Posts Tagged ‘austerity’

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies 2009

Saturday, February 24th, 2024

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies – Tuesday 24th February 2009 was a long and varied day for me and included some serious issues that are still at the forefront of current news as well as some lighter moments – and I ended the day enjoying a little unusual corporate hospitality with some free drinks for London bloggers.


Al-Haq Sue UK Government – Royal Courts of Justice

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

First came Palestine, with Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq filing a claim for judicial review before the High Court of England and Wales challenging the government’s failure to fulfil its obligations with respect to Israel’s illegal activities in Palestine.

They were calling on our government – then New Labour under Gordon Brown – to publicly denounce Israel’s actions in Gaza and the continuing construction of the separation wall, to suspend arms related exports and all government, military, financial and ministerial assistance to Israel and to end UK companies exporting arms and military technology.

They also asked them to insist the EU suspends preferential trading with Israel until that country complies with its human rights obligations, and for the government to give the police any evidence of war crimes committed by any Israelis who intend to come to the UK.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

Of course the court refused Al-Haq’s case, declining to deal with the UK government’s compliance with its international legal obligations and stating that their claim would risk the UK’s diplomatic “engagement with peace efforts in the Middle East“, something which seemed at the time to be absolutely zero if not negative. They also refused Al-Haq any right to bring the claim because it was not a UK-based organisation and “no one in the United Kingdom has sought judicial review of United Kingdom foreign policy regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza“.

Al-Haq Sue UK Government


Worshipful Company of Poulters Pancake Race – Guildhall Yard

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

It was Shrove Tuesday and I couldn’t resist the Pancake Race organised by the Worshipful Company of Poulters, and held – with the permission of the Chief Commoner, in the Guildhall Yard.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

As I said, “It’s a shame that the Pancake Race is unlikely to feature in the London 2012 Olympics, because it’s perhaps the one sport in which Britain still leads the world, and we seem to have plenty of talent in training.

Poulters Pancake Race


Keep the Post Public – Parliament Square

Postal workers came out from a rally in Methodist Central Hall against government plans to privatise Royal Mail. The government argued they needed to do this to protect pensions and modernise the service.

Postal deliveries had been deliberately made uneconomic by earlier measures which have allowed private companies to cream off the easily delivered profitable parts of the service, while leaving the Royal Mail to continue the expensive universal delivery service – including the delivery of its competitors post at low regulated prices to more difficult destinations.

The government picked up the responsibility for the pensions when the post was privatised and the privatised post office has been allowed to fail on its delivery obligations. We now get deliveries on perhaps 3 or 4 days a week rather than 6, few first class letters arrive on time, and the collection times for most pillar boxes are now much earlier in the day – now 9am rather than 4pm at our local box. While privatisation was supposed to result in more investment it largely seems to have resulted in large dividends and higher pay to managers and the Post Office is in a worse state than ever.

Keep the Post Public


London 2012 Olympic Site – Stratford

I had time for a brief visit to the publicly accessible areas in and around the Olympic site where a great deal of work was now taking place with the main stadium beginning to emerge.

There were some reports at the time that the landmark building Warton House, once owned by the Yardley company with its lavender mosaic on Stratford High Street was to be demolished, but fortunately these turned out to be exaggerated, with only a small part at the rear of the building being lost. But all the buildings on the main part of the site had gone. Some others south of the mainline railway were also being demolished for Crossrail.

Olympic Site Report
London Olympic site pans


March of the Corporate Undead – Oxford St

I made my way back to Oxford Circus for the ‘March of the Corporate Undead’, a Zombie Shopping Spree complete with coffins, a dead ‘banker’, posters, various members of the undead and a rather good band.

Police watched in a suitably deadpan manner (I did see one or two occasionally smile) as the group assembled and applied large amounts of white makeup before making its way along the pavement of Oxford Street, to the astonishment (and often delight) of late shoppers and workers rushing home.

We stopped off at Stratford Place, opposite Bond Street Station to toss some fried bankers brains in the frying pans and then there was a pancake race, holding up a Rolls Royce that was prevented by the police from driving through while we were there.

The parade continued, stopping for a minute or two under the bright lights of Selfridges before continuing to Tyburn, or at least Marble Arch, with more zombies joining all the time.

Hanging the already dead banker seemed a great idea, but getting a rope up over the arch was tricky. Eventually a severed hand gave sufficient weight to enable a rope to be thrown over the ornamental iron-work and the banker was soon hoisted up to dangle over the continuing revels below.

March of the Corporate Undead

This was an anticapitalist event and in particular aimed against bankers and the huge amounts of cash given to them to in the aftermath of the 2007-8 financial crisis which was seen as rewarding the very people who had caused the mess the system was in. The mass of the population was having to suffer cuts in services under a severe austerity programme while bankers were still pigs in clover. The UK has become a very unequal society over the years since 1979 when Thatcher became Prime Minister. The the top 10% got 21% of the UK income, by 2010 it was around 32%.

I left to go to a meeting of London bloggers – and enjoy a few free drinks thanks to Bacardi. The blue and green Breezers seem to me just right for zombies, though I’m afraid after tasting one I went for the beer instead. But I think the zombies on Oxford Street were more alive than those in the corporate world.


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TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – 2011

Thursday, November 30th, 2023

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – On Wednesday 30th November 2011 public sector workers across the country held a one-day strike against government plans to cut public service pensions with pickets at thousands of workplaces and rallies and marches in towns and cities across the country as well as a South East TUC organised march in Central London which I photographed. Later in the afternoon I went with Occupy London protesters who occupied the offices of the highest paid CEO in the UK to protest against corporate greed.


TUC Nov 30 March – Lincolns Inn Fields to Westminster

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

It’s always hard to estimate the numbers on very large marches such as this one but it was very large and when I arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the large space already seemed pretty crowded an hour before the march was due to start. Many people gave up trying to get in waited to join the march on Kingsway.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

At the front of the march were Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, NASUWT president John Rimmer (below) and other trade unionists. Many other groups had come with banners.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

There were many placards suggesting ways to avoid the cuts, including by taxing the mega-rich and cutting the pointless and wasteful expenditure on Trident rather than job’s health and education.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed
Peter Tatchell

Some of the students on the march felt it was going to slow and began to march in front of the main banner.

Police stopped them and held up the whole of the march at Aldwych but then didn’t seem to know what to do. Eventually they just let things go ahead.

I took a lot of pictures of the Education Activist Network who were the liveliest part of the protest but there were plenty of others to photograph too with many interesting hand-made posters.

I stopped for quite a while to photograph marchers as they went past.

and they were still coming in large numbers an hour after the front of the march had passed me.

I was still on the Embankment with marchers when the rally had begun closer to Parliament and people were still rolling in. I think there were probably between 20 and 30,000 taking part, but it was hard to know and I think many who had been on picket lines early in the morning had left before the rally began. I left too to meet with people from Occupy London.

More pictures on My London Diary at TUC Nov 30 March.


Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed – Piccadilly Circus & Panton House

Occupy London had called people to meet at Piccadilly Circus at 3pm but had not indicated what would be happening next. I arrived to find around a hundred protesters there along with quite a few Greek football supporters and a large number of police standing around watching them.

We stood in the intermittent rain for around half an hour waiting for something to happen. At 3.30pm around 30 people rushed across the road to stand outside a branch of Boots with the ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’ banner, but made no attempt to enter the store which quickly lowered its metal shutters.

Police rushed across the street to surround them, but soon became clear that this had merely been a diversion, as others close to Eros unfolded their long main ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner and rushed down Haymarket with it catching the police by surprise and leaving them behind.

I was running ahead of them, taking pictures over my shoulder and managing to keep ahead, but the police were well behind as we reached Panton St.

Here the protesters set off a bright orange flare, turned down Panton Street and rushed into Panton House. I followed the group with the main banner inside, but stupidly stopped in the foyer to take pictures through the glass frontage of the flares outside.

I was a little behind as the protesters ran up the stairs and rather out of breath after running along the street. By the time I reached the third or fourth landing I had decided to give up and pressed the button for a lift. Police arrived just as the lift came and one officer grabbed me stopping me from getting in.

Police told us all to go downstairs, but around 20 of the protesters and a few press had reached the roof. I made my way down, though it was difficult as more police rushing up pushed those of us going down out of the way.

The police had now surrounded the entrance, preventing any more people entering, but were allowing us to go out. I was pleased to get out because the air inside had been thick with the orange smoke and I had been choking slightly, Smoke flares aren’t intended for indoor use.

A little back on Haymarket by the side of the building protesters outside were taking part in a mike chat group chant to inform passers-by what was going on. From this I learnt that Panton House contains the London offices of the mining company Xstrata, whose CEO Mick Davies they say is the highest paid CEO in the UK, and “is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions.”

Police began to surround them and I quickly moved away as they kettled the protesters, and also to get a better view of what was happening on the roof. TI had missed seeing the ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner being let down over Haymarket earlier but saw them trying to do so again but being dragged away from the edge. More police vans were now arriving and I decided there would be little else I could see and left.

More at Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed.


Anonymous March to Parliament – 2013

Sunday, November 5th, 2023

Anonymous March to Parliament – On Monday 5th of November 2012 around two thousand Anonymous supporters met in Trafalgar Square and marched to Parliament Square against austerity, the cuts and the increasing gap between rich and poor, warning the government they need to change.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

This was part of #Operation Vendetta, which they described as “a worldwide Anonymous operation of global strength and solidarity, a warning to all governments worldwide that if they keep trying to censor, cut, imprison, or silence the free world or the free internet they will not be our governments for much longer.”

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Wikipedia describes Anonymous as “a decentralized international activist and hacktivist collective and movement primarily known for its various cyberattacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations and the Church of Scientology.” The article also quotes their common tag-line “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Anonymous supporters or ‘Anons’ remain anonymous by wearing masks styled on those in David Lloyd’s illustrations, based on those used in London in 1605 by Guy Fawkes, for Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta which features ‘V’, an anarchist revolutionary and superhero who dresses in a mask and cloak. In 2005 the story was made into a film and masks based on Lloyd’s drawings were mass-produced as merchandise for this, copyrighted by Warner Brothers who collect royalties on them, though there have been many pirated versions.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

The complex story, written when Thatcher was prime minister and set in the near future is set in a Britain after a nuclear war in which the UK suffered little direct damage as a Labour government had renounced nuclear weapons and closed US bases before it broke out. But in the post-war chaos corporations and fascists hadtaken power and established a totalitarian state. In the story which begins on Guy Fawkes Night in London in 1997, V engages in a number of attacks against the regime, including on 5th November 1998 blowing up the Post Office Tower and it ends following V’s death with a general insurrection in which Downing Street is blown up by an Underground train carrying V’s body.

Of course there is no Underground line below Downing Street although there are underground tunnels below much of Whitehall and elsewhere in London some of which are used by police and security services. They were built 100ft down for communications cables during World War 2 and the network was expanded during the Cold War Era.

Across the world Anonymous has carried out a number of sometimes successful cyber-operations as well as launching real-world protests, particularly against Scientology and child pornography sites.

This protest in London called for an end to cuts in education, health and welfare and the end of ‘austerity measures’ that target the poor and vulnerable, calling on the government to tackle the causes of the problems, including the banks and tax avoidance and evasion. They also want freedom for the Internet, with respect for the privacy of Internet users and the dropping of the Communications Data Bill.

They also demanded the release of Internet activists who they say are political prisoners, including Julian Assange then still holed up in a London embassy, Richard O’Dwyer wanted in the US for alleged copyright infringements, and the “PayPal 14, Jeremy Hammond, Topiary and the 4 anons of the UK that will stand trial on November 7th.”

Although the Anons had stressed this was to be an entirely peaceful event the police were taking few chances and were out in force, perhaps reacting more to the events in the novel than the actual event they were policing.

The event itself as might have been expected was chaotic, and the movement from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square was more a drift than a march. Police reacted angrily after the protests simply walked around a line of police trying to stop them were simply walked around and one officer clearly lost his temper at the insistent taunting and photographing by the activists, but police and other protesters soon calmed things down.

Banners were raised along the fence outside the Houses of Parliament, and one young woman removed her shirt to pose in her bra. The ‘heritage wardens’ tried to stop people using fire poi in the square but soon had to give up as more and more began to perform. Police tried without much success to clear the roads to keep traffic moving around the square, and a ‘Transport for London’ lorry managed to effectively block a junction to hold up the bus I was on for over 10 minutes after I had decided to go home. The protest apparently continued for several hours after I’d left.

More on My London Diary at Anonymous March to Parliament.


Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

Friday, October 20th, 2023

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats: Saturday 20th October 2012was a busy day for protests in London with a huge TUC march against austerity with various groups on its fringes and other smaller protests around.


Against Austerity For Climate Justice! – St Paul’s Cathedral

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The climate block of the TUC ‘A Future That Works’ march held a rally on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral before marching to join the main TUC march.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The block was joined people from Occupy London and UK Uncut who made up a ‘No cuts, no tax-dodging’ block.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The main banner called for a ‘Massive Shift’ to invest in jobs and renewable energy and there were other banners, flags and placards with the Uncut logo calling for an end to tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

I left them as they began to make their way to join the main TUC march, hurrying to Downing Street for an unconnected protest.

More pictures: Against Austerity For Climate Justice!


Edequal Stands with Malala – Downing St

Members of the Edequal Foundation, an educational charity founded by Shahzad Ali and based in north London which supports teachers and students demonstrated in a show of support for Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban because of her campaigning for education for women.

She began her campaign in 2009 by writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC about life under Taliban control and was later filmed by the New York Times. She became well-known for these and other interviews and in 2011 was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Rev Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize.


Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban while returning by bus from an exam on 9th October 2012 and this made her the centre of international attention and support. After treatment in Pakistan she was transferred to hospital in Birmingham and after recovering settled there continuing her campaigning. She has since received other awards, becoming the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was 17.

Edequal Stands with Malala


A Future That Works TUC March – Westminster

The TUC march for ‘A Future That Works’ against austerity was impressively large with a reported 150,000 people taking part.

I’d gone to photograph the marchers going past Parliament and up Whitehall to Traflagar Square and Piccadilly Circus. I’d begun taking pictures about half an hour after the front of the march had passed, and two hours later people were still passing me in a dense mass, waving flags and carrying banners.

Most had come with trade union groups and there were many fine union banners, but there were also others taking part. Police generally stood well back and the march with just a few trade union stewards proceeded peacefully along the route.

Quite a few stopped for some minutes outside Downing Street to shout noisily in the direction of No 10, though I think Prime Minister David Cameron was miles away. Certainly the march had no effect on his policies.

There were a few police here and at other key points, but one group on the march got special attention, with a line of officers in blue caps walking in line on each side of around 200 black-clad anarchists. Earlier I had seen one small group of anarchists being chased by a police FIT team who called in other police to surround them while they attempted to take their photographs.

Many more pictures at A Future That Works TUC March.


Against Workfare and Tax Cheats – Oxford St

Boycott Workfare were “a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare.” They say that “Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.”

Their campaign was supported by a wide range of organisations including a number of trade union branches and several hundred people turned up on Oxford Street for their protest, including a number dressed in black and masked with scarves or wearing ‘Anonymous’ masks.

They marched to protest at shops and businesses in the area which are taking part in workfare schemes which many of those unemployed had to work without pay or lose their benefits. Many of the shops closed as the protest went part and the protesters briefly occupied others.

Although this had been planned as a ‘a fun and family-friendly action’ and was led by a samba band, while it started peacefully a number of scuffles broke out when police tried to stop or arrest those taking part, and by the time it ended many on both sides were clearly angry.

There was a nasty moment after the protesters had crowded inside a hotel which uses people on workfare on Great Marlborough Street. They made some noise but there was no damage and they would almost certainly have moved on after a few minutes as there were other places to visit. Police entered and tried to forcibly push the protesters out, while police outside were preventing them from leaving. I fortunately avoided injury when pushed down the stairs by police.

From there they returned to Oxford Street and tried to rush into a number of shops known to be using workfare and some also known to be avoiding payment of huge amounts of UK tax. Some got their shutters down and police managed to get to others and block the entrance before the protesters arrived – doing the protesters job for them in closing the shop.

The Salvation Army, one of a number of charities involved in the scheme got a kid glove treatment – with just two protesters standing in the doorway and making short speeches before the protest moved on.

At Marble Arch the protester turned around to march back up towards Oxford Circus, and police tried to put a cordon across the street to stop them. But the gaps between officers were too large and most protesters simply walked through the gaps when officers grabbed one of two of them. Some of the police clearly lost their tempers and many protesters were shouting at them to calm down.

One officer who had tackled a protester was apparently injured and a group of police grabbed a protester and pushed him roughly down on the pavement in front of a shop. As I reported:

While several police forcefully pushed him to the ground, others stood around them. They seemed to see their main purpose as preventing photographers and others from seeing what was happening, with one woman officer in particular following my every move to block my view, while I could hear the protester on the ground shouting that he was not resisting and asking why they kept on hurting him. From the brief glimpses I got as police attempted to prevent me seeing what was happening they appeared to be using entirely unnecessary force.

The protest was continuing but I’d seen enough and taken as many pictures as I could over the day and it was time to go home.

More at Against Workfare and Tax Cheats.

NHS – Free, For All, Forever?

Friday, June 30th, 2023

NHS – Free, For All, Forever?. Five years ago on Saturday 30th June thousands marched through London to celebrate 70 years of the National Health Service, which began on 5th July 1948. In a few days we will celebrate the 75 anniversary. The pictures here are from that march.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

A few days ago the Kings Fund published their report comparing the NHS to health care systems of other countries. It made depressing reading, but its findings were already well-known – and the result of government policies over the years.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

Conservatives were opposed to the setting up of the NHS and voted against it on numerous occasions when Aneurin Bevan was campaigning for its setting up and taking the bill through parliament. Bevan established the three basic ideas, that it should benefit everyone, that healthcare would be free and that care would be provided on the basis of need rather than ability to pay.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

Many doctors and dentists were opposed to the new system, which they saw as a threat to their lucrative private practices and this led to a number of compromises which have had serious consequences over the years.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

Dentistry has never really been made properly a part of our health care system and now large areas of the country have few if any dentists who will take on NHS patients. Private medicine has continued and grown parasitically on the NHS – who train those working in it, while it now gets paid by the NHS to provide many of the simpler aspects of treatment while leaving the heavy lifting to our public service.

Both Conservative and Labour governments since its formation have made changes which have diluted Bevan’s principles. Contracting out of various services began under the Tories, sometimes resulting in disastrous lowering of standards. Proper cleaning services etc are essential in hospitals.

New Labour brought in Private Finance Initiative projects (they borrowed the idea from the Tories) which have led to huge ongoing debts for some NHS trusts – and closures of some vitally needed hospital departments to meet these.

Since the Coalition and then the Tories came back into power there has been a huge increase in the creeping privatisation of the NHS, with Andrew Lansley’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act forcing the NHS into a market-based model based on competitive tendering, which even his successor as Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt has described parts of as ‘frankly, completely ridiculous’. So much so that even the Tories have no had to row back a little.

The King’s Fund report makes clear that “The UK has below-average health spending per person compared to peer countries” and it “lags behind other countries in its capital investment, and has substantially fewer key physical resources than many of its peers, including CT and MRI scanners and hospital beds.”

Successive governments have prevented the training in the UK from expanding the numbers of university places for medical training, and a few years ago the Tories removed the bursaries available for nurses. Since the start of the NHS this had been a failure, and as the report states there are now “strikingly low levels of key clinical staff, including doctors and nurses” and the NHS is “heavily reliant on foreign-trained staff.” Only in recent days have we seen an effort by government to put forward plans to address the issue – and almost certainly one that is inadequate.

There is also the question of pay, brought to the fore in recent months by strikes by nurses and doctors. The government’s response has mainly been to refuse to enter into meaningful talks and mutter about the impossible demands being made.

Of course nobody expects junior doctors to get a 35% rise, but all that it would take to resolve the dispute is a much lower figure, combined with a commitment to make a small above inflation increase in a number of following years to reduce the gap that has opened up.

You can read more about the march and rally and some of the issues in my post on My London Diary from June 2018, which also includes some information about the interests or many MPs and peers in private healthcare and connections to those wanting to see the NHS abolished. It may be ‘OUR NHS’ but many of those who have power to determine its future want it to belong to them.

And of course, many more pictures at NHS at 70 – Free, for all, forever.


Hardest Hit March Against Cuts – 2011

Thursday, May 11th, 2023

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts: On Wednesday 11th March 2011 around 10,000 people, many in wheelchairs came to march in London calling for an end to harassment and benefit cuts for the disabled.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The Hardest Hit march was supported by a huge range of charities and organisations representing and supporting the physically and mentally disabled, including major unions such as PCS, UCU and Unite.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The protest came a year after the formation of the coalition government led by David Cameron with Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg as his deputy, with real power staying with the Tory majority and is now widely seen as a disaster for the Lib-Dems. Under Chancellor George Osborne the coalition plunged the country into the start of ten years of austerity, with particularly swingeing cuts to local government services as well as a drastic attack on all those claiming benefits.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The cuts disproportionately affected the poor and the disabled while the wealthiest in our society were hardly if at all affected. In 2018 the UN special rapporter on extreme poverty concluded his visit to the UK by reminding us that ‘Poverty is a political choice‘ and that ‘Austerity could easily have spared the poor, if the political will had existed to do so’.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

For the disabled and those on benefits there were cuts and freezes and the situation was made worse by the ignorance and incompetence of Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2010 to 2016.

It was under Labour in October 2008 that Work Capability Assessments were introduced but the numbers made before 2010 were relatively small and they were used for new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants and a small number of ESA reassessments. It was only in Spring 2011 under the coalition government that a programme began to move those on existing benefits onto ESA using the WCA tests administered by Atos began.

Already by 2011 there had been serious criticisms both of the unsatisfactory nature of the tests and of the failures by Atos to administer them correctly, and this protest march called both for an end to the cuts in benefits for the disabled and “and in particular for an end to the discredited and iniquitous testing regime administered by Atos Healthcare, which has replaced proper medical tests by a computer-based system that often ignores the actual needs of those being assessed, and has as unacceptably high error rate, with a majority of appeals against its assessments succeeding.

The Braille spells out SHAFTED

Despite the huge body of evidence and the many deaths the system caused, only minor changes were made and it was not until 2014 that the contract with Atos was ended, only for them to be replaced by Maximus who carried on the same way. Atos, now renamed IAS, remains now a part of the assessment system for ESA, Universal Credit and PIP along with Maximus and Capita.

Both New Labour and the Coalition made cuts in many positive projects and organisations set up to help the disabled. One of these was Remploy, whose last state-run sheltered factory set up to employ disabled labour closed in 2013 with the loss of over 1700 jobs. It is now a part of Maximus.

This protest got more media attention than most, largely because of the presence among those leading the march of Sally Bercow, the wife of the then Speaker of the Commons, and actress and activist Jane Asher, president of three of the organisations involved, Arthritis Care, National Autistic Society and Parkinson’s UK. It was followed by a mass lobby of MPs.

Since then there have been many more protests against the unfair treatment of the disabled as various benefits have been scrapped and Universal Credit has led to further problems, but nothing on this scale. Disabled people have not only suffered most they have also become some of the more active protesters, particularly led by groups that were on this march including Disable People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Winvisible, Black Triangle and others.

This ‘Hardest Hit’ march came during a ‘National Week of Action Against Atos Origin‘ organised by disability activists, claimant groups and anti-cuts campaigners and two days earlier they had protested outside the offices of Atos Healthcare in London. You can see more on My London Diary in Disabled Protest Calls Atos Killers.

More at Hardest Hit March Against Cuts.


Streets Kitchen March with Homeless – 2016

Saturday, April 15th, 2023

Streets Kitchen is a UK & Ireland grassroots group working to help the homeless community, providing daily outreaches with food, clothing and information. In London they are active in Camden, Hackney, Kilburn, Clapham, Haringey and elsewhere – and new volunteers and donations are welcome. You can see a short video about their work made by Liberty on YouTube.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

On Friday 15th April 2016 Streets Kitchen oranised a rally and march around central London in solidarity with London’s growing homeless community. A giant banner called for ‘No More Deaths On Our Streets’. They brought tents, sleeping bags and food intending to join the Kill the Housing Bill sleepout in Southwark and collected donations.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

I met them at a rally on the pavement opposite Downing Street, with speakers who described the effects of government policies on increasing homelessness but also pointed out the role of London Labour Councils including Southwark and Newham who have turned people out of council estates in order to ‘regenerate’ them largely for the benefit of private tenants paying much higher rents, as well working with private developers to enable them to evade their responsibilities to build social housing.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

They move on to Whitehall, blocking the traffic and then marching to Trafalgar Square where they held a brief protest before marching up Charing Cross Road to Oxford Street.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

The march continued along Oxford St to Oxford Circus, where they set off flares and blocked the junction for a few minutes.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

Their next stop was at the BBC, where a line of police blocked the entrance, and they then moved off up Portland Place. They were still marching further away from the final destination, Southwark Council’s offices on Tooley St, south of the river close to Tower Bridge, and it was getting rather dark to take pictures.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

I decided I’d had enough and left them for my journey to a warm and comfortable home. We don’t live in luxury but too many in our society don’t have a home to go to, a shameful situation in one of the richest countries in the world – and a country where there are more empty homes than homeless people. Housing is a human right, and one which too many are denied.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

More at Streets Kitchen March with Homeless.


Against Worldwide Government Corruption – 2014

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

Against Worldwide Government Corruption
Anon and Mitch Antony at the Ecuadorian Embassy

The march from Trafalgar Square to the Ecuadorian Embassy on Saturday March 1st 2014 wasn’t a huge event, although its aims were all-embracing. Those attending were appalled at the state of the UK and the world and believed that a better world is possible if only we could get rid of the greedy and corrupt who currently are in change – the party politicians and their governments, the bankers and the corporations, the warmongers and the spies.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

If only. While I share many of their views and aspirations, those in charge are in charge because they have the power, the money, the control of the media, the armies and more and are not about to give them up willingly.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

Politically the only real challenge to them has come from people like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Saunders and the establishment made mincemeat of them with no-holds barred dirty tricks, false claims, lies and misrepresentation. And even if Corbyn had been elected – despite many in his party conspiring against him to throw the 2017 election it was a close-run thing and a united party would have won easily – he would have found it impossible to implement many of his policies.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

Those coming for this protest want things that many want – and which would – like Corbyn – have wide popular support. As I wrote “they want justice and a fairer society, one that doesn’t oppress the poor and disabled, that doesn’t spy on everyone and doesn’t use the media and the whole cultural apparatus as a way of keeping blind to what is really happening.

On My London Diary I unusually report quite a large chunk of a speech at the event by one of the organisers, Mitch Antony of Aspire Worldwide, which I seldom do. Usually I’m too busy taking photographs to pay a great deal of attention to the speeches at events, and at most just jot down in longhand a few significant phrases, never having managed to learn shorthand. I did use to carry a small voice recorder, and nowadays could do it on my phone, but listening and transcribing often hard to hear speeches is too time-consuming.

The ‘Mike-Check’ of many Occupy-inspired protests where short phrases are repeated by the crowd, often as an alternative where amplification is either not available or prohibited – as in much of the area around Parliament – does make it easier to follow and report, as does the repetition in Antony’s speech, which concluded with the series of statements below.

We march against Global Government Corruption
We march against ideological austerity
We march against privatisation for profit
We march against the bedroom tax
We march against bankers bonuses
We march against the corrupt MPs
We march against state spying on the people
We march against state controlled media
We march against government misrepresentation
We march against warmongering
We march against global tyranny
We march against state sponsored terrorism
We march against the military industrial complex
We march against the militarisation of the police
We march against the suppression of alternative energies

Unfortunately since 2014, we’ve seen almost all of these things on the increase, and Julian Assange, then inside the Ecuadorian Embassy is still imprisoned, now in our maximum security jail, Belmarsh, awaiting the Home Secretary’s decision on whether to extradite him to the USA where he faces a 175 year sentence for the ‘crime’ of publishing the truth about war crimes, corruption and climate policy.

Trafalgar Square, once a public square, has increasingly beeen hired out for commercial events, and was being got ready for one the following day, which meant that the advertised meeting point for this march was unavailable, but there was room just across the road in the island at the top of Whitehall. Some trying to attend gave up looking for it, but others persisted and slowly the numbers grew – and after some speeches set off.

It was a very visual event, with many interesting characters taking part, some well-known to me from earlier protests. Its route took it down Pall Mall and on to Harvey Nicholls in Knightsbridge where for a short while they joined a protest outside the store by the Campaign Against the Fur Trade.

At the Ecuadorian Embassy where Assange was holed up in a small flat (the embassy itself is only a few rooms in a larger building) there were too many for the small pen opposite, but they refused in any case to keep to this, soon swarming across the road. The march had attracted an over-large police presence, and this was perhaps the only place some of them were needed to occupy the steps in front of the crowd.

The protest continued here for around an hour in support of of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and other whistle blowers and over the continued refusal to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador, something that seems to be an personal vendetta by Home Secretary Theresa May. Policing this has been an expensive business and by the end of 2013 had cost the UK taxpayer around £5.3 million. Perhaps May should have been made to pay.

The protesters hadn’t finished and were marching back to Parliament Square for yet another rally, but I needed to leave and file my report and pictures from the protest – and to get some dinner.

Much more on My London Diary at Against Worldwide Government Corruption.


Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in: 2011

Sunday, February 26th, 2023

Libyan Embassy Protests – Knightsbridge

On Saturday 26th February 2011 we were in the heady days of the Arab Spring, and two groups of protesters came to the Libyan Embassy to call for Gaddafi to go.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Gaddafi had tried to prevent the movement spreading to Libya, reducing food prices, purging the army leadership and releasing some political prisoners, but major protests had still begun across the country on February 17th. Gaddafi had not quite been the evil dictator that the Western press portrayed him as, but there had been extensive corruption and patronage and unemployment had reached around 30%.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Gaddafi had begun to use the army to hunt down the protesters and hundreds had been shot, shocking many of the countries leading politicians some of whom defected to the rebels who by the end of February were in control of many of the major cities including Benghazi, Misrata, al-Bayda, and Tobruk.

On the day I photographed these protests were taking place outside the London embassy the UN Security Council passed a resolution suspending Libya from the UN Human Rights Council, implementing sanctions and calling for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the killing of unarmed civilians.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Around 200 Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters had arrived first to protest and had occupied the pavement opposite the embassy, with a large orange banner ‘ ‘Arab-Muslim Rulers Are Traitors’. Many of the men waved large black flags with white Arabic calligraphy, but there were also placards in English, calling for an end of Western interference in Muslim countries.

There were a few women too, in a separate pen to once side, many of whom appeared to take little part in the protest, though some did join in the chanting of slogans. Hizb ut-Tahrir were calling for the replacement of Gadaffi by a Muslim caliphate, although there was apparently little support for this in Libya.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Coming later, a number of Libyan students and supporters wanted to make clear they were separate from this Islamic protest. They went into Hyde Park to protest from a low grassy bank above the other group. They were at pains to make clear that the last thing that they wanted would be Islamic rule, which, as several pointed out has created a similar tyranny in Iran to Gaddafi’s Libya.

Later NATO intervened, supplying air cover for the rebel forces and launching air strikes against Gaddafi’s army. He was forced to flee, recording a farewell message and returning to his home area. Taking refuge from an air strike on a construction site, sheltering inside a drainage pipe, he was taken prisoner and killed by militia.

After his death, while Western leaders were triumphant, many across the rest of the world mourned him as a hero (as the Wikipedia article makes clear.) The future for Libya looked brighter, with trade unions legalised, press freedom and elections. But things have not gone smoothly since, as the UK government’s advice indicates:

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise against all travel to Libya. This advice has been in place consistently since 2014. If you’re in Libya against this advice, you should seek to leave immediately by any practical means. …

The political situation in Libya remains fragile and the security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Uncertainty about when postponed Libyan elections will take place is likely to heighten tensions throughout the country, which may lead to security incidents such as inter-militia clashes and oil blockades.

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/libya

Libyan Embassy Protests


UK Uncut Lecture in TSB – Oxford St

From the Libyan Embassy close to Hyde Park Corner I made my way to Oxford Street to join around 70 UK Uncut protesters who were taking part in one of around 50 protests around the country against RBS/NatWest who had been bailed out in the banking crisis with £20 billion of public money – so we now owned 84% of it. But despite which it didn’t seem to be behaving in the public interest.

The Nat West branch in Regent Street where the protesters had intended to protest had shut down completely for the day, and after a short protest outside it, the protesters announced we would be moving fast to another location, and the mainly young protesters set off at a jog.

I managed to keep up with them – and was actually a few yards ahead when suddenly they turned and swarmed into a Lloyds TSB branch. I turned round and followed them in. There they began a series of lectures on the failures of the banking industry, tax avoidance and the alternative’s to the public sector cuts.

After around 25 minutes the police and branch manager came to ask the protesters to leave, warning them they would otherwise face arrest.After a short deliberation they went outside and continued the lectures on the pavement, and I left for other protests.

UK Uncut Lecture in TSB


Freedom For All Arab Nations! Trafalgar Square

The main event I wanted to be at next was in Trafalgar Square where around 200 people took part in an Arab unity demonstration.

This had been called at at short notice by British Libyans and friends demanding freedom for all Arab nations. Heritage Wardens forced them to move from the main square where protests need permission from London’s Mayor to the North Terrace, still officially a public highway although pedestrianised.

It was an animated protest, with a number of emotional speeches, mainly in Arabic and calling for Gadaffi to go, and there were plenty of placards, poster and banners for me to photograph.

More on My London Diary at Freedom For All Arab Nations!


I also photographed a couple of small protests taking place at the gates of Downing Street:

9/11 Truth Protest at Downing St
Hands Off Our NHS


Olympic Area & Budget Cuts – 2012

Monday, December 5th, 2022

December 5th 2012 was a fine winter’s day and I took advantage of the weather to try and walk around the area which had been fenced off for the London Olympics for around 5 years. In the evening I joined a protest in Westminster against the continuing cuts being aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable by George Osborne and the Conservative-led government.


Olympic Area Slightly Open – Stratford Marsh. Wed 5 Dec 2012

It was around April 2007 that an 11 mile long blue fence went up around the whole of the London Olympic site at Stratford, barring access to the whole site except for those working on it. Parts were replaced in 2012 with a 5,000 volt 4m tall electrified perimeter fence in 2012 for the games itself.

St Thomas’ Creek still blocked to boats

Even the public footpath along the Northern Sewage Outfall, the Greenway, had been closed in May 2012, but after I heard this had reopened on December 1st I had been wanting to visit the area again to walk along it.

Crossrail works

The View Tube, a cafe and viewing area set up on the Greenway had also reopened, under new management, and it was only signs for this that kept me going past a maze of fencing and hostile signage. The Greenway was still closed between Stratford High Street and the main railway lines because of ongoing work for Crossrail, and roads north of the railway were still fenced off.

Wire fences and yellow fences have replaced the blue

Despite it being a fine afternoon for a walk I was the only customer to enter the View Tube while I was there and the Greenway, normally a useful through route for cyclists and pedestrians, was still deserted.

I could see no signs of work going on to bring the area back into use. Ten years later the area is still largely a desert and most of the promises about the ‘Olympic Legacy’ have been reneged on. This is still an Olympic waste; though the developers have done well out of it, the people haven’t.

I walked along the Greenway, finding there was no access from it to any part of the area, with those electric wire fences still in place, and made my way along the Lea Navigation to Hackney Wick, making a number of pictures on my way.

Many more pictures including panoramas at Olympic Area Slightly Open


Osborne’s Budget Cuts – Strand to Westminster, Wed 5 Dec 2012

I around 200 people outside Kings College at Aldwych who were meeting to march to join the rally at Downing St where Stop the War and CND were protesting against Osborne’s attacks on the vulnerable, continued in his autumn statement.

The march had been called by the UCU London Region, and was joined by students, trade unionists, socialists and others, and went down the Strand and into Whitehall shouting slogans against public service cuts, the rich, David Cameron and George Osborne in particular to join a similar number already protesting at Downing St.

Speakers at the rally pointed out the huge cost of military expenditure which was being poured into futile projects – and the pockets of the arms manufacturers:

The Afghanistan war — which everyone knows is futile and lost — is costing around £6 billion a year. The yearly maintenance costs for Trident are £2.2 billion a year. The cost of renewing the Trident system — which this government is committed to do — would cost up to £130 billion. Two aircraft carriers are being built at a cost of £7 billion. Then there’s the £15 billion to be spent buying 150 F-35 jets from the US, each of which will cost £85 million plus an extra £16 million for the engine.”

John McDonnell MP

By now it was freezing, and when the speeches began the speakers were asked to cut their contributions short because of the extreme cold. Among those who spoke were John McDonnell MP, Kate Hudson of CND, author Owen Jones, Andy Greene of DPAC and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.

Kate Hudson CND

We heard from a nurse about the campaign to keep Lewisham hospital open, where a few days earlier 15,000 had marched and formed a human chain around the hospital. The hospital is successful and well run, but huge PFI debts from another hospital in the area threaten its future.

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett

A NUT member talked about the problems the cuts were making in education and campaigners had come from Connaught School in Waltham Forest where they are striking against the decision by school governors to pursue academy status despite the opposition of the teachers, parents, the local MP and councillors.

A speaker from UK Uncut urged people to join the protests against Starbucks the following Saturday and many of those who spoke called for trade unions to take action against the cuts, calling on union leaders to stop simply speaking against them and start organising strike action.

More at Osborne’s Budget Cuts.