Mancunian activists are already laying the groundwork for October’s crucial demonstration, reports Martin Hall
There was an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement at the Friends’ Meeting House in Manchester last night.
The meeting began with Penny Hicks, Manchester convenor for the People’s Assembly, making some introductory remarks about the Tories holding their conference in the city in October and what the purpose of the meeting was: to discuss what the People’s Assembly is planning to do in response. She then introduced Sam Fairbairn, the National Secretary of the People’s Assembly.
Sam initially discussed the fantastic general election result last month. He reminded people that the PA had said in 2015, after the last general election and when the Tories last came to town, that Cameron’s majority was not sustainable. Of course, this has been proven correct, hence May’s desire to increase her majority, which had been such a spectacular failure: the Tories’ first mistake. There were then some more general remarks regarding the following issues:
· The public sector pay cap, particularly in the aftermath of Grenfell
· School funding, and Tory division
· The Tories cannot put May into another general election, but don’t have an obvious successor
Sam then suggested that the worst thing we could do would be to sit back and wait for another election. We must instead force the issue. To do so, these points were key:
· The importance of keeping involved new people enthused by the surge of the left and Corbyn. There will be some people who got involved in the election campaign who may think that it’s just a matter of hoping for another election
· The need to build the Trade Unions and push for industrial action
The Tories’ second mistake was to return to Manchester. This produced a cheer. Sam then told people that the National Demo will be on Sunday the 1st of October. He discussed the route. Beginning at Castlefield Bowl with two or three stages, in order to incorporate music, speeches, spoken word from 3 hours prior to the march, people would then march via Water St, Quay St, and Great Bridgewater St, finishing up at the junction of Oxford St and Chepstow St, where a stage could be erected. Events would begin on Friday the 29th of September and go through to Wednesday the 3rd: these will include a club night; film screenings and comedy. Mike Leigh, who is currently making a film about the Peterloo massacre, will be involved. There is a possibility of Jeremy Corbyn coming to speak.
Sam then moved on to a discussion of the importance of building it, reminding people that without numbers, it won’t have impact. The meeting was then opened to the floor.
Various people expressed concerns about the route, making the point that the walk down Water St seemed to be taking us out of the way, and that the proposed end point was to prevent the trams being disrupted. Sam said that he would consider this and go back to the police and council. After a lively discussion about the route and other matters, including volunteers offering to get involved in creative workshops, Paula Barker from Unison said that they were hoping to have six union rallies during the week. She also commented that the theme overall must be anti-austerity, which met with agreement.
A spokesperson from Stand up to Racism mentioned that they were calling a demo on the 3rd of October, and that racism could not be separated from austerity, as it was used to divide the working class and turn people against each other. There was then a discussion of getting students involved, from both further education and higher education. Finally, there was a suggestion to put homelessness front and centre and to involve the homeless campaigners currently active in the city.
Both Penny and Sam came back in and the volunteers’ committee was discussed, to which people had signed up, with a proposed date of 1 August 2017.
Overall, the planning meeting was a great success and bodes well for October. If you were not there, and would like to get involved, please contact the People’s Assembly nationally, or in Manchester.
See you in October!