Manchester – protest at the Tory conference

When the Tories gather for their conference in Manchester on Sunday 1 October, they will be greeted in the city by a demonstration marching behind the banner of “No More Austerity – Scrap The Pay Cap”. The demonstration and the “Take Back Manchester” festival, called by the People’s Assembly is backed by Unite, Unison and other unions and campaigns. Fred Leplat (People’s Assembly committee) argues:

As they prepare for their conference, :the Tories are in crisis; weak and divided. May’s gamble to call an early election massively backfired while Labour’s massive gains were an endorsement of Corbyn’s radical anti-austerity manifesto.

Now the Tories are spilt over was sort of Brexit to go for. The likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg want a hard Brexit, which will allow them to go for a low-tax small state with an even more low-paid and flexible workforce. This would satisfy the xenophobic Tory membership, but it would alienate big business and finance who want to maintain access to the single market for as long as possible.

Opinion polls show Labour neck and neck with the Tories. They could win a majority if an election was held now. These polls also show overwhelming backing for major parts of Jeremy Corbyn’s policy agenda, including re-nationalisation of rail and water companies, the scrapping of tuition fees and a “Robin Hood” tax of 0.05 per cent on financial transactions. No wonder the Tories have ditched much of their election manifesto.

They are even talking about loosening the public sector pay cap. But the rises that have been announced so far, for prison officers and the police, are so small they will not compensate for this year’s inflation. They will also have to be financed from the departments’ existing budgets – thus introducing cuts in services.

Workers in the public sector have suffered a pay freeze then a cap and saw their pay rise by just 4.4% between 2010 and 2016 while the cost of living rose by 22%. Public sector workers have had enough of austerity. That’s why Unison, the RCN and other health unions are campaigning to “scrap the cap”. Unison has submitted a claim to the NHS for a pay rise in line with inflation and an £800 sum per individual, and the PCS is also balloting members for a rise above the 1% cap.

The popularity of Labour with its anti-austerity message demonstrates that there is a thirst for a political alternative. There is also a new mood for resistance in the country. There are union campaigns for decent pay and pensions, local campaigns in defence of hospitals and the NHS, communities and teachers organising for a decent education system through the Fair funding campaign, and the tragedy of Grenfell has spurred action for the defence and extension of social housing.

Jeremy Corbyn told the recent TUC congress that “this weak and chaotic government can be prised out of Downing Street”. That’s why we need to step up the pressure in the streets, communities and workplaces to push he Tories out of office as soon as possible. This demonstration will be a contribution towards getting them out.

National Demonstration, Manchester – Sunday 1 October

12pm Castlefield Arena / Liverpool Road, Manchester. Details here

Take Back Manchester Festival 2017
 Saturday 30 September to Wednesday 4 October
Speakers and performers include John McDonnell MP & Shadow Chancellor, Maxine Peake Actress, Gary Younge Journalist & Author, Lowkey Musician & Activist, Captain Ska and many others. Details here.

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