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So, was the Rally Against Debt a success?

A mixed response, as you would expect, to yesterday's Rally Against Debt.

According to one blogger:

The left said they couldn’t organise a piss up in a posh wine bar. They were right. Today’s Rally Against The Cuts gig was a wash out.

300 was the honest estimate, despite Guido Fawkes’ talk of 500. Toby Young decided on taking his children to see some pirates and I’m sure many on the “rally” would now see sense in his decision.

Another wrote:

The ‘Rally against Debt’, which was launched with a fanfare as the response of the ‘silent majority’ to the TUC demonstration of over 500,000, was a pathetic event.

Those who were actually there saw it rather differently. James Worron, for whom Saturday was his first ever demonstration, wrote:

I arrived and the crowd was indeed a little small, but there was a good vibe, and some people I knew. I probably wasn’t the only one there who hadn’t been on a demo before. There was a vague uncertainty about what to do. We didn’t march anywhere, and attempts to start chanting got nowhere.

Still the crowd was eclectic and lively. Harry Cole put a Chihuahua in his jacket. A girl’s placard asked George [Osborne] for “more, faster, deeper,” someone else had a “Hayek is my homeboy” t-shirt. It was also good natured, two left-wing counter-protestors trying to get a “Libraries Suck” counter-placard in the photo were seen off with good humour all round.

Simon Richards, director of The Freedom Association, wrote:

"Yesterday's Rally Against Debt was just one small, early, but significant sign that even the excessive patience of the silent majority is, at long last, starting to run out."

As someone who was also there, I thought it was a pretty decent effort. There were more than enough people (and press photographers) to make you feel you were part of an 'event'.

I counted eight speakers. Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs and Matthew Sinclair of the TaxPayers' Alliance provided the necessary gravitas, but documentary film maker Martin Durkin was perhaps the pick of the bunch. His speech rivalled Nigel Farage's for laughs and his enthusiasm was equally infectious.

Compared to the TUC's Alternative March the turnout may have been small, but what did people expect? Unlike the union-sponsored event, Rally Against Debt didn't have a penny to its name when the idea was promoted on Facebook a few weeks ago. Bar some logistical support from the TaxPayers' Alliance, I don't think much changed, financially, ahead of yesterday's event.

Media-wise, however, Rally Against Debt was a success, punching well above its weight. "Is that a protest or a bus queue?" sneered one left-wing blogger, but online you will find a string of reports – in the Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Mail. BBC News features a report and even a video. You can't buy that sort of coverage (and I should know!).

Compare the coverage of Saturday's rally with a similar event organised by the I Want A Referendum campaign in 2008. Publicised over many months and executed brilliantly on the day, the I Want A Referendum lobby of parliament attracted almost 3,000 people to Westminster but was largely ignored by the mainstream media.

Check the reports of yesterday's rally and you'll see a wall of banners, most of them homemade. Images are often more important than words and the message is clear – this was a genuine grassroots event featuring people of all ages.

Some media commentators have tried to portray Rally Against Debt as a bunch of toffs but that wasn't my experience. True, it was a very Middle England sort of crowd, but does that make us toffs? Only the left could portray Britain's national debt crisis as a class war.

Rally Against Debt started on Facebook and, it could be argued, would not have happened without it. As a campaign tool, however, it's a mixed blessing.

It is frustrating, for example, when 1,900 people indicate that they will attend an event like this and only a fraction of them bother to do so. It confirms, to me at least, that Facebook is an additional campaign tool, but one that flatters to deceive.

Anyway, those of us who made the effort to attend the first Rally Against Debt enjoyed a good-humoured protest that didn't overstay its welcome. Some critics have highlighted the fact that we drifted away before the end of our allotted time but the blessedly short speeches had finished so what were we supposed to do? Chant inane slogans? Riot?

We convened, we made our point, and then we made a beeline for the pub. Isn't that what normal people do? (Personally I would have liked to march en masse to Fortnum & Mason for afternoon tea but the great food emporium may have feared the worst had we all arrived together.)

Yesterday's event won't change the world but if you support the sentiments behind Rally Against Debt it was far, far better than sitting on your backside at home. Congratulations to everyone involved.

See also: We rallied against the debt (Guido Fawkes)
We rallied against debt (TaxPayers Alliance)
Rally Against Debt - what impact will it have? (Platform 10)

H/T Photo courtesy Simon Richards (The Freedom Association)

Update: Thanks for coming (Rally Against Debt)
That Rally Against Debt (Devil's Kitchen)

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Reader Comments (12)

I have a bit of a hangover today as the Westminster Arms' afternoon gathering went on for a long time. There may not have been the numbers the TUC march attracted but Mark Littlewood of the IEA mentioned an ICM poll published in the Guardian and I quote: "Despite Saturday's protest march in London, public tolerance of cuts seems to be sustained. Only 35% think the plans go too far – a 10-point drop since ICM asked the question in November. Meanwhile 28% think the government has found the right balance and 29% say the cuts are not severe enough. That amounts to 57% support for current cuts or more."

So the 350 odd people do represent 57% of the population and indeed are a silent majority.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 21:21 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Here's my take on it - those attacking the day have been vastly instrumental in publicising it. If I was part of the TPA I'd be ecstatic.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 21:56 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

Surely your established method of establishing numbers is by looking at the photographs. On that basis it appears there were only 22 of you.

Hope you had a good day out though, it looked fun.

Shame you didn't do it a few days earlier and you could have convinced the sick and disabled crew of whingers/benefit cheats that the cuts are a wholly good thing.

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 0:38 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

It is sad that politicians and the MSM regard sheer numbers as important. What should be important is the force of the argument. Frankly. in an ideal society, there ought not to be any need for rallies. The force of the argument should be the important thing. Thus, it matters not how many people attend a rally the purpose of which is to demand recognition that the Earth is flat. Either the Earth is flat or it is not. The number of people attending such a rally is of no importance whatsoever.

I do not think that many people, even the cleverest, understand Government debt. Once upon a time, I think that I did. Essentially, lots of people put their savings into the Post Office, or into Trustee Saving Bank Accounts. This money was thus made available to the Gov to 'invest' as it thought fit. The Gov paid a rate of interest on this money. How did the Gov 'earn' the money to pay the interest? The fact is that any such thoughts were meaningless. At its simplest, inflation paid the interest.

I think that THE PEOPLE as a whole are deliberately being kept in the dark about national financial realities. Actually, the big scenario is very simple. Think about THE BUDGET. If you listen carefully, you find that the Chancellor is talking about simple numbers, except that the numbers are in billions. So, it is 20 (billion) here and 10 (billion) there and 50 (billion) elsewhere. Simple mathematics.

The Rally Against Debt was a worthy event. Numbers are unimportant. But it makes no sense just to rally against debt. The important thing is 'where is the money being spent?' People should be demanding to know where their money is being spent. The Politicians will do ANYTHING to avoid this question. They will lie and cheat and even kill to avoid this question.

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 1:05 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Junican -

Sad to say, the power of reason - in our image-hungry age - is puny and weak in comparison with the power of pictures (especially since it requires less energy to look than to think).

And it's not just the politicians who are to blame. If I were to charge 25% on private loans in the neighbourhood, many would accuse me of loan-sharkery.

But when a multi-billion dollar corporation issues a piece of plastic on the same terms - it's called 'credit'.

I've never quite understood that one.

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 12:04 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V


It's also about time we had some new slogans - especially in the area of finance and debt.

How about:

'Governments Are Gangsters' ?

It also has the merit of being largely true. As to the 'plus' points, we should never forget that Al Capone also 'did a lot of good' in the Community, too. Luckily, he didn't have the power to levy taxes from those he claimed to have benefited !

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 12:16 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

"Shame you didn't do it a few days earlier and you could have convinced the sick and disabled crew of whingers/benefit cheats..."

You forgot 'army of bussed-in carers and other hangers-on in the disability industry/unions'...

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 19:04 | Unregistered CommenterJuliaM


When was the last time MPs voted themselves a pay-cut ?

Nothing like setting a good example to the proles - especially when we're 'All in this together' (per D Cameron Esq).

Nah - it'd probably be decried as a publicity stunt, and we know how much politicians hate such things.

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 19:54 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I am going to be a little playful, if I may.

Was the rally a success?

How can one know? 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating'. Only if the rally actually produces real results will it be recognised as successful.

This is the difference between the real world and the dream world. In the dream world, success is number of mentions in the MSM. In the real world, success is change/continuation in Gov policy.

Of course, it is difficult to know whether or not the rally has been successful. Oh dear! notice the 'has been'!. Thus, "YES", the rally was successful, if the object of the exercise was to gain MSM column inches. But 'has the rally been successful' in terms of affecting Gov policy? That we cannot know, at least for the time being.

I trust that there is nothing wrong with a bit of reality. Isn't reality the problem in the Smoking Ban? For its evidence, the Smoking Ban relies upon 'putative and futuristic' evidence of harm. It has no content of 'actual and immediate'.

There is no doubt that our pubs are collapsing. My two locals are very definitely heading towards 'eatery' status. They want to cease to be pubs. They do not want smokers or, indeed, drinkers. They want eaters. Suit themselves, but the fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of such establishments, and all that they are doing is competing for the same customer base. They will fail, because there are simply not that many people who turn out for a meal, except for special events. Not in this area of the Country, anyway. But, because of the smoking ban, there is almost no possibility of new 'pubs' (in the sense of places to go to meet and talk) opening.

The good thing, and the successful thing, about the rally was that it brought out into the open the reality that there are many people who are worried about the way in which Government is splurging our money all over the place. The horror is that the Gov, being just politicians, is not in control of events at all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 2:44 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

I am surprised at you Martin, surly you remember one of the first things David Cameron did when he came to power last May, was to award "all" ministers, including himself, a 5% pay cut. Not a lot I know, but a 100% more than Labour ever did in 13 years!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 10:00 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Peter -

Naturally, I bow my head in shame.

Mind you, if I were the partner to a £30 million fortune (as Cameron is alleged to be), I'd be embarrassed to take any salary at all: Noblesse oblige/the privilege of leading This Great Nation etc etc.

How much did Churchill get paid ?

And Maggie took a 50% pay 'cut', as I recall (much to the chagrin of her Ministers).

Yes - better-than-Labour, I agree - but that ain't saying much, really. And I'm sure he'll make up for it in other ways, once he's made further progress with the ruination of our country begun by Wilson/Heath, and accelerated by Blair/Brown. He's still learning, after all - poor chap.

Sorry, Mate - not impressed (God - but I've a hard heart at times) !!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 11:55 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Peter -

BTW - you're not STILL buying the 'Conservative-versus-Labour' scam, surely ? I'd have thought that by now - with the Everest of evidence before you - even you (loyal chap that you undoubtedly are) would have cottoned on at long last.

Your loyalties (like the Country) deserve something better. Much better

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 14:17 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

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