I WAS proud to join about 100 other people from Hartlepool, and about half a million others from across the country, to march in central London last Saturday against the drastic cuts to public services.
It was an early start on Saturday morning, and a bit of a late finish, but the day flashed by remarkably quickly.
The coach from Hartlepool had been organised by the trade union Unison, and it was great to see the banners celebrating the town and the trade union movement, being used in the march.
Many thanks to the likes of Edwin Jeffries and Michael Hill from Unison who made the day, certainly for those from Hartlepool, run so smoothly and allowing people from the town to register their concern and demonstrate peacefully.
It was also good to see Hartlepool councillors Stephen and Christopher Akers-Belcher, Ann and John Marshall and Stephen Thomas on the march. I didn’t see Councillors Carl Richardson and Sarah Maness on the day, but I know they were there – I think they were at the front!
The atmosphere on the march was very positive. People were angry, certainly, but the demonstration was carried out in a good-natured and polite manner. Police on the day actually described the trade union march as having a “carnival atmosphere”.
The march was conducted in a very civilised manner, a very, if I may say so, British manner.
This was demonstrated by my favourite sign on the march – a young woman holding a hand-written placard stating that she was an “angry young library assistant”. In terms of revolution, it was hardly Che Guevara.
But I think that is precisely the point. What struck me on the march was how it comprised of ordinary, hard working, decent men, women and children of our country.
These are people who provide the essential public services, such as the police and the NHS, or ordinary and decent citizens who rely upon them.
These are people – and they comprise of millions up and down the country – who have genuine fear about what the Government is proposing in terms of cutting public spending so quickly and so harshly.
The essential decency and peaceful nature of the trade union demonstration made the violent protests and the destruction of and vandalism to property all the more nauseating.
This had nothing to do with the trade union demonstration. This small group of cowardly hooligans simply came to London to cause trouble. The fact that they felt the need to cover their faces with scarves and balaclavas confirms they are nothing other than thugs intent on criminal activity.
It was an important day, but the opposition to the cuts simply cannot end with one mass demonstration.
Hartlepool, for a variety of historical, social and economic reasons, relies heavily upon public services, and as a town we will suffer – are suffering – from such a drastic and sharp drop in government support.
We have already seen the loss of valuable public services, and if the Government doesn’t change its course, we will lose still more. It also hinders the possibility of our private sector to grow, hindering further economic progress.
If anything, I hope that the peaceful trade union march demonstrates to Government the scale of feeling about its economic policy. It doesn’t have to be like this – cuts don’t have to be so far and so fast.