"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Sunday 27 March 2011

Why I marched on the 26th of March and what happened next. Clarice makes an appearance and gets lost.

On Friday, the day before the TUC 'March for the Alternative' a twitter hashtag was: #whyiammarching and individuals were sending in comments [in 140 characters or less!] their reasons for proposing to march the next day. [Click on the link to go to the Unite page and see the tweets] My union, Unite, asked for 'contributions' and tweeted these too so the tweet I contributed reached greater numbers than usual!

My tweet read: "So that my grandchildren will not have to experience the same lifestyles my grandparents had". OK, not the best grammar but 140 characters and spaces desires compromise and the sentiment was more important. Amongst the replies I received was one from an Oxford undergrad [alleged] who suggested: "do you know how ridiculous that sounds, and how little economic sense it makes?" Obviously no ex-lecturer likes to be called ridiculous by an under-grad. And that sort of remark would have my family ducking because they know how much I would savour a [pacifist] scrap like this! So I rose to the bait and retorted: "I am 60.* My grandparents did not have NHS, uni education, social security, pension. My grandchildren are facing the same. Ridiculous?" [I have added in punctuation because I can only bear so much] *I don't look it

wo more 'flurries' resulted: Undergrad: "show me where govt says it will abolish the nhs, uni education, social security and pensions. Then I'll withdraw my comment." Me: "Oh pedantic one that's why we are marching! To make sure these RIGHTS for which my grandparents worked are not destroyed/lost" **

For whatever reason that was the last I heard from my interlocutor. But this exchange illustrates why I and so many hundreds of thousands of others were marching through London yesterday - from fear not only of what we ourselves may be losing but of what the future generations may never have.

Anyway, the march was a fantastic time [the violence away from the main events will be discussed later] - its just such a shame that it needed something as drastic as the actions of this Government to bring us all together.
The crowd was peaceful and happy and friendly. Other Half and I had lots of friends marching throughout the gathering - of course none of us got to meet up in the 'swell' of humanity, but all of us were friends. To paraphrase [badly] Wordsworth:

Upon our side, we who were strong in right! Bliss was it on that day to be there!/em>

So many were marching - not just from all the unions and political groupings but actor unions, muscians unions, Liverpool Football supporters, climate change activists - even pensioners'
 groups. Celebrities [Tony Robinson was one of the march leaders] , off duty police officers and many, many more. Brass Bands, Steel bands, Bagpipes. Trade Union and Political Party Banners. Families with young children. Heartbreaking to see so many disabled activists who felt they had to take part and protest to save their living standards.

Along Oxford Street there were 'alternative' venues including actors Sam and Timothy West 'doing' impromptu play readings; comedians Josie Long and Mark Thomas 'doing' stand-up; music; poetry readings and more. Fortnum & Mason's in Regent Street was occupied by peaceful protestors who were singing and poetry reading.

Of course I can't ignore the nasty scenes in Regent Street during the afternoon. Violence is abhorrent, but I can also only regret that the media seemed to give far more attention in proportion to the very, very few violent yobs who had nothing to do with the far greater majority of the marchers.

I had spoken to a policeman on Regent Street BEFORE the march and he said they were expecting violence. There were so many policeman around Oxford Circus and along Regent Street before the march started, very many more than I saw in total along the route of the march and at the end of the march yet the violent ones were still 'allowed' to take hold*.
These few [in terms of the mass of protestors in London on the day] attacked Fortnum and Mason's from the outside and had NO LINKS with the peaceful protestors inside. And worse, the PEACEFUL #UKuncut protestors inside Fortnum's were arrested after being told they were free to leave. I think it is important that questions should be asked about some of the police strategies yesterday. I really hope however that the policeman we saw injured on the news last night is not badly hurt and that those responsible have been caught.

Addition 28th January *According to a guest on Radio 4's Today programme on 28th January, Dr Alan Finlayson [Swansea Uni's reader in politics] those responsible for the violence were most probably from a 'black bloc'. To hear this interview go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/new... To read more about a 'black bloc' go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_bloc

As someone remarked to me today - at any large event there are always trouble makers - usually nothing to do with the main event - just those who turn up, be it at a football match, rock festival, demo to cause trouble. The media concentrating on them makes them more eager to do such acts in future.

The photograph above shows a marcher just before she set off, trying to make sense of a map. I believe she was last seen wandering around Camden Lock. If anyone finds her please report to me, she is my twin sister Clarice.

At the same time as the 'undergrad discussion' I was also having a really interesting lingusistic discussion with another tweeter. I love twitter!


  1. Glad you made the point re UKUNCUT, being doing same in different ways, more reports coming out from those involved which are interesting..
    Looks like party in Trafalger Sq. was broken up by bad tempered police because of paint on O clock and or a sticker. Stories vary. Police arrested wrong person, partygoers upset, riot police app. from no-where. Uproar ensues.
    Someone somewhere made the point about not thinking about "good" and "bad" protesters, its far more complicated than that. If I was younger and braver would have been with uncut,have taken part in actions at home, all peacefull, but march was enough for me. So, like a young f/b friend could have still been in a police cell. Dont lets let the poor press reporting/understanding devide us.
    Police were fine/friendly with us, but watching some of the vids emerging, of police in action is scary. Can be hard to know what to believe about people.

  2. The policeman I spoke to before the march was a lovely young man, but seemed most worried. The UKuncut peaceful action was not unexpected and as the police [as anyone following UKuncut on twitter] knew where they were assembling on Saturday afternoon, monitoring them was not going to be a problem. Like you I thought about joining in but didn't want to come back from Hyde Park. The violent individuals could clearly be differentiated from the others because the violent ones were all dressed in black and covered their faces. We got home relatively early and watched the events as they were unfolding live on the BBC news channel. I was disgusted how all the emphasis was on the violence - whilst groups of people were still arriving at Hyde Park, the march and rally were far from over but it was dropping far down the news. The police presence had been so high around Oxford Circus and Regent Street before the march I just cannot understand how the yobs were allowed to get so out of hand - if they had decided to do that on a 'normal' Saturday afternoon without so many extra police in the area there would have been a far worse situation I am sure.
    Watching on TV live as the peaceful protestors as left the shop [after being told they were free to go] and were then kettled was appalling and then subjected to harrassment as arrested.
    Our friend is 'out' now and I am sure we will hear more in days to come.
    It had been said for days that there would be a peaceful occupation of Trafalgar Square and the reports I have heard were that the police just waded in with riot gear but again that will have to be investigated and there must be cc camera around there so we will have to wait for that.
    Never the less it was a great march, unfortunately after listening to Vince Cable on the news tonight it seems as if we will be doing it all over again soon as he said he /they have no intention of listening to our demands/chaning government policy. Oh well perhaps we will meet up next time!

  3. I am not a regular marcher - I couldn't help thinking about the doors I could have knocked on or the leaflets I could have delivered - but I thought Saturday's events were wonderful and I am really pleased I was part of it. The numbers exceeded expectations (which in advance of the event were for 200,000). The crowd were a broad church of opinions from the far left to the soft left to those of little political opinion but who were just shocked at what the Con-Dems were doing.

  4. Yes it was a wonderful day, Julian, including a wonderful feeling of 'togetherness' if that does not sound too soppy. It was the biggest march I had been on since the Peace marches in 2002/3 and as then - as you point out - what was amazing was the range of points of view that were represented on Saturday. And the banners! From the political banners to the humourous to the heart-breaking-tell-it-like-it-is.

  5. BTW for al those who have enquired: Clarice has turned up and is raring to go on the Justice for Visteon Pensioners march tomorrow. She has been fitted with a tracking device.

  6. It's your "alleged undergraduate" here! I'm actually a graduate student now, my profile is a bit out of date. But nevertheless, I'm real.

    I still think your original tweet was ridiculous, and here's why. At the root of the issue I think is your - and the Labour Party's - gross exaggeration. I don't think I need to point out the gross exaggeration on the part of Ed Miliband, but I will: invoking anti-apartheid marches, civil rights movements and the struggle for women's votes betrayed terribly poor judgement. I really don't know what he was thinking, and the more I think about it, the less I understand his decision to use those words.

    And, if I may say so, your exaggeration is just as bad. Do you genuinely think, deep down, that real-terms spending cuts of 1% a year (seriously, that's the total amount - check the budget) are going to mean that your grandchildren aren't going to have access to a NHS, social security, a pension or university education? Come off it. I hardly know where to begin in refuting those claims. Doing so properly would require something longer than a blog comment, but I'll make two points:

    - university education. Your grandparents may not have had access to this for a huge range of reasons, and I accept that. But your grandchildren... the coalition is basically shifting the cost of university education from the taxpayer to those who benefit from it. So your grandchildren will face absolutely no obstacle to applying to and enrolling at a university. When they graduate, they'll pay a fair share, depending on their salary. In fact, it's basically a risk-free gamble. If you go to university and don't benefit from it, you don't pay as much (indeed, you might not pay anything) as someone who does benefit from it. Implying that your grandchildren might not have university education as a result of the current government's policies is a claim without evidence, and contributes to the climate of fear and misunderstanding about the costs of university which is the biggest thing stopping people going to university.

    - NHS. Yes, the NHS might change from how we see it today. Hopefully for the better. But what grounds do you have for comparing your grandparents' situation with that of your grandchildren? No government is going to stop the right to treatment which is free at the point of delivery.

    It's this kind of exaggeration which gets me really angry, and does so much to discredit various causes. I genuinely believe that so much more would be achieved by protestors such as yourself if sensible claims were made. But I suppose such claims wouldn't quite have the same rallying, fight-the-Tory-scum feeling to them. So if it's that feel-good factor you're after, then keep saying things like you did on twitter. But if you actually want to persuade a politician to listen to what you have to say, I suggest you make claims such as "I'm worried about the effect that £27,000 of debt will have on my grandchild's willingness to go to university, even if they don't have to pay it all back". But I don't suppose that's very catchy as a protest slogan, is it?

  7. IN TWO PARTS! [1]
    Thanks you for commenting, Matthew. Sorry about the 'alleged' - one has to be careful as Oxbridge can get very protective of its student status and btw congratulations on graduating.

    I still stand by my original twitter 'statement' [apart from the bad grammar but that's what twitter does to one, unfortunately!]

    I won't defend Ed Milliband's speech on Saturday - he is big enough to do that for himself. It wasn't one of his best or his worst and not that charismatic. But what he was doing was funnily enough exactly what I had done on another's blog on Friday evening [this time the blog was from another Labour Party supporter but from a different idealogical stance to mine] who questioned the use of marches like Saturday's one. Ed & I both invoked the memories of those earlier marches to show how they had *helped* change legislation and public perception. OK not on their own but as part of wider campaigns.

    You asked if I genuinely feel that "that real-terms spending cuts of 1% a year" will - to paraphrase - cause the havoc I am accusing the Coalition government of intending? Actually I do - not if 1% were going to be the full stop cuts, but because I honestly believe that they are the start of something much, much bigger.

    I am not pulling the age card here, but simply because I am older than you I have seen how other politicians have long memories and are prepared to play waiting games - in all the political colours. As with the Beeching Cuts on the Railways all those years ago, once something is lost to public service it can never be replaced. So start chipping away, close a library here, a casualty department there and they just do not get replaced when the 'good times' return - because they never return enough for that.

    I agree there is not enough room for the 'whole debate here' but I will answer your two comments:
    "the coalition is basically shifting the cost of university education from the taxpayer to those who benefit from it."
    Well, in a fair and equable society the tax system would cover this. A degree should ensure its receipient a higher wage than s/he would otherwise have earnt [certainly did in both mine and Other Half's cases] thus putting the wage earner into a position to pay higher amounts of taxes or even into a higher rate tax band altogether.

    As to leaving uni with a debt of £27,000 this is just the start [assuming that tuition fees do not rise above a maximum of £9,000 a year in the three year 'life' of a standard degree] There is the cost of lodgings and sustenance, books and other equipment so at today's costs we are talking about at the very least a debt of £40,000 to £50,000 for a three year degree course. This would affect a graduate's credit rating on leaving uni and although one would not have to start repayments until a certain wage level was 'breached', interest charges would be added meanwhile. So this debt could affect mortgage borrowing possibilities etc. Not scare tactics,facts. You might like to read my friend Paul Lewis [Money Box, Radio Four] on this. It has also been said that some graduates may never pay their debt back in their working lives if they do not achieve high enough salaries - so how will this help clear the deficit? And for those who will be able to pay it back - how many years will it take to repay this area of the deficit we are currently undergoing, by this method?

  8. [2]

    Re the NHS, you commented "No government is going to stop the right to treatment which is free at the point of delivery." All I can say is that I really don't have your confidence in this statement. This is not exaggeration or hyperbole. I was born in 1950 and the NHS was only two years old, so as a child and teenager I still saw the effects on my parents and older relations of those who had grown up under inadequate medical care due to lack of money to pay for it. Good medical care in later life cannot repair damage done in early life. In the past few years I have seen the growth of 'post code lottery' prescribing and operations where it depends whereabout in the country one lives as to whether one gets certain drugs or treatement. This is NOT free at the point of delivery. I am not saying the Labour Party was perfect at this btw and I am not saying that there are not reforms that could be efficacious in the NHS. But we need to enhance the NHS, not destroy it.

    I have enjoyed debating with you Matthew. You think that my slogans are exaggerations, I do not. I was in Downing Street and the House of Commons yesterday talking to politicians of many different parties, actually on a non-political matter so I do know how to talk to them. But slogans and press releases [which I have to 'do' a lot of the time] do have to be eye catching and 'catchy' which is not always satisfactory. But in the case of yesterday's endeavours [which you can read about once I have written the blog!!] I can say in all honesty, that it was catchy slogans, press releases and demos that got the cause to the attention of the general public, media and political establishment and have got 'us' as far as we are now. Knowing how to put a good cse in law and write a good letter is also an essential back up to slogans and other publicity - in this modern age we need to use all means like twitter slogans to get our views across!