Shadow chancellor called on Sheffield to be a ‘northern powerhouse of resistance’ and demanded a public inquiry into tax havens at a city centre rally.
Hundreds of people joined a march from Devonshire Green to the City Hall earlier today (Saturday, April 9), where they listened to speeches from trade unionists, a junior doctor and Labour politicians.
Mr McDonnell had the final word, heavily criticising the Government for its reaction to the steel crisis, health and education policies, the decision to close Sheffield’s department for business, skills and innovation office - seen as central to the ‘northern powerhouse’ project - and the recent revelations about offshore tax havens.
He used the occasion to call for the Government to carry out a public inquiry into tax havens and echoed calls from other speakers for the north, and Sheffield in particular, to unite against Conservative austerity.
At the same time in London, thousands of people protested outside Downing Street calling for Prime Minister David Cameron to resign in the wake of the tax haven revelations.
To huge applause and shouts of ‘Tory Tory Tory, out out out’ Mr McDonnell said: “This is a city with a proud history of resistance. I demand that Sheffield now puts its mark still further on history and becomes one of the leading centres of resistance in this country to the Government.
“It needs a northern powerhouse of resistance, and I think you are it.”
General secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union Mark Serwotka said it was important unions showed solidarity and civil servants, steel workers, teachers and doctors -some of whom were in the crowd - fought side by side.
“Sheffield deserves better than this, the north deserves better than this - all of us deserve better than this,” he said.
Junior doctor Will Sapwell spoke about health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s new NHS contract. He said: “They want to take the some NHS that we have got of five days and spread it over seven with exactly the same amount of staff, resources and money.”
Dr Sapwell said patients were going to suffer.
UNITE steel officer Bev Clarkson said a Conservative government was not interested in northern working class people. She said: “This Government do not know the people of the north. We are tough in the north and we are in it for the fight. So I say to this Government, bring it on.”