Britain Needs A Pay Rise, 18th October: on the impact of demonstrations
Articles appear regularly in the Financial Times noting that while the number of people in employment has risen- albeit these are often part time or self employed workers-wage levels mostly have not.
There are several results of this. One is that the economy has not recovered as quickly as might be thought. Many don’t have the extra cash to spend that would boost it. Another is that tax revenues are below forecast levels. That is partly because Government cut taxes for big business and a number of well-known Companies pay little or no tax anyway. It is also because if your wages aren’t going up then neither is the amount of tax you pay- adjustments by the Chancellor notwithstanding.
So the Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstrations organised by the TUC in Belfast, London and Glasgow were well timed.
How big were they? I have no accurate idea. I was on the London demonstration. I arrived at Embankment a little after 11am- the advertised assembly time. By 1pm the section of the march we were in [by no means the back] had got has far as Embankment tube station. For those unfamiliar with the geography of central London that is a few hundred yards.
By getting on for 2pm [the march by then was passing through Trafalgar Square, the head had been in Hyde Park a while] I needed a toilet, wi-fi and coffee break.
Heading back on to the march disaster struck. Like the letter writer in EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class, my spectacles broke. Unlike him, but like John Hegley, I had a spare pair. In the process I got diverted into the Maille mustard shop on Piccadilly.
Anyway, the police have officially given up estimating numbers on marches [apparently]. The TUC have claimed 80-90,000 in London and some on social media suggested 150,000.
The point is, it was a large march about an important issue- truly representative of a lot of grassroots feeling up and down the country, to make an impact. Meanwhile guess what the Twitter feed of that well known alleged representative of the dispossessed, UKIP, had to say about the march. You’re right of course. Absolutely nothing.
There are reasons why it is so hard to assess what the numbers are like on large marches. You can guesstimate how many it takes to fill a certain space, or how long a march takes to pass a certain spot. But on such large and slow moving marches those on it ebb and flow all the time.
I spent a fair time on the march talking to a senior officer of my union about internal union affairs. A slow moving march is an ideal time for such a conversation.
When I dipped out for a pee I saw, as is always the case, numbers of marchers walking around, perhaps also going to the toilet, having a coffee or just meeting up with friends.
The point I’m making is that large marches are of course political occasions but social ones too where what is now called ‘networking’ takes place.
The impact of the march was enough anyway to get mainstream media coverage. It wasn’t just the size but the timing and the subject that drove that. Well done then to all those that organised the marches on 18th October. Hard work paid off.
If however anyone imagines that holding a march will be enough to sort out the problem of a lack of wage increases they will be sadly disappointed. Going on marches is not enough in days like these.