Thousands protest in London against austerity, PM

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LONDON: Thousands of people marched through London on Saturday to protest over austerity and demand Prime Minister Theresa May’s government resign after its disastrous showing in last month’s election.

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Demonstrators converged in front of the BBC headquarters in central London to demand an end to belt-tightening that has led to cuts in spending for public services.

Many brandished signs and placards reading: “No More Austerity”, “Cuts Cost Lives” and “Tories Out.”

After holding a minute’s silence in honour of the victims of a deadly fire in London, which killed at least 80 people, and staging a round of applause for the emergency services, protesters headed towards Parliament Square.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn (C) is mobbed after speaking to protestors in Parliament square during an anti-austerity demonstration on July 1, 2017 in London. AFP PHOTO

Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn took to the stage to blast the Conservatives’ spending programme, describing it as “brutal and selective to the poorest people and the poorest parts of our community”.

“The Tories are in retreat, austerity is in retreat, the economic arguments of austerity are in retreat,” he added.

The union-backed march was organised a day after the June 14 Grenfell Tower inferno in west London.

An investigation into the fire is under way, but critics blame lax standards and cost-cutting, which they say is a consequence of austerity.

Austerity concerns
The prime minister, who lost her parliamentary majority in last month’s snap election, narrowly survived a confidence vote on Thursday thanks to the support of Northern Ireland’s small DUP party.

Their deal has been attacked by both Labour and some of May’s own Conservative MPs, in part because the DUP secured an extra billion pounds (1.1 billion euros/$1.3 billion) in state aid for Northern Ireland.

A day earlier, the government had also narrowly voted down a Labour Party amendment to its legislative programme — known as the Queen’s Speech — calling for an end to a six-year cap on public sector pay.

Funding for public services — from the National Health Service (NHS) to police and fire personnel — has taken an increasingly emotive tone in the UK after the country was struck by three terror attacks, followed by the deadly tower blaze.

Government officials have indicated they may review spending policies, reflecting concern among Conservative MPs about continued austerity.

May’s alliance with the ultra-conservative DUP has also raised concerns across Britain because of the party’s stance on same-sex marriage and abortion.

The DUP’s opposition to same-sex marriage makes Northern Ireland the only part of the UK and Ireland where homosexual marriage is not allowed by law, despite widespread public support.

AFP

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