New government, same message on Palestine in London on Saturday

Tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets of London on Saturday to tell the new government to stop supporting Israel and its genocidal assault on Gaza.

New foreign secretary David Lammy said on Friday, “The job now is to get to work with tireless diplomacy to support an immediate ceasefire and move towards getting those hostages out.”

This won’t mean a break from lining up with imperialism. Lammy added, “I will do all I can diplomatically to support Joe Biden in bringing about that ceasefire.”

On the demonstration, Tom, an NHS worker from Nottingham, said, “The Tories are out but we need to keep going, get bigger and get stronger. That’s the only way to pressure the Starmer government to act.

“Just because there’s a change in government the Palestine movement isn’t going away,” he said.

And Tom slammed trade union leaders, saying, “When trade union leaders say we need to give Starmer time I think it’s a load of rubbish.”

Marcher Liam said, “There’s no way I wouldn’t be here, regardless of the election outcome. For me this is the most important issue of our generation.

“It wasn’t voting that made me feel like I could impact what’s happening in Gaza,” he added. 

“We can’t leave it to people in parliament to raise the question of Palestine. We have to do that.”

Protester Lily said, “There are some good people in the Labour Party but the majority doesn’t care about what we want.

“Even if the Greens had won, I’d still be out protesting. Nothing has changed in Gaza, so why should anyone stop protesting? How else can we try to change things?”

A feeder march of around 1,000 people from the Marxism Festival brought extra energy to the march.

A student from the Queen Mary university encampment said, “Keir Starmer is not with Palestine so we are not happy. We must keep protesting and show that we are not with Labour. We need to keep on the pressure to stop the genocide and the apartheid.”

He argued, “Protesting is the only way, to mobilise more people, we need a united front against the government to stop the genocide. That’s the most effective way.”

Bebe, a teacher, said, “My expectations of Labour aren’t high. It’s the lesser of two evils.

“Hope lies on the streets. Labour needs to cut ties with Israel. Our government is facilitating arms supplies—that needs to stop straight away.”

Shereen Kamil, an NEU union member and teacher came from Sheffield for the protest. She told Socialist Worker, “The new pro-Palestine MPs need to work together as a group to speak up. But being on the streets is so important and that’s where we’ll stay.

“We can’t let the movement fizzle out.”

A university lecturer on the Jewish bloc said, “The election has taken a bit of people’s political energy. I voted Labour in the past but with their unacceptable response to Israel’s genocide, I voted Green.

“A review of arm sales is what we should demand. Trade unions pushing for that would be necessary.

“There has been disproportionate coverage of Reform candidates and a downplaying of the shake-up that the new pro-Palestinian MPs can make.

“This movement is massive but it’s stopping being so disruptive. I think we need to support groups like Palestine Action as we need to see our actions have a bigger impact on the ties with Israel.”

People are also absorbing wider lessons from the election.

Adam, a Unite union activist, said, “I campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn so I’m delighted about his victory.

But he said, “It’s worrying times. Aside from a small number of left victories there’s no real organised left challenge and we desperately need one.

“People on the left are beginning to work together and we need to see more of that. We need to build a profile and that does mean some form of party that people recognise. Labour can’t be trusted to stand up for any socialist ideas,” he said.

Rukshan from south London spoke about the election of independent candidates on a pro-Palestine platform.

“It shows people are angry at Labour,” he said. “It’s people historically who would have voted Labour but independents are offering an alternative politics with more integrity.

“But how we can build on that is coming to protests to show what we think.”

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