Norfolk councillor alleges he was attacked outside Conservative party conference
PUBLISHED: 22:08 04 October 2015 | UPDATED: 22:35 04 October 2015
A Norfolk borough councillor has alleged he was attacked while leaving the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
Tens of thousands of activists – including from our region – marched in Manchester in protest at government policies as the Conservative Party began its annual conference.
Up to 85,000 people are claimed to have joined the demonstration on issues such as austerity, spending and benefit cuts, NHS reforms and restrictions on trade union strike activity.
But there were two arrests, including one man for allegedly spitting at a journalist. A smartly-dressed Tory conference-goer was also hit by an egg as the demonstration made its way through the city centre.
And Thomas Smith, who represents Gaywood North Bank ward, said he had been punched while leaving the conference.
Mr Smith, who lives in King’s Lynn, said: “I was walking out of the conference and had taken off my pass, like the police had told us to do.
“A random person suddenly jumped on my back and then I was punched in the face. It was rather ghastly.
“There were police at the bottom of the street and I managed to get down to them. They said there is CCTV and there were two witnesses, so they should be able to take action.
“I got checked out by a police medic and taken back to my hotel. I’m a bit shaken, but I’m staying for the rest of the conference.”
Mr Smith said: “I just don’t understand what sort of person would do such a thing.”
For the protest, coaches were laid on from a number of towns and cities, including Norwich, Peterborough and King’s Lynn.
About 25 activists travelled on a coach organised by the King’s Lynn and District Trades Council.
Charlotte Wilson, 17, who was part of the group, said that it was right for young people to get involved and stand up for their rights “being taken away” by the government.
Jo Rust, who stood as the Labour candidate in North-West Norfolk at the last election, said they were heading for an “elected dictatorship”.
“We must make it clear that we do not consent to the withdrawal of our rights, cuts to those in need and the slashing of services,” she added.
Union leaders and officials from campaign groups including CND also addressed a rally in the city centre before leading the procession.
Singer Billy Bragg warmed up the growing crowd with a set on stage, changing the lyrics to his best-known songs to add topical references such as “take the money from Trident and spend it on the NHS” and “these Tory cuts will get me the sack”.
A variety of slogans featured on mass-produced and home-made placards, including Cut War Not Welfare, Don’t Bomb Syria, No Cuts and Divine Discontent, Divine Disobedience.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey told the rally the protest was “sending a very clear message to this Tory government” that it faced a fightback.