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Thousands march against Tories in Manchester

Meanwhile, police officers criticised for searching campaigners' coach and ‘undermining their right to protest’

THOUSANDS of people marched through the streets of Manchester today telling delegates to the Tory Party conference there that they are not welcome.

Headed by the banner of the Manchester People’s Assembly, which organised the march with the national People’s Assembly, the protesters represented trade unions and a huge diversity of campaign groups expressing their anger at the destruction wrought across society by the Tories.

Disabled people, peace activists and dozens more groups marched noisily through the city centre.

Among those protesting were nurses from Manchester hospitals.

The Royal College of Nursing fought hard to win a pay rise which would halt the exodus which has left the NHS in need of more than 40,000 nurses.

The Tory government enforced a below-inflation pay rise which amounted to a pay cut, worsening the problem.

Nurse Rachel Gray told the Morning Star: “We want fair pay for nurses if staffing levels are to be improved.

“We want more respect from the government.”

Another nurse, Jan, said: “The pay increase is a pay cut. We wind up paying more tax and getting less money.

“We need a real pay increase to be able to survive.

“We work long hours. Most nurses are doing 12-hour shifts just to be able to manage their bills and their mortgages.”

Jan said people are not attracted to the profession, adding: “Anyone who has been in hospital being looked after by nurses knows there are not enough nurses.

“They know it is a difficult job: getting people to the toilet; giving patients their meds; making decisions.

“I am paid the same level after working 36 years as a nurse.”

Addressing the crowd, RMT president Alex Gordon spoke of how he marched across Manchester earlier with staff from outsourcing company Carlisle Support Services “that uses disciplinaries in the way that some people use throwaway tissues in order to turn over its staff.”

He said he was proud to see workers across the labour movement come out to support the march.

“It’s great to see trade unionists here reminding us that Manchester is the birthplace of the working-class movement in this country,” he said.

“It’s not the home of the Tory Party.”

Frances Heathcote of PCS said it was important to “push back against this rotten government.”

She told the protesters: “Nobody wants the Tories out more than we do, but we also need to prepare unions and workers everywhere for a fight against the Labour Party — our next potential government.

“Nobody is under any illusions here, it’s going to be a government of neoliberal reaction from day one.

“So the left has to prepare now. We don’t just want a change of government, we want an end to the attacks on our class.

“The job of union leaderships in the period when Labour comes to power is not to seek accommodation with them in order to enable cuts and privatisation.

“[It is] to make it clear that we will oppose policies that attack or impoverish our class, whether they come from [Prime Minister Rishi] Sunak or from [Labour leader Sir Keir] Starmer.”

National Education Union (NEU) general secretary Daniel Kebede called for an increase in school funding, saying: “The spending on the school estate — the reason for the crumbling schools — is just a third of what the Office for Government Property says is needed.

“[Education Secretary] Gillian Keegan says the children prefer porter cabins. But it’s not the children of Eton or Harrow that have to endure them.”

He called on politicians at the conference to “listen to the voices of teachers, to the parents, and to the children who bear the weight of this burden.

“But if you don’t listen, we will make you listen on our picket lines and through protest and we will push back through any sense of decline,” he added.

Mr Kebede also sent a message to Sir Keir and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves: “We do not want the unfair and damaging policies of the party in blue to be entrenched by the party in red.

“Our children are an investment, they are not a burden.”

The dozens of campaign and trade union banners marching through the city included public service union Unison, National Education Union, Lancaster TUC, disabled people’s campaign group DPAC, Just Stop Oil, the Communist Party, Bristol Stop the War, Unison Manchester branch and many more.

A huge police mobilisation kept the marchers away from the Tory conference.

Protesters from all across the country took coaches to attend the march.

One coach transporting protesters from London was stopped by the police, who signalled the bus to follow them to Knutsford in Cheshire where it was searched by around 30 officers.

The protesters were late as a result. Activists said it undermined their right to protest and was a waste of police time and money.

Lorraine Douglas, from the Communist Party, said: “The sergeant came on and said they’d received intelligence that there were people on the bus set on doing criminal damage and they were going to search the bus for equipment that could cause criminal damage.”

The police went on to read a section of the Public Order Act.

“They refused to say what the intelligence was, and they got us all off the bus and searched the bus, found one flare and it looked like they had some magic markers or pens,” Ms Douglas said.

“They searched one person off the bus — the one Asian woman who happened to be on the bus. I accused them of racial profiling, and they got a little bit shirty at that.

“In 1984 they did this for the miners’ strike. Now it’s ordinary citizens not on strike, just going to have a protest, and it appears our right to free movement has now been completely curtailed for no good reason.”

Marchers expressed their displeasure at a broadcaster from right-wing TV news channel GB News who was heard telling his studio about there being little violence on the march.

There was no violence.

“You are a disgrace,” one protester told him.

Events in opposition to the Tories continue in Manchester on Monday and Tuesday.

The conference ends on Wednesday when train drivers’ union Aslef will strike as Tory delegates try to make their way home.

Addressing the conference, Mr Sunak compared himself to his predecessors as he resisted calls from his members to commit to tax cuts in a pre-election giveaway.

He vowed to prioritise measures to reduce inflation rather than taxes, insisting this is a “deeply Conservative” approach, saying: “This is what Margaret Thatcher did, this is what Nigel Lawson did.”

But Thatcher slashed income tax for the richest in the first Budget of her administration.

Mr Sunak also insisted that he was making good progress at meeting his five priorities and said the Tories would show voters they could “deliver real change.”

Also at the event, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps announced £4 billion of contracts with British firms to develop the “most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy.”

He also revealed Britain has made two further deployments, for Nato in Poland to support it from the “threat of Russian interference” and to Kosovo for the “peacekeeping” mission.

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