Anti-cuts protesters question effectiveness of Manchester Conservative Party Conference rally

By Ana Hine

Rumbles of discontent towards the anti-NHS cuts rally organisers threatened to overshadow the 50,000-strong protest in Manchester city centre last weekend.

Activists descended on Liverpool Road to voice their anger at proposed NHS cuts but there were tensions within some of the left-leaning crowd at the effectiveness of the rally and the choice of speakers.

Busloads of activists from across the country joined forces for the rally, which was held on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday however not everyone was delighted at how it went.

Labour Councillor Tom Evans, 41, who was there with the People’s Assembly, a coalition of various activist and trade union groups, praised the rally.

 He said: “There was a really good atmosphere on the march. I feel like there’s a lot of people talking to each other where before there have been factions.

“It’s really good to see so many people joining together to save the NHS.”

However not all protestors were impressed with the day.

Guy Harper, 26, a support worker in London, who used to live in Manchester city centre said: “I tend to switch off at rallies, it’s all the usual bluster from the union secretaries that they then don’t follow through.”

Louis Brehony, 29, was manning a stall on behalf of Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism. He said: “To be honest, I think it’s gone how the organisers wanted it to go. 

“There’s been no successful demonstration against austerity today. I think we filed past the G-MEX, where the Tories are, and now we’re in a park about a mile away.”

Beginning on Liverpool Road at around 11am, the protest snaked past the main conservative party conference complex around Portland Street, before going down Oxford Road and ending up in Whitworth Park. 

Due to the sheer number of protesters stragglers were still on the road at 3pm though by that time many had successfully found their way to the green, where speeches by the TUC and Labour Party representatives were being held.

Throughout the afternoon a large screen beamed the image of speakers to the thousands gathered on the green. 

Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, spoke briefly about Labour’s intentions to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012, saying: “I believe in the NHS and I will always defend it.”

The MP for Leigh did not impress some of the campaigners. Mr Brehony, who is from Wythenshawe, said: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace that someone like Andy Burnham is invited to speak.

“He was part of the last Labour government that was engaged in privatisation and now he’s presented as someone standing against it.  Why are we giving them this platform?” 

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