London, England—The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, was heckled on Oct. 20 at a mass demonstration here against austerity cuts.
The Labour Party leader had addressed the crowd to garner support for his stand against the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic and Conservative parties. Mr. Miliband claimed the government’s cutbacks were “too far and too fast,” which prompted outrage from assembled activists committed to opposing cuts in their entirety.
“Now of course there will still be hard choices,” claimed Mr. Miliband, “and I do not promise easy times…I have said whoever was in government now there would still be some cuts, but this government has shown that cutting too far and too fast shows that this policy of austerity is not the answer to Britain’s problems.”
In an apparent attempt to calm the crowd, Miliband then posed as Left, promising to tax bankers’ bonuses if his party was returned to government. Britain’s Conservative coalition has gained notoriety for its budget policy of cutting corporation tax whilst raising the Value Added Tax (similar to a national sales tax) in what many see as an attempt to soften the blow to the private sector whilst hitting the consumer. The Conservatives’ hostile policy to welfare, trade unionism and European Union human rights legislation has further eroded their popularity as the UK struggles alongside the rest of the Euro zone in the face of economic turmoil.
The Oct. 20 demonstration, organized by the Trades Union Congress in association with the Coalition of Resistance, saw some 150,000 trade unionist and political activists on the streets of London.
“I’m on this demonstration to say loud and clear that I am not happy with this coalition’s austerity program,” said Mark Osgood, 33, a trade unionist and member of the leftist Labor Representation Committee from Portsmouth. “It is damaging to the economy, working people’s living standards and, what’s more, offers no solution. I do not agree with a single cut to the jobs of working people, who did not cause this crisis. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the ruling class to roll back the size of the state and open it up to the private sector. They’re grabbing the opportunity with both hands.”
“Only industrial and political action will be sufficient to make the necessary changes,” said Osgood, “The next stage should be a one-day general strike. Working people in Europe and the world over are all in the same boat, and the more we can link up with workers in other countries the better. As Karl Marx said, ‘…working men have no country!'”