Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are late and chasing something that you never seem to be able to catch up with?
Today that was me – trying to catch up with the protest march through the centre of Manchester.
I think I’ll probably be late to my own funeral.
So whereas all other reports will talk about being in the thick of things, I was about 10 minutes behind, power waking along Oxford Road in unsuitable foot wear. I finally caught up with Tris (or Lech Walesa as I like to call him) at the big rally at the end of the march in Whitworth Park.
|Trying to catch up with the march.|
Police reports put the size of the march in Manchester at 20,000 people – with no arrests. It was an amazing occasion to witness.
|From the BBC News web site.|
The thing that struck me was just how normal everyone was. I didn’t see a single crusty anarchist anywhere. The march was brimming with people who looked like your auntie Joan. They were nurses, teachers, librarians, physiotherapists and social workers, dressed up in bright union tabards - waving flags and placards.
|'Lech' the striking lecturer!|
|I was a bit concerned about being 'kettled' but the police were on good form.|
None of them will have found the decision to strike easy. Many of them come from the caring professions. They will know only too well the impact of their actions on the people they support. Many will have felt like they were between a rock and a hard place.
These weren’t your typical protesters. They were the sort of people who, even though the roads were closed, walked on the pavement. Who piled up their placards neatly or put them in the bin once they were finished with, because that is the right thing to do. These were the sort of people who apologised for blowing their vuvuzela because they are “a bit noisy.”
These were not radical revolutionaries, but principled people who have had enough. In particular, they are fed up of being painted as the bad guy.
And while I’m not a raving political beast, I am with them on that one. I’m fed up of David Cameron trying to pit the public and private sector against each other.
Who are you – Harry Hill?
“Private sector – public sector – only one way to find out – FIGHT!”
The pension situation was clearly the big beef today. But it wasn’t just about pensions. Today’s strike was a culmination of frustration and anger about a whole range of public sector cuts.
People are clearly very angry.
This lady was angry enough to spend the day with a toilet seat around her neck because she felt the government was flushing the public sector down the toilet.
It seems as though I’ve spent most of my adult life living in a country that (other than the Iraq war) couldn’t really be bothered to get involved. It warmed my cockles to see people getting off their bums, exercising their democratic rights and making themselves heard.
Finally, in terms of the strike impacting negatively on the economy – I don’t buy that either.
The tram into Manchester city centre was full of parents and children on a family outing.
Starbucks and McDonalds were doing a roaring trade along the march route and if the number of Primark bags on the tram on the way home were anything to go by, then they won’t be going bust any time soon. The Manchester Evening News was even reporting that The Trafford Centre had to open extra car parks to cope with the volume of shoppers.
Time will tell whether the strikes have any impact, but at least people engaged and got involved.
So Mr Cameron – when you say that the protests have been a damp squib, I don’t know where you are getting your information from but “damp squib my arse”. Today in Manchester when they lit the touch paper the display did not disappoint.