worst of the cuts dumped on us. We hear there's a Women's Block but they are long gone, miles away in another section of the march. Later I hear that an Ann Summers sex shop got its window smashed along with the tax dodging retailers and banks. I sincerely hope that no innocent rabbits were harmed.
We march and sing and roar and march. 30 and 40 abreast. More Music have stamina as well as rhythm, and songs about politicians who get away with fiddling their expenses. We march with the Lancaster & Morecambe NUT, in the shelter of their banner. We blow our whistles. A lot. There are massive vuvuzela waves that pass up and down the march like a great tidal bore flowing up a river. We are history and whatever the outcome, this day will be remembered and I am a living part of it.
Why I Am Marching
I am marching against the cuts. I do not believe that the deficit is a result of public spending. I believe that it came about because New Labour were too cosy with the banks and let them run up a real estate bubble from which they took, and are still taking, a massive rake-off. This they connived in exploiting to the bitter end, even to betting on its crashing, safe in the knowledge that they were protected from market forces by a human wall of taxpayers. Who were driven to panic, thinking they would lose their life-savings, so much that they ended up allowing a bail-out that cost billions more. I am marching because Fred Goodwin's pension deal was cast-iron but no-one else's is. Because to the coalition government, bankers' bonuses are sacrosanct, but Sure Start centres and libraries are tossed away like rubbish.
I am marching because this is my last chance. After 1st April the cost of respite care for mum will be beyond reality.
I am marching because I was born in a council house on a rubbish-strewn estate and went to a good comprehensive and to university, and have lived my life safely housed and free from debt and abuse and I want that possibility for every child, no matter how scruffy or 'common'.
If Vodaphone paid their taxes, the NHS could be safe. But Vodaphone is generous to the Tory party and Cameron is intent on destroying state support for public welfare. He makes lists of the 'good' and the 'bad' and thinks that we will be so keen to believe that we are on the 'good' list that we will just keep abandoning the people on the 'bad' lists, until one day we finally realise that we are all 'bad'. We didn't inherit millions or go to Eton. We cannot 'negotiate' our taxes and benefits. Cameron talks about democracy whilst he makes arms deals with despots. His arms dealing mates get easy tax breaks but we have to pay for hundreds of missiles at $600,000 a pop to clean up the mess and there's endless random collateral dead people on every side who were just trying to get on with their lives, just like me.
I'm sick of hearing the endless catalogue of bogeyman his media paint. Benefits scroungers, asylum seekers, immigrants, unions, teenage mothers, public sector 'fat cats'. While they keep quiet about their own offshore corporate tax arrangements.
I'm marching because housing benefits are being cut and unemployed people are to be systematically punished for being poor. Because we have crossed a line from being a society that tried to ensure that everyone could eat every day and sleep in a safe bed, to being a system that will ensure that many don't. From being a society that intended to care for the elderly and frail to being one that resents them. Because a quarter of the nation's children are being raised by single parents who are not valued for their crucial contribution but instead knocked back at every turn. Because the rich are still getting richer beyond imagining. Because a society that provides no benefits is just a racket.
I'm marching because I can't find a new electric kettle that won't break within a year. I'm marching because I want to see green industries, green jobs for a healthy society and sustainable and progressive social evolution, not just monetary games and casino finance. Because I believe that you can't have political democracy without economic democracy. Because a hundred years from now I want people to look back with respect rather than contempt at how we dealt with the global and social challenges we face.
In Cameron's dream we are all just one life-changing event away from ruin. We have this to deal with, whether we like it or not. Half a million people marched up and told him, on Saturday, that he is not our leader, that he has no mandate for his policies and that we will resist them. His party got even fewer votes than Labour, and the Lib Dems only got their votes for promises they have openly broken. They are a tissue of spin.
Vote In May
The city council elections take place on Thursday 5 May, and present a peaceful opportunity to sort this out by sending a message at the polls that parties with anti-social, anti-progressive policies will not be tolerated. The last day for registering to vote is on 14 April. I'd like to see some good candidates stepping up. Let's hear from you. Nomination papers must be delivered to The Governance Service Meeting Room, Town Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster, not later than noon on Monday 4 April 2011.