It’s hard to know how momentous a day the 26th March 2011 was. Only time will tell. But it certainly felt good to me. At least 250,000 people marching in peace for a positive alternative to the unfair, unnecessary and divisive cuts. Cuts that are purely ideologically driven.
Our coach left Norwich at 7.45am on Saturday morning. Unite, my union, had provided two coaches for their members. It was good to see at various stages of the journey, as we joined first the A11, then A14, back to the A11 and finally the M11, so many other coaches clearly heading the same way and for the same reason. It became even more apparent when we stopped at the watering hole known as Birchanger Services and saw a gaggle of coaches all full of smiley people. The buzz in the air was one of optimism. Even the massed ranks of Socialist Worker newspaper sellers, the Jehovah's Witnesses of the political world, couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. When we arrived in London we were dropped off on Southwark Bridge. Quite a number of coaches had stopped there to let off their passengers; masses of members from several unions. As we walked to the starting point it started to become apparent that the march was going to be something really rather huge. The 100,000 that the TUC had hoped for was going to be reached that was for sure. I wended my way through the crowds to where I could see a huge Unite balloon and a sizeable amount of Unite banners and flags. After a fair amount of noisy but good natured standing around we eventually set off, a little late, but with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. It was pleasing to see that my fellow marchers were varied as well as many; there were people of all ages, along with a generous mix of ethnic backgrounds, gay and straight, and across such a wide range of professions both public and private. I don’t really hold with class classification but for the purposes of understanding I will note that there were a lot of middle-class people on the march. That’s not to diminish or downgrade the marchers who do not fall into that category but it’s just to make a point that no party will ever be elected to government if it does not enjoy considerable support from the middle-class. I’m not saying I necessarily like it but that’s how it is. Both the Tories and the progressively insignificant Lib Dems are pissing off the middle classes big-time. And, if they stick to their two-dimensional ideological economics this trend will continue.
The mood of everyone around me on the march seemed to be one of good humour. We were there to make a serious, positive political point, but we were pleased to be given the opportunity to do so. There was a definite sense of camaraderie, co-operation and community. It didn’t matter who you were you were on the march for the common good and that’s what counted. The march progressed at a reasonable pace, even for someone like me who is used to walking at brisk speed, only slowing at geographical bottle-necks en route. The route was well stewarded and well policed, with both offering smiles and friendly advice if required. It was also good to see observers from Liberty keeping an eye on proceedings. It was a truly perfect march, and with only a few spots of rain near perfect conditions. Just over two hours after we set off we ended up at Hyde Park where the already assembled masses were large in number. This was quite a surprise because I’m sure there were more in the park than were in front of us on the march. Clearly many had come along just for the gig in the park. And what a gig it was, stirring speeches from the great and the good plus a blinding mini-set from Show of Hands. All quality stuff. It made me feel very proud to be a union member. There is a warm feeling of collectiveness, society and solidarity that only the left engenders and personifies. Something that those on the right with their ‘the individual over all’ philosophy will never experience and I feel sorry for them. I am in no doubt that there is strength in unity!
It was such a good day and so well organised by the TUC that I sincerely hope it is the springboard to further action and further political success. We need to show the country that there is a credible alternative to the lacklustre Tory financial masturbation that we are enduring at the moment. And we need to keep reminding them until we return the next Labour government.