Dave Isaacson witnessed an overwhelmingly positive public response in Northampton
Over 200 people took to the streets of Northampton to demonstrate their opposition to the Con-Dem cuts on Saturday March 12. This followed other mobilisations in recent weeks outside the local council chamber and a successful ‘Shake yer butts against the cuts!’ benefit gig on March 11, which raised over £150 for campaign funds.
While many of us had hoped for a larger turnout for Saturday’s demonstration, there was nothing to be too disappointed about here. The march itself was lively and diverse. A significant proportion of marchers had been mobilised by local trade unions, most noticeably the CWU, PCS and Unison.
Also present were students, families, disability activists, pensioners and two bangra, drummers who led the march from Beckett’s Park, around the town centre, to the piazza outside All Saints church, where the finishing rally was held.
The response from the general public as the march made its way through the town was overwhelmingly positive with numerous people taking a break from their Saturday shopping to applaud and thank those on the march. I am pretty sure that others decided, upon seeing the march, to join in, and later on other people were drawn in to listen to the speeches at the rally. I even saw a community police officer applauding one of the speakers. Leaflets advertising the upcoming TUC march in London were also distributed to onlookers and passing drivers (many of whom hooted their support). This positive response shows that there is certainly the potential for us to build larger mobilisations in the future.
As for the left groups, the Socialist Party were by far the best represented on the demonstration and there were a few comrades from the SWP and CPGB. While some Northampton Labour Party activists were on the march and have been supporting the anti-cuts campaign, the absence of their CLP banner was made all the more obvious by the presence of that from nearby Kettering. Labour Party lefts recently convinced one of their Northampton branches to call for the local party to campaign on an anti-cuts manifesto in upcoming local elections. Whether the whole CLP can be won to adopt this position we will see.
A handful of Green Party activists were also present and Del Pickup, one of their former candidates (in Kingsley ward in 2007; whether he is still a member I do not know), has now been selected to stand as a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in the local elections.
The final rally was chaired by Ron Mendell (Northampton Trade Union Council and Northampton Alliance to Defend Services) and featured militant speeches from a number of trade union representatives, including Matt Wrack (FBU), Roger McKenzie (Unison), Cheryl Pidgeon (TUC Midlands regional secretary) and comrades from the Education Activists Network and Unite Against Fascism.
All speakers were clear that the national TUC demonstration on March 26, while hugely important, was just the start of an ongoing campaign against cuts and privatisation. Speaking about the industrial action that we can expect to see in the upcoming period, the CWU regional official (standing in for CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward) on the platform said that he and his members would rather break the law than cross other workers’ picket lines.
Gallery of Dave Isaacson’s pictures from the march and rally: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=644883&id=625205187&l=a75eec2fef
Youtube video of the protest:
ITV Anglia news report: http://www.itv.com/anglia/a-march-against-cuts36306/
Northampton Chronicle and Echo report: http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/community/marchers_protest_against_cut_backs_1_2499003