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With no aim but to express anger, frustration and dissatisfaction, the protest outside the Tory conference on Sunday had a resounding message; the Tories were not welcome in Birmingham.
If the public had their way (which they rarely do), the Tories would have hosted their conference as far away from the ICC as possible.
Crying out with the crowds, it was more than obvious to me that the atmosphere was one of genuine rage. Across both the public and private sectors, the cuts are hitting hard; their consequences deep and far-reaching. From railway workers, to fire-fighters, to lecturers at our University, there was cross-spectrum resistance to the Tory presence. And, despite police officers being unable to protest along with us by law, the liaison officers were sympathetic to our cause. “Birmingham Grannies against the Cuts” were a particular favourite group of mine; not least because it shows that Government policies are spanning generations and the most vulnerable are, despicably, getting the rough end of the stick whilst the most fortunate are cut more and more slack.
Students, including NUS officers Vicki Baars and Aaron Kiely, also lined the ranks, demonstrating against raised tuition fees and continuing further and higher education cuts. Asked why they were demonstrating, Mathematics student, Ollie Jones said they were “angry” with the cuts that the Tory party were making in Government, particularly in opposition to changes to the NHS.
Vicki Baars, NUS Vice President for Union Development hit the spot when she tweeted, “at the rally against #cpc12, the Conservative led government has tripled Tuition Fees, introduced FE fee’s for over 24’s… Let’s defend edu!”
Inspiring speeches were given by general secretaries from public sector unions including the UCU, RMT and Unite. Christine Blower, general secretary for NUT, addressed the crowds “there is a will to privatise our education” and cited that one in five young people can’t find a job, while Bob Crow, RMT, called for re-nationalisation of the railways.
Yet, the protest was disappointing; in spite of a supposed five thousand attendees, it felt quiet and too jovial, and both the march and the rally were over in two and a half hours. Once it had finished, it had finished. It was by far lacking the passion of previous protests. Whilst timid voices shouted for a tax on the rich, the one percent, Cameron stood, unscathed and with security for protection, that his Government would not be introducing a mansion tax. Once again, our demands were ignored.
Fortunately, I can confidently say that the upcoming protests by the TUC and the NUS in London will be much more impactful. If #demo2012 is anything like the student protests of 2010, we will see fifty thousand take on Westminster and show this shambles of a Government that we will not just sit back and take what they throw at us. For ourselves, and future generations, we will say “no more”.