Watch a full-length video of the protests here.
On a welcome day of sunshine, hundreds of trade unionists, NHS campaigners , RMT and P&O strikers and disability and anti-fracking activists marched in Blackpool on Saturday 19 March. With samba band and trade union and climate banners prominent, we marched from the Comedy Carpet opposite Blackpool Tower to the Winter Gardens where the Tories were holding their spring conference.
This was a chance to protest against the Tories ruthless squeeze on livings standards and their attempt to make workers pay the cost of the Covid through a cost of living crisis. Darren Proctor of the RMT union spoke powerfully on behalf of a contingent of P& O strikers ; the RMT and now Nautilus union both in dispute with P & O Ferries since their ruthless ‘fire and hire’ and the sacking of hundreds of their workers. Darren received rapturous applause for his call for solidarity.
|Ian Hodson from BFAWU at the Saturday rally|
The rally gathered outside the Tory conference and was chaired by Lynn Goodwin , President of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Trades Council BFWTUC with speakers including the Trades Council secretary Ken Cridland and others from the various campaigns represented. Socialist Party members who spoke included Chris Baugh, Jenny Hurley, Marion Lloyd and myself.
|Pointing at the Tories in the Winter Gardens|
The TUC had called a national mobilisation outside the Tory party conference on 19 March in Blackpool. In an unfortunate impression of The Grand Old Duke of York, they decided to call it off three weeks later. But the need to protest against the Tories was as strong as ever. So through the BFWTUC, alongside Lancashire trades councils, Unite branches in the region, NHS protestors who also provided an ad-van which was driven round the town calling for opposition to the Health Care Bill, climate activists involved in the successful anti-fracking protests in the area all came together and decided the protest should go ahead.
|Marching through Blackpool on Saturday 19 March|
Blackpool is a famous destination for working class holidaymakers that has seen gradual economic decline from the seventies onwards. A 2019 government report showed eight of the ten poorest neighbourhoods in England are in the town of Blackpool. With Middlesbrough, Blackpool has the highest level of child poverty. Yet in the past decade a massive £180 million has been cut from the Blackpool council budget.
|Sacked P&O workers on the march|
Austerity in the form of deep cuts in health, local government and civil service jobs, combined with the vigorous enforcement of DWP sanctions policy, has had a devastating effect, particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable families in Blackpool.
The TUC were wrong to cancel the demonstration. The protest defied the most optimistic expectations and had an impact not seen in Blackpool for many years. While it has helped build support for trade unionism , a living wage of £15 an hour and the fight for climate jobs rather than any renewed attempts to start fracking, the protest confirmed the need for the TUC to call for mass protests around the March/Demo they have called for 18 June.