Lower Than Vermin

Posted on October 4, 2011 by | 7 Comments

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Die, die, die!

This was one of the most enthusiastic chants I heard outside the Tory party conference on Sunday; two decades later, protesters in Manchester haven’t forgotten what happened under the governments of the 80s and 90s. But then Manchester has a very long history of resisting Tory policies, and to some people, the presence of so many visiting Conservative Party members in their city feels like a calculated insult. Manchester was the site of the Peterloo Massacre, home of the Chartists and has strong associations with the campaign for women’s suffrage. Today, there isn’t a single Conservative on the local council. The city is firmly rooted in the Left, and when add in the savage cuts that the coalition government have recently imposed on Manchester, it’s easy to see why the distinctive blue lanyards given out to conference attendees have been attracting so much verbal abuse.

On Sunday, the Tory conference was literally under siege. When we arrived, streets near the city centre had already been blocked off by solid metal police barricades – draped with “I (heart) MCR” banners in an attempt to make them look less threatening – while the main conference venue and hotel had been encircled by several layers of fences and police lines to keep the public out. When the shout went up that there were police snipers posted on a roof behind us, there were a few moments of nervous silence, followed by muttered indignation, before about a hundred people turned round to extend Vs and middle fingers to the men with guns and binoculars.

Although the MPs and party officials were hidden away from the trade unionists, students, and local families who had turned up to heckle them, the fact that their conference needed such heavy security is a bad sign for the Conservatives. This is a party which was elected to government by the support of only 36% of voters, and those fences showed just how precarious a hold they have on power. A government which has the consent of the people shouldn’t need riot police to keep 35,000 angry citizens away from their door. As the crowd chanted on Sunday: that’s not what democracy looks like.

The Conservative Party have always inspired strong feelings amongst the Left. In the words of Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS: “No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” As I write this, somewhere in Manchester there is a Tory sipping a drink that has been spat in. Millions of people already hate the Tories’ selfish, individualistic ideology, and they don’t care who knows it. It’s not a mass movement yet, but it’s start.

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7 Responses to “Lower Than Vermin”

  1. Joseph RitchieNo Gravatar
    October 5th, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    Good piece. I totally agree. I was at the protest on Sunday and the hatred was just palpable. Personally, my favourite chant was: “We are the working class/We are here to kick your arse”.

  2. AlysonNo Gravatar
    October 5th, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    Ohh, that’s new one for me, probably because “class” and “arse” don’t really rhyme in a Scottish accent. I still like it though.

  3. Accelorata JengoldNo Gravatar
    October 6th, 2011 @ 9:08 am

    “We are the working class”?

    I bet you aren’t.

    Class and arse have never rhymed in Manchester

  4. Liam StarkeyNo Gravatar
    October 6th, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    I am not a fan of the Tories either but I think it is misleading to portray this particular conference as having extra security. I have lived in Manchester for 7 years and when the Labour party uses Manchester for its conference there seems to be an equal amount of security i.e. ring of steel, streets blocked off, Midland Hotel behind railings, police everywhere. I think its misleading to portray this as just a Tory thing.

    Also it may be true that Manchester is very Labour dominated (would you still call Labout ‘the left?’ but go out to the suburbs of Trafford and it is true blue Tory country.

  5. Alyson MacdonaldNo Gravatar
    October 6th, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

    Liam – This is the only party conference I’ve ever seen, so I couldn’t comment on the level of security that other parties have (although I don’t think it’s useful for any political event to take place behind multiple police lines). The only point of reference I have is the Scottish Parliament, which has considerably less security – even last December, when parliament was in session and there were a few hundred angry students outside, chanting and throwing snowballs at the building, there were no physical barriers, and only a handful of police.

    Regardless of the party involved, I just think it’s wrong for politics to be separated from ordinary people in such an extreme way.

  6. Liam StarkeyNo Gravatar
    October 7th, 2011 @ 12:17 am

    No I agree Alyson. I went to St Peter’s Square near the Midland, The Library and Starbucks on Tuesday just to see what the atmosphere was like. I spotted the Daily Mail Columnist Melanie Phillips and a few other notable people (I hate her politics by the way). When I was there seeing all the barriers my thought was the same as yours. How can this be democracy with all this security and barriers and so on. It just doesn’t make sense.

    I just thinking its twisting the facts to suit a narrative to portray this as unique to the Tory conference. When Labour were here last year it was (superficially at least) exactly the same with pretty much the same fences, barriers, police, security, helicopters etc…

    I know some Lib Dems who had to produce either a passport or driving licence (which not everyone possesses) to gain entry to their conference (I wasn’t in Birmingham so I can’t say first hand wether security was tight or not.

    I think all the three main parties are pretty much ‘security-fied’ when it comes to conferences. Sad but true.

  7. Liam StarkeyNo Gravatar
    October 7th, 2011 @ 12:23 am

    I think Labour were here 2 years ago. It all blends into one for me.