Between 100 and 150 people turned out to welcome David Cameron at the Shine centre in Harehills yesterday (an entrepreneurial safe-haven in one of Britain’s poorest areas) where he was giving a talk on family values. Not a bad number considering word of his visit had only got out the previous evening and we’d more or less all got together via an extended network of social contacts.
The protest was more or less peaceful (with no arrests or injuries as far as I know) and a fairly heavy police presence limited our options with so little time to prepare. Insults and eggs were hurled (the latter with the strange but inspired war-cry of ‘Egg-nog bastards!’), all the old standards were chanted, and the Greggs next door but one did a roaring trade in mince pies. An attempt by a woman with a megaphone and a bundle of papers to reduce the focus of the demo to one of student fees was met with bewilderment and certainly served to alienate passers by who would otherwise have had every reason to join in. Many felt this was a clear misjudgment of a crowd that seemed largely to be made up of local residents although there were of course many there from further afield (including, I’m sure, plenty of students). The same woman’s completely serious, amplified claim that the coalition government wanted to ‘literally slash our lives’ also helped to lift our spirits on such a cold day. At some point Cameron scuttled through a side-exit out of view so it’s difficult to know how long we were standing there after he’d left. Some fancied they saw his swollen, pink face peering through the back window of a four-wheel drive as it passed, though it may merely have been a reflection of a child’s balloon being held in the crowd.
Afterwards I returned to the crèche that had been set up so that those of us who have kids and live in the area could attend the demo, and then with others watched in amusement as some of the most friendly and likeable of our neighbours passed by with placards bearing legends such as ‘scumbag’ and ‘wanker’, drank a toast to those who went down to London the day before, and watched our children play pirates