by New Worker correspondent
THE STREETS of London were turned into a vast slow-moving sea of placards, banners and giant coloured balloons last Saturday as somewhere between one and two hundred thousand trade unionists descended on the capital to tell Prime Minister David Cameron they demand an end to the austerity policies that are devastating jobs, services, pensions and benefits.
And the noise was deafening, from bands, whistles, vuvuzelas and voices, as the marchers made sure no one in London that day could ignore them.
There were also major rallies in Glasgow and Belfast.
Civil servants, teachers, local government workers, health workers, firefighters – and even the police keeping order – were expressing their anger at the cuts that have done nothing to reduce Britain’s debt problems but only made them worse by putting millions out of work.
The march began on the Embankment and ended in Hyde Park. It was so large that people were still pouring in the park many hours after the front of the march had arrived.
In the park Len McCluskey, general secretary of the giant union Unite, won a great cheer when he made a call for the march to be followed up with a general strike against austerity. RMT general Se3cretary Bob Crow backed up this call.
Retiring TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told the crowd: “The economy is flat on its back. There have been cuts in public services, people are worried about their jobs, there has been a squeeze in living standards – all this pain to reduce the deficit and it has demonstrably failed.” He called for a massive house-building programme and investment in Britain’s infrastructure.
Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the Prime Minister of clinging to policies which were not working. But he was booed when he added: “There will of course be hard choices,” and added: “I do not promise easy times. There will be some cuts,” prompting calls of “liar” and “rubbish”.
Miliband continued: "I have said whoever was in government now there would be some cuts, but this government has shown that cutting too far and too fast, self-defeating austerity is not the answer, it is not the answer to Britain's problems."
But there were cheers when he mentioned the incident in which Chancellor George Osborne had to pay for an upgrade after he sat in a first class train carriage with a standard class ticket.
Frances O’Grady, the new TUC general secretary elect, said: “The numbers here today show the strength of feeling that austerity isn't working.” She added that the official figures on unemployment masked a rise in long-term unemployment and in underemployment, where people seeking and needing full employment could only get part-time jobs. The rising numbers of young unemployed were troubling, she said. “We will pay a high price if we don't get those people into jobs," she said. "There are millions in part-time work and underemployed. The Government is obsessed with deficit reduction. It must think again."
The Wales TUC chartered a train and coaches so that people from all over Wales could march in London. And in Glasgow people had come from all over Scotland and the north of England to add their voice to the national demonstration.