"We cannot afford to have five more years of the Conservative Party...We cannot afford five more minutes of the Conservative Party..."
Tonight the steps of GMex, or Manchester Central Convention Centre, were piled up with food collected from Salford City UNISON, Hulme Labour Party and from Christmas Market traders, in a kind of symbolic statement on the state of Tory Britain the night before the latest budget.
The bags and boxes will be distributed to foodbanks across the area but Penny Hicks, from the Manchester People's Assembly, told a pre-budget rally; "It's a disgrace that we have to bring food out a few weeks before Christmas to feed families who are working, who are unemployed, who are homeless because of our so-called benefit system...We're here to protest against austerity."
In another symbolic act at the scene of the Conservative Party Conference a few months ago, people brought glo-sticks and torches to 'shine a light on Tory failure'.
Opening speaker, Manchester Cathedral's Canon David Holgate, called upon the Government to "re-order its priorities in favour of mercy and inclusion...a welfare state believes that when a people are well cared for the nation flourishes..."
Many of the angry speeches went much further with calls to bring down the Government... Alex Davidson, President of Manchester Trades Council, talked of the "cruel and arrogant" Tory Government which "wants to put the moral responsibility onto those who get hit by the system, not those who run it...
"We as trade unionists have got to say 'No, we are not going to accept your continued attempt to grind people down to nothing, to use the benefit system to try and force and terrorise people into whatever low paid work happens to be available'" he added "We stand for a different and better society.
"We cannot afford to have five more years of the Conservative Party" he insisted "We cannot afford five more minutes of the Conservative Party...Let's bring them down..."
Davidson finished his speech by urging people to support strikes, including the ongoing bitter dispute by First Bus drivers, who have announced a further three days of industrial action from next week.
Explaining why they are on strike, Unite trade union members explained that First Bus drivers working in the south of the city are earning up to £95 less than their colleagues from the north for exactly the same work in what is a "horrendous disparity".
They added that First Bus bosses say they cannot afford to honour a pay parity agreement that dates back five years, despite the company making £339million profit last year. In the final insult, the company is bringing in well paid managers from all over the country, they said, to try and break the dispute. They called on people to boycott First Buses until further notice.
The Labour Party was well represented at the rally, with Executive Members of Manchester City Council, Bev Craig and Pat Karney speaking on the platform. Councillor Craig talked of "ideologically driven" austerity "where public services are on their knees, where people are going to bed hungry and without homes".
Meanwhile, Councillor Karney said that the Tory Government "has waged war against public services in this city" that are "at breaking point"...
"The message tonight is want all people in Manchester to join the resistance against the Tories" he added "Every day the Tories are in power is a damaging day for the people of this city. We've got to kick these Tories out and we need a radical socialist Labour Government under Jeremy Corbyn that, from day one, gets rid of Universal Credit and the cuts to the welfare state; gets rid of the cuts in council services and the NHS, and gets rid of and sorts out homelessness in this city..."
The evening started with a Ewan MacColl rebel song by musician Tom Long. And Julie Hesmondhalgh, who was unable to attend, sent a message that summed up the feelings, condemning the "Unspeakable acts of injustice being meted out against the most vulnerable in our society...
"This Government relies on us being too exhausted and beleaguered to stand up again and again, to shine a light on policies that are literally killing and starving our people" she added "But they have underestimated us, our righteous anger, our outrage, our indefatigable spirit, our empathy, our energy, our solidarity, our determination, our hope for a better and fairer society.
"This is never going to happen under this Government" she concluded "And they've got to go..."
See also previous Salford Star article – Christmas Shopper Horror as 'Theresa May' Budget to Tax Rain, Small Children and Puppies – click here