Marching against child poverty
I confess that I am a little jaded about demos. Unless you can get turn-outs the size of stop-the-war or the Countryside Alliance no-one takes a great deal of notice. Many seem to consist of a lot of the same people selling newspapers to each other, and are often a bit glum – everyone there is showing their commitment to the cause by doing something that is not much fun.
But Saturday’s End Child Poverty march was one to lift the spirits, even though it rained a bit and was certainly cold and windy. The turn-out was claimed at 10,000, and although that is a suspiciously round number, it was certainly better attended than other events making the same claim. But what marked it out was that it was not the usual suspects, but a very broad spectrum of people. My guess is that for most it was their first ever demo, which meant they didn’t know that they were not meant to enjoy themselves. There were not that many union banners but the teacher unions were certainly there.
It is also unusual to get demonstrations demanding the government do something which are attended by at least four cabinet ministers. I counted Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, James Purnell and Ed Milliband, and there may have been more. Nick Clegg and Jenny Willot from the Lib Dems were there too.
But it was also an important event. The child poverty pledges are among this government’s most radical commitments to social justice. They have made undoubted progress – though increased unemployment is not going to help – but need to do more. It is a genuinely popular pledge as the support on Saturday shows. But all governments face difficult decisions about priorities and unless the campaign continues to hold them to their promises it is easy to see the commitment slipping.
The crowd clapped and cheered all the speakers and entertainment, but they went even wilder when Brendan Barber said that if the government could find money to bail-out banks, they should be able to do find three billion pounds to halve child poverty.
ps This is our first post with photos (other than our mug shots). I do not expect that there will be that many, but when we blog events we might squeeze in a few pixels. The winner of the office caption competition for the Ed Balls photo was ‘Government minister demonstrates the principles of progressive taxation as Barbie redistribution begins.’