Thousands join austerity demonstration and call for general election

Thousands of people have joined a demonstration calling for a general election amid the deepening cost of living crisis.

A coalition of unions and local organizations took part in the People’s Assembly-organized Britain is Broken protests in central London.

Protesters marched in the rain from Embankment to Trafalgar Square, where a rally was taking place with speakers including Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT).

The People’s Assembly said protesters called for immediate general elections, action to tackle low wages and the repeal of “anti-union” labor laws.


Mick Lynch, RMT General Secretary, addresses the demonstration (Yui Mok/PA)

Protester Adam Robinson said people would “keep shouting” until the government listened, likening the movement to the riots in 1990, which he credited with the fall of Margaret Thatcher.

The 51-year-old secondary school teacher from Maidstone in Kent, who may go on strike early next year, told the PA news agency: ‘I’m really starting to feel the need as I know a lot of people are.

“The current government is an absolute shambles, it’s not fit for purpose, it’s damaging our country and I think it’s important that we stand together to make our voices heard and say we don’t put up with this anymore stuff .”

“We keep screaming until they have to listen,” he added. “The problem historically is that when it gets to a point like this, when people really have had enough, the protests start and the protests grow and then something big happens.

“I was in the poll tax riot and that was the one that forced change and brought down Margaret Thatcher.

“I don’t want it to come to that, but those in power need to understand that they can’t rush people indefinitely, they can’t crush people forever.”


People take part in the national People’s Assembly demonstration ‘Britain is Broken’ in central London (Yui Mok/PA)

On the Trafalgar Square stage, Mr Lynch vowed to “strike and strike again” until a “fair deal” is struck for railway workers.

He told the crowd: “I want to guarantee you one thing – our dispute will be halted, the action will be halted to allow talks – but this dispute is not over.

“We are pushing for a fair deal for our members, on wages, conditions and job cuts.

“We will not stop until our members decide that this dispute is settled.

“If we don’t get a deal from Network Rail and the rail operators, we will strike and strike again until we get them around the table and get a deal.”


Former Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses the People’s Assembly national demonstration ‘Britain is Broken’ in central London (Yui Mok/PA)

Former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who also spoke on the stage, told the PA afterwards that the government will “ultimately be forced to listen to the protesters” demanding better wages and workers’ rights.

Mr Corbyn, who is sitting as an independent after having his whip removed by his party, said he was there with three Labor MPs and he believed members of the shadow cabinet should have been there too.

“The government, of course, is ultimately forced to listen, as are the railway companies, so they have resumed negotiations with the RMT,” he said.

“People out here are very determined. They will not see people with disabilities being discriminated against, they will not see growing impoverishment in our society.”

Protester Michelle Uden brought her seven-year-old twins to the demonstration and said she wants a leadership change after struggling with the cost of living.


Demonstrators marched from Embankment to Trafalgar Square (Yui Mok/PA)

The 34-year-old, who is caring for her epileptic husband at their home in New Eltham, south-east London, told the PA: ‘Enough is enough.

“If we don’t stand up and fight, we’re going to sit down and cry.

“We want to get rid of Rishi Sunak, we want more funding for the NHS, we want privatization to stop.”

Ms Uden added she didn’t think general elections would be called but wanted her children to see “democracy in action”.

Protester and retired nurse Claire Dawson, 66, from Crouch End in north London, said she was “absolutely fed up” with the government and she hoped the protest would show voters that “there is resistance”. Thousands join austerity demonstration and call for general election

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