1 000s rally against UK austerity drive

2012-10-20 18:03
Demonstrators take part in an anti-austerity protest march entitled "a future that works" through central London. (Alastair Grant, AP)

Demonstrators take part in an anti-austerity protest march entitled "a future that works" through central London. (Alastair Grant, AP)

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London - Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London and other British cities on Saturday in protest against government spending cuts, with union leaders expected to call for a general strike.

Marchers carried signs reading "No cuts" and "Cameron has butchered Britain", condemning the austerity measures introduced by Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government in a bid to reduce Britain's huge deficit.

"This is not a crisis that is going to sort itself out through cuts," 19-year-old protester Jonathan told AFP.

"We've had a double-dip recession now, and we are here today to show we are not going to stand it any longer."

Britain climbed out of a deep economic downturn in late 2009 but fell back into recession at the end of 2011.

Protesters paused to boo at Cameron's Downing Street residence, and shouted "Pay your taxes!" at a Starbucks coffee shop.

Starbucks was embroiled in a row this week after it was reported that the US giant paid just 8.6 million ($13.8m) in British corporation tax over 14 years.

At a huge rally in Hyde Park at the end of the march, opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband attacked Cameron for "cutting too far and too fast".

"He clings to an economic plan that isn't working," Miliband told protesters. "Self-defeating austerity is not the answer."

"Austerity isn't working"

But Miliband was booed by the crowd when he said that any government in power at the moment would have to make some spending cuts.

"There will still be hard choices," he said. "I do not promise easy times."

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress umbrella body, said the cuts were "hammering the poorest and the most vulnerable".

"We have a stark and united message for the government," he was due to tell the Hyde Park rally.

"Austerity isn't working. It is hitting our jobs, our services, our living standards."

His speech added: "Ministers told us that if we only accept the pain, recovery would come. Instead we have been mired in a double dip recession."

Dave Prentis, leader of Britain's biggest public sector trade union Unison, said government cuts were pushing hundreds of thousands of state employees out of work.

"We are here for the millions of people who don't have a voice," he said. "We just can't take any more."

But Cameron, whose Conservative Party shares power with the centrist Liberal Democrats, insisted that that spending cuts were needed to balance Britain's budget.

"Today Ed Miliband is headlining a rally calling for an end to every single spending cut needed to clear the deficit," he said in a message posted on his Twitter account.

London's Metropolitan Police did not provide an estimate for the number of demonstrators, but the TUC expected tens of thousands of people to join the 4.8km march.

Scottish police said about 5 000 people took part in the Glasgow protest.

Read more on:    david cameron  |  uk
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