60,000 protesters demonstrate outside the Conservative party conference, but what can the “lefties” achieve?
By Alex Miller
There are 28 parliamentary constituencies in the region of Greater Manchester, five of which are currently held by the Conservative party. It’s somewhat surprising therefore that the Conservatives chose Manchester to be the location of its annual Party Conference – but then again, what good is a Northern Powerhouse if not even the government will go there?
With anti-Tory sentiment rife in the area, it’s not surprising that protester numbers peaked at 60,000 people on 4 October, according to Greater Manchester Police Force.
Marching through the city towards the Manchester Central Convention Complex, the ‘leftie’ protestors (as they’ve been dubbed) united under the hashtag ‘#TakeBackMCR’, and were being led by key anti-austerity and anti-cuts activists. The march was also part of The People’s Assembly’s National Week of Action, as Trade Unions sought to block the Trade Union Bill that is currently working its way through parliament to restrict their power over workers.
Councillors for Manchester City Council, along with the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, called for “peaceful protests” before the event got underway, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Conservative delegates and journalists were spat on and had eggs thrown at them, whilst MPs entering the event were branded “Tory scum” by angry crowds.
Four people were arrested on Sunday due to the violence and Boris Johnson reacted in a typically jovial fashion by calling the protesters “a mob of assorted crusties with nose rings” (apologies to any fans of piercings reading this). Whether one hundred percent of the protestors had nose rings and were indeed crusties is yet to be clarified, but what is certain is that scuffles with the left are something the pro-austerity Conservative party are increasingly used to.
What’s most concerning to me personally is the fact that with Corbyn now the leader of the Labour party, these violent ‘lefties’, who were previously on the fringes of the party, are now surely the party’s core electorate, and therefore one of the most accurate voices of the party.
— Manchester News MEN (@MENnewsdesk)
So what can these angry protesters achieve then? Well, it has to be said that what they are protesting about are real national issues, and therefore it’s easy to find affinity with them. Deep cuts, such as the removal of all maintenance grants for less well-off students, are something that, as a student, I find outrageous, and the pressure the Conservatives are putting upon the NHS, and in particular junior doctors (who were also at the march in Manchester on Sunday) who already work hard enough, is unacceptable. The issues they raise are certainly something that as a nation we should be debating and discussing.
But that’s exactly it. We should be debating and discussing them and pressuring for change by peaceful means. The violence of the left will do nothing but achieve the opposite of what they desire. Their abusive attempts to engage in politics merely give the Conservatives something to condemn the Labour party for, and their views are ignored and marginalised.
It is worth noting that the majority of the protestors acted in a good natured manner, but of course all the headlines have been stolen by the abusive few who have done nothing but smear the image of the views they attempted to represent. There’s no place for behaviour like this in our democratic system, especially when avenues such as talking with your MP or signing a government online petition are open to all. One certain way to stop discussion and progress on issues you care about is by alienating all of those who have the power to make the change you want to happen.
Overall the abusive ‘lefties’ will achieve nothing from their actions. In reality the Conservatives won’t be swayed by protests, peaceful or otherwise, as those on the streets aren’t the voters who put them into power, and most probably won’t ever vote Conservative. So why would they extend an arm to them for very little in return? The violence expressed this weekend has the crippling effect of pushing important issues out of politics, as a policy seen to be promoted by a thuggish gang will struggle to make it into anybody’s manifesto.
The ‘lefties’ could achieve a lot of things with the socialist Corbyn now at the head of the Labour party, but, if their abusive ways continue, the policies that they hold dear will never make it onto the political agenda.