Words By Neil Harrison
The Conservative Party is set to receive a hostile reception tomorrow (Sunday 29th September) as it arrives in Manchester for its 2013 conference. Over 40,000 demonstrators are expected to take to the streets of the city in protest at the party’s welfare and NHS reform policies, and to push for greater investment in jobs and employment security. The figure, quoted by Manchester People’s Assembly organisers, includes actions organised by all of the leading trade unions and many major campaign groups. Thousands of activists will travel to Manchester from around the country, including a packed train carrying hundreds from London.
The mass rally, organised by the TUC, will bring together a diverse range of organisations, each with differing aims – but marching together in opposition to government spending cuts and austerity.
As part of the ‘Save Our NHS’ campaign, the union Unite are encouraging protesters to dress as the ‘walking wounded’ in bandages and hospital gowns for the day, saying,
“On Sunday 29th September we will be in Manchester marching for our NHS. What better way to get the attention of David Cameron’s Conservative party than thousands of noisy people on the streets of Manchester?”
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), on the other hand, will be primarily concerned with preventing further spending cuts. They explain,
“PCS members are joining a mass mobilisation against cuts to jobs and services at the Tory party conference. Tens of thousands of people from across the UK are joining the TUC march to send a powerful message against government austerity measures which have driven hundreds of thousands of people into poverty.”
The mood around Manchester will contrast starkly with claims of vindication on economic policy, made recently by the Conservative hierarchy. However, author and activist Chris Nineham explains on the Counterfire website that those protesting on Sunday have every reason to be sceptical,
“The jubilation from government and media shouldn’t surprise us. This is a double whammy for the austerity lobby. It’s not just that they have found some statistics that show an economic upcreep, but they can claim their medicine is working. A brief glance at the evidence shows that the growth – such as it is – is almost entirely dependent on the increase in house prices. In other words, what we are witnessing is a mini-bubble with no impact on the rest of the economy. But why bother with facts when you can get away with fabrication?”
“The problem is, the idea that the only way out of a banker-induced crisis is for ordinary people to pay the price – over and over again – goes largely unchallenged. We need to tackle the nonsense of austerity head on. We need a high profile, national response to register the fact that for the vast majority things just keep on getting worse, not better, and that we don’t accept the ‘there is no alternative’ mantra. It needs to be a response that involves the largest possible number of people and ensures the greatest possible impact”.
A final ‘fun-leafleting’ campaign in Manchester city centre has been organised for today (Saturday, 28th September) by Manchester People’s Assembly in order to drum up further support from the public on Sunday. For more information on this and other actions visit their Facebook page.
The Humanities’ Hallows blog will have full reports and photographs following Sunday’s events.
Neil Harrison is studying Social History at Manchester Metropolitan University, he is an aspiring journalist and a terrible guitar player. Follow him on Twitter @looseriver