On the picket line: FTSE's best-paid boss targeted as thousands take to the streets

 

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Indy Politics

Stop all the trains. Shut down departure zones. Prevent the kids from learning while they sit at home. The Prime Minister may have called it a "damp squib", but the single biggest outbreak of industrial action for a generation brought parts of the country to a halt, affecting the lives of millions – strikers and otherwise.

An estimated 30,000 people joined the march through central London, carrying banners and chanting as it snaked down towards the River Thames then along its banks. Twenty thousand took to the streets in Manchester, 15,000 in Liverpool, and around 5,000 in Birmingham. Large crowds also took to the streets in Bristol and Newcastle.

The Metropolitan Police described the march through the capital as a "peaceful affair," though 75 arrests were made. As darkness began to fall, around 100 demonstrators from Occupy London, the organisation behind the camp at St Paul's, tried an apparently pre-meditated attack on the London offices of mining firm Xstrata, whose chief executive, Mick Davies, was the highest paid FSTE director last year. Around 60 forced their way through the front doors and unfurled a banner on the roof. Police were trying to coax them down late into the evening.

NHS

Although more than 85 per cent of NHS staff turned up for work, around 6,000 of 30,000 routine operations were cancelled and several ambulance services, including London and South East Ambulances said they were responding only to "life-threatening" emergencies.

Trade Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber told workers on a picket line at St Pancras Hospital: "I think the public realise the reason this strike is going ahead is because of the intransigence from the Government and their determination to simply force changes through." One hospital worker, Andy, said: "My partner and I both work for the NHS, we are taking action, which we don't do lightly, but we feel our pensions are under attack. We are demonised when we are decent human beings working hard to make a living and to provide public services. If the union voted for more strikes in future, I would walk out again."

Transport

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union General Secretary Bob Crow addressed crowds of strikers in Newcastle, where striking worders brought the Metro system to a halt, causing further traffic problems on key link roads.

"Brothers and sisters, I want to salute you. There is not a thing moving on the Metro today," he said to a crowd at Spillars Wharf.

In Northern Ireland, no bus or train services ran. But airports in London, Manchester and Southampton reported little or no delays. Eurostar trains left and departed on time, as did ferries.

Schools

More than three-quarters of England's state schools faced disruption, according to Government figures, with 62 per cent closing. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that figure was higher, while two thirds of Northern Ireland's 800 schools faced disruption. At Brentfield Primary School in north-west London, which was open, the Nation Union of Teachers picketed but failed to recruit any of the school's staff to their number, before decamping to The Torch public house at 8.45am for a "rally", at which "only tea and coffee" was free.

"When headteachers, college principals and senior civil servants strike, you have a problem," said Peter Pendle, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Westminster

Almost a quarter of the civil service, 146,000, walked out around the country. In London, they included a handful of Downing Street staff. Of the Number 10 workers who did turn up several, including the Prime Minister's press secretary Gabby Bertin, were despatched to London's airports to check passports in the absence of striking Border Agency staff.

The arts

London's Barbican was forced to suspend last nights' performance of Hamlet, while many National Gallery collections were closed.

Clarkson: 'All strikers should be executed'

Jeremy Clarkson sparked outrage last night when he declared with dry humour that striking public-sector workers should be killed.

"Frankly I would have them all shot," he told viewers of the BBC's One Show. "I would take them all outside and execute them in front of their families.

"I mean how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are being guaranteed while the rest have to work?"

The broadcaster is well known for his controversial statements but his latest remarks drew stronger criticism than ever on social-networking sites.

Rob Hastings

Strikes in numbers

16,300 Number of schools closed in England and Wales – 76% of the total.

25 per cent Of civil servants walked out, a total of around 136,000.

7 per cent Rise in customer numbers at Bluewater, Kent.

6,000 Number of routine operations cancelled out of a total of 30,000.

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