Tens of thousands of people are expected at the Tories Out demo in London this weekend
THE head of a delegation of Unison representatives from Glasgow has called on police officers to join forces with trade unionists at the Tories Out demo in London this weekend in opposition to service cuts.
Headed by co-convener of the social work branch, Stuart Graham, the Unison delegation will join demonstrators – expected in their tens of thousands – after calls from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to take to the streets of the capital in the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government losing its majority after the General Election on 8 June.
Following McDonnell’s call, The People’s Assembly organised the demonstration and contacted the trade unions in a bid to overthrow the Tory/DUP coalition government.
Speaking to CommonSpace, Graham called on police officers in the area to join with protesters in opposition to the kinds of cuts recently slammed by politicians in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
“I don’t think that the police should see themselves as being in opposition to the public in this (demo),” he said. “I think the police should see themselves on the same side as the public.
“How that then pans out on the day will obviously depend on how peaceful it is and the assessment of it.”
Police Federation leader Steve White said the introduction of troops on the streets following the Manchester Arena bombing in May was evidence that the police “simply to not have the resources to manage an event like this on our own”. Around 20,000 police officers have been cut under the Tories since 2010.
“People need to be willing to stand alongside everyone across the country to voice their opposition to what’s currently in place,” Graham went on.
“It’s not about wrecking the place and it’s not about being violent, but it’s about making sure that, if you’re going to come into confrontation with political establishment, that it understands your message and why you are doing it. But also, that the wider public understand why you’re doing it.”
Graham decided to organisation the Glasgow delegation to the demo after reports of high expectations at the union’s recent conference.
“The Unison national conference was on last week down in Brighton, I wasn’t there but other officers and stewards from within the branch went down and the feedback that they were providing while they were down there was that there was a significant buzz around, not just our branch, but all the Unison branches actually turning up to support this demonstration in numbers,” he said.
“The branches were encouraging other branches who maybe hadn’t been as involved in the process to get the numbers together and to get delegations together to get down and support this (demo) in London because, let’s face it, the Tories are no friends of the trade union movement – they have been actively attacking the trade union movement.”
Graham added that the relationship between trade unions and the Labour party showed signs of potential improvement under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but warned that their may still be some residual conflict over long term political direction.
“I don’t think that the police should see themselves as being in opposition to the public in this (demo). I think the police should see themselves on the same side as the public.” Stuart Graham, Unison
“Corbyn has come about and now all of a sudden you have a lot of trade unions that [had previously] disaffiliated from the Labour party – I mean, I’ve been reading things like the RMT are wanting to re-affiliate to the Labour party because they now feel as if they have some kind of representation.
“But the problem then with that is how many of these are genuine supporters of Corbyn and supporters of leftwing politics and how many of them are just on the bandwagon and are still Blairites?
“So, you’ve got a combination of the fight that you need to have within the labour movement – well, maybe it’s not so much a fight, but the clearing out of the parasites, of the backstabbers and clearing out of the rightwingers from within the trade union movement.”
In addition to the cuts to public services and a weakened administration in government, Graham believes the decision to form a coalition with the DUP has not only left May in the unionist party’s grasp, but he also knows first-hand how the deal could potentially put Northern Ireland’s peace process in jeopardy.
41-year-old Graham grew up in the protestant stronghold of North Down during the height of the Troubles and spoke of how perilous the situation in his native land could become as a consequence of the deal.
“People need to be willing to stand alongside everyone across the country to voice their opposition to what’s currently in place.” Stuart Graham, Unison
He said: “I’ve seen what the DUP is all about. I have very real concerns about what this (coalition) means for the peace process in Northern Ireland because I genuinely think the message, and the vibes that are coming out from the Sinn Féin MPs – and let’s not delude ourselves, Sinn Féin are not going to take their seats up – so the other side (SF) in Northern Ireland are quite clearly saying that this is quite clearly putting everything at risk because of the levels of impartiality that can no longer be maintained by the British government.
“There’s a particularly callous disregard for how this is going to impact upon Northern Ireland. Whether it actually reverts to the levels of violence when I was growing up I don’t know – I really, really hope not. But that seems like a gamble that the Tory administration is quite happy to take. They’re quite happy to put it at risk because they don’t see it on a day-to-day basis.
“The divisions in Northern Ireland are still quite stark. I’ve been watching programmes about abuse of prescription medication in Northern Ireland and the amount of people who are messed up by prescription medication due to their previous involvement in the Troubles. They have paranoia and can’t feel safe anymore so they try to remove themselves from that.
“So, if the troubles kick off again, then not only do you have that generation of people who will become more vulnerable because of what’s going to end up happening, but then you have a new generation coming through who want to prove themselves.
“Given the way that groups such as the Continuity IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries haven’t paid respect or adhered to the peace agreements and the ceasefire agreements, they’re looking to prove themselves and this just paves the way for more extreme levels of violence that nobody wants to return to.
“It’s not about wrecking the place and it’s not about being violent, but it’s about making sure that, if you’re going to come into confrontation with political establishment, that it understands your message.” Stuart Graham, Unison
Graham went on: “It’s a power grab and that’s it. They’ve [the Tories] been banging on about strong and stable in the national interest – nothing they’re doing is in the national interest at the minute.
“They’re now having to be held to ransom, to a certain extent, by the DUP. How can that, in any way, give people confidence that this government is going to do anything in the national interest? It’s not, it’s going to be balanced towards the interests of the loyalist communities in Northern Ireland.”
Picture courtesy of Pedro Figueiredo
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