Today’s TUC led march was billed as the “March for the Alternative”. There were other events taking place around London that I was hoping to get to but I’m not omnipresent. I set off to the march and rally by bus rather than the Tube. The traffic along Kensington High Street was bumper to bumper. This journey was going to take longer than normal and as the bus arrives in Knightsbridge, I decided to get off and walked the rest of the way. I walked past the set of swanky apartments. There were security guards hanging around and a couple of cops. I really don’t think a breakaway group has this place in mind but, given the level of paranoia among the filthy rich, perhaps it isn’t so surprising. I had arranged to meet my old friend, Matt, who had come up for the day from leafy, affluent Hampshire. We had a coffee from a nearby stall and as we did so, the head of the march arrived. We joined the other marchers and headed towards the rally point. There was a chilly easterly blowing and I began to regret not wearing a pair of gloves.
I checked my camera and I was annoyed that it needed batteries. I had to use my mobile phone instead. The picture quality is going to be inferior. We sat and listened to a couple of speakers. Then came Brendan Barber who gets a fairly decent welcome. He was followed by Ed Miliband. Matt and I and many others boo him. He talked the same rubbish that he does for the cameras. Like so many politicians of his ilk, he name-checks the suffragettes and others. “We know what this government will say”? he says. That was my cue for a heckle “What would your dad say”? I have a pretty loud voice, so there was every chance that he’d heard me. I followed that with “Your dad must be spinning in his grave”! He made a comment about Martin Luther King. God, this is cheap. “How dare he”? demanded Matt. I agree. It’s pretty shabby and an insult to the great man. We decided to leave for Oxford Street. Milly Band wrapped up his speech and was followed by UNISON’s Dave Prentis. It looks like we got out in time. Prentis is a really dull speaker.
We got to Oxford Street to see that Topshop had been attacked. There was a line of riot cops standing in front of the store. I shouted “Phillip Green is a tax dodger”. But it was really too late for that. I could see David Aaronovitch being interviewed by a television crew. What’s he doing here? Surely he isn’t demonstrating? Of course not and when the interview is finished, he scuttles off. No doubt to write a hatchet job on UKUncut and the march.
I encountered Robin Hood as we walked towards Tottenham Court Road.
We went off down Poland Street. Years ago, I went to castings on this very street. We stopped off for coffee and tea and took a seat on some steps. We saw another march heading down Wardour Street towards Oxford Street and head it off.
We decided to head for Trafalgar Square We avoid Piccadilly Circus and walk down Haymarket. Suddenly, there was a terrifying scream. I rush off to see what’s going on and take a few pictures but the TSG has surrounded someone who appeared to have been wrestled to the pavement. I don’t want to get anywhere near the TSG, they’ll hit and kick you as soon as look at you. Matt gets a better shot of it than I do. He has a proper camera.
We get to Trafalgar Square and there are still people marching towards Hyde Park Corner. I get a text from Andy, who’s down from Bury with his family. I haven’t seen him for well over 20 years. We meet and chat. I can see someone carrying a placard with a man’s face on it with the word “DEMAND” underneath. The face looks like that of John Maynard Keynes. When I get home I find out that’s exactly who it is.
We can see helicopters over Piccadilly. We soon discover that Fortnum and Mason’s is being occupied by UKUncut. It started to get chilly, so we decide to find somewhere to have a hot drink and a seat. But most of the cafes are full and we have to walk all the way down The Strand till we find one with some seats. On our way, we spotted a anti-Mugabe demonstration on the north side of The Strand. This really is a day for demonstrations but my guess is that particular protest will be ignored because of all the others.
When I get home, the rolling news coverage is full of the usual rubbish about how “violence” had “overshadowed the peaceful TUC march”. The usual suspects come out and blame a “hardcore of activists”. I decide to check the Telegraph blogs for a laugh and I’m not disappointed when I see this blog from Dan Hannan. The comments are a psychoanalysts’ dream. Hannan asks “WHAT alternative”? If we told him the alternative, he wouldn’t listen nor would he want to know. As far as he and his buddies are concerned, it’s a case of TINA. But in the 30 years that we have lived under a neoliberal economic system, there have been 3 recessions and 3 very serious financial crises. Wages have stagnated and the cost of living has gone up. Compare that with the Keynesian period. It’s a no-brainer. Sunny Jim Callaghan’s decision to adopt monetarism eventually led to Thatcher’s enthusiastic embrace of neoliberalism. Now look where we are – again.