So, was the Rally Against Debt a success?
Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 19:32
Simon Clark

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)

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (
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