LONDON (Dispatches) -- Thousands of demonstrators have marched on Parliament Square in London demanding the government take action to help Brits survive the worst cost of living crisis in more than 40 years.
Protesters travelled to the capital from around the UK, with hundreds of coaches booked to transport them. One said the march “seems to go on for miles”.
Banners reading “cut war not welfare” and “end fuel poverty, insulate homes now” were carried by some taking part in the march.
Saleyha Ahsan, an NHS doctor and representative from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, criticized the Government for not yet setting up an inquiry into the pandemic as she spoke to the crowds gathered at Parliament Square.
She also took aim the Government’s overall response, including the Partygate revelations, saying the social gatherings in Downing Street happened at the same time her father was ill in hospital.
“They threw up from too much booze, the rest of us prayed for our loved ones fighting to live, fighting to breathe,” she said.
A delegation from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) carried a banner saying “defend rail”.
RMT has come under fire from the Tories as it was confirmed this morning that 40,000 union members will be walking off the job next week in what’s expected to be the biggest rail strike in modern history.
Tube and rail workers are striking for better pay and conditions after discussions with Network Rail, train operators and London Underground broke down.
Teacher Nowrujee, 34, brought her three-year-old to the protest. She said: “It’s a no-brainer to be here today. We want more. It’s going to get worse and there’s no political consensus about what to do and the Labour party are weak. We care about people who are struggling.”
Crowds blew whistles and let off smoke guns as they marched, with chants including “the system’s broken, time to fight, workers of the world unite”.
Protesters have also used the march to criticize the controversial Police and Crime Bill, which they fear could limit such demonstrations in future.
Signs and banners at the London event reading “Nurses not nukes”, “Don’t get angry, get active” and “Free Assange” could be seen.
In Ireland, thousands of people took part in protests across the country about the cost of living.
Trade unions, political parties and a number of other interest groups came together to organize the Cost of Living Coalition demonstrations in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Sligo.
People from across the generations took part in the demonstrations and spoke of the pressures they face from rising prices.
Those on pensions said their income is no longer stretching far enough, while younger people spoke of their inability to afford rent or get a mortgage.
Others spoke of the day-to-day struggles that the increased costs of food and fuel are putting on their personal finances.
Helen Carroll, from Dublin, said that she is currently living in a cabin in the back of her partner’s parents house because they cannot afford to pay rent and are saving to buy a house
Bernie Logan, from Tallaght, said she was attending the protest because of the impact inflation is having on her children’s lives and her own.
“My husband is 70 and he’s still working. He can’t stop at the moment because if he stops we know that that’s going to be very difficult to live.”
Conor Reddy, a PHD student working in Trinity College Dublin, said the basics are becoming a struggle.
“We’re on very low wage and at same time we’re trying to keep up with the cost of living. With paying rent and running cars and I guess just trying to have a dignified existence is becoming very, very difficult.”
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald said that people cannot wait until October for measures to help ease the impact of the cost of living and called for an emergency budget before the autumn.
“We’re not asking them to chase inflation. We’re asking them to recognize that people are struggling to put fuel in their car, to keep the lights on and to put food on the table, so there has to be a Government response to that.”
The UK has been facing the worst cost of living crisis in over 40 years as inflation rockets and wages decline.
In April, inflation hit a high of 9% and at the same time the energy price cap increased by 54%, water bills rose by an average of 1.7% and National Insurance rose by 1.25%.
The prices of food are also rising, with Which? revealing last month that grocery inflation was 3.14% on average, but some of the most popular supermarket foods had seen a price hike of over 20%.
The rising costs have had devastating