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Conservatives get a taste of people power

50,000 protesters tell Cameron and co to get lost

If members of the Tory Party ever wondered what being in the middle of a full-on siege felt like they have found out.

Upwards of 50,000 trade unionists and activists swarmed through the streets of Manchester demanding an end to the government's brutal austerity measures.

The north-west was always a strange choice for the Tories' annual get-together and if they harboured any illusions of a warm welcome they were firmly disabused of the notion.

Two young Tories who had stopped to smirk at the demonstration from what they believed was a safe distance had not reckoned on being confronted by an elderly member of the public - who left them in absolutely no doubt about the strength of feeling their presence in the northern heartlands elicited.

A few other blue-tied types blanched visibly and kept their heads down and their conference passes out of sight as they scurried past.

The noise generated by the assembled protesters was deafening, drowning out the opening speeches from union reps from the north-west, Scotland and Northern Ireland, among others.

While much of the content of the rallying calls may have been lost the overall message could not have been clearer - "Hands off our NHS."

While the Tories were kicking off their conference with a 10-minute paean to Margaret Thatcher, safe behind the wall of steel erected by Greater Manchester Police, the streets were filled with those who knew the consequences of her devastating legacy all too well.

As the procession snaked past the conference, boos and howls of anger filled the air and imprecations rained down on those cosseted inside.

The entirely peaceful demonstration passed off with a carnival-style atmosphere although the strength of anger was palpable.

The march was led by TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, NUT leader Christine Blower and, this being Manchester, Coronation Street actor Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Public servants marched side by side with peace campaigners, anti-badger cull campaigners, hunt saboteurs, socialists and communists.

All were united in sending a simple message to those in power - "You have no credibility and you are not wanted here."


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