Tens of thousands of protesters have marched through central London to campaign against the Conservative government as part of a “Not One Day More” protest.
More than 100,000 attended the rally, according to organising body the People’s Assembly. The protest began outside BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place before moving on towards Parliament Square to hear a number of speakers including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Protesters arrived with banners branding messages of defiance against austerity and the Tory Party such as “Austerity kills” and “Kick the Tories out”, and people could be heard chanting “Not one day more” as the crowd moved through the streets of the capital.
Speaking to the crowds in Parliament Square, Mr Corbyn rounded on the Tories for this week raising hopes the public sector pay cap would be lifted before later dampening expectations by voting against a Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech to scrap the 1 per cent ceiling imposed by George Osborne in 2012.
In front of thousands of protesters chanting “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”, the Labour leader said: “I say to any public sector workers in Northern Ireland or anywhere else – don’t have any illusions in these people, when they started the austerity programme they meant it and they meant it to carry on.
“And carry on with a growing gap between the richest and poorest in our society, with a growing impoverishment of those at the bottom, a growing under-funding of local government, health, education and all the other things that we all need in a civilised society.”
He criticised the “hypocrisy” of Tory MPs who praised the work of the emergency services dealing with recent terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower disaster.
“The utter hypocrisy of Government ministers and others who queued up in the chamber over there in the House of Commons to heap praise on the emergency services, the following day to cut their wages by refusing to lift the pay cap,” he said.
“The hypocrisy is absolutely unbelievable.”
Alongside Mr Corbyn, Labour figures including John McDonnell and Diane Abbott as well as Unite union boss Len McCluskey and writer Owen Jones were among those speaking at the demonstration.
Musicians including DJ Shy FX, north London rock band Wolf Alice and singer Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly performed at the rally, which was widely publicised by demonstrators using the hashtag #notonedaymore on Twitter.
Anger was expressed over the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed at least 80 people two weeks ago, with many people chanting “Justice for Grenfell” and making a connection between public service cuts and the fatal blaze.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell vowed to support the victims of the horrific fire in west London when he spoke at the event, saying: “To the victims of Grenfell Tower we pledge now, we will stand with you and your families all the way through.
“We bring you sympathy but more importantly we bring you solidarity. We will not rest until every one of those families is properly housed within the community in which they want to live. Grenfell Tower symbolised for many everything that’s gone wrong in this country since austerity was imposed upon us.”
Activists assembled at the BBC’s Broadcasting House in west London at around midday before marching onto Parliament, with unions bussing in protesters from across the UK, including Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which organised the march, invited people to march against a Government “committed to austerity, cuts and privatisation”, saying it was marching “for a decent health service, education system, housing, jobs and living standards for all.”
In a statement on the Facebook event, it said: “Theresa May called the general election to gain a bigger majority, and despite massive media bias in favour of the Conservatives, she failed spectacularly to deliver on that. Now the Tories are in chaos trying to prop up a Government with the deeply conservative and regressive DUP.
“The horrific events that followed the election at Grenfell Tower were avoidable. Privatisation, cut backs and illegal materials cost lives. Safety concerns were ignored. This is the most tragic example of what the consequences of austerity can be.”
A minute of silence for the victims of Grenfell Tower and a minute of applause for the emergency services were held during the protest, and there was a strong police presence, with some of the roads around the square closed to traffic.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies