Time to Go!


That was the message for Tony Blair from the 30,000 people who gathered in Manchester on September 23rd at the demo organised by Stop the War Coalition to coincide with the start of the Labour Party conference.  (The number, as always, was disputed but I'll stick with this middle-of-the-road estimate.)


I was one of the 700 who travelled on the chartered peace train from London - the easy way to go compared with those who had cycled there and the group from Sheffield who had walked there.  By good fortune I found myself with three very interesting travelling companions: two activists from the Campaign Against Climate Change who spent part of the journey leafletting other passengers to publicise their demo on November 4th, and Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, sacked and humiliated for refusing to turn a blind eye to the use of torture to provide 'intelligence' in the War on Terror.  His book Murder in Samarkand is, he told me, very good and funny in parts - a little light relief amongst the horror.  If my request for a copy from Father Christmas is granted, I would be happy to lend it to anyone interested.


Other passengers included Tony Benn and Bianca Jagger who worked their way along the train addressing each carriage in turn.  By the time they reached our carriage we were nearing journey's end, so the last two carriages missed out.  Apparently Peggy Seeger was also working her way along but she must have run out of time too.


An initial rally in Albert Square, Manchester was followed by a march around the city centre: past the site of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, then past the conference centre where the Labour Party conference was about to start and the hotel which would accommodate Tony Blair and co.  Here a die-in took place to symbolise all the deaths resulting from government policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine.  Back to Albert Square for another rally and more speakers - all with excellent points to make of course.  They included Tony Benn, Craig Murray, Dr Richard Horton editor of The Lancet and Cherie Blair's sister Lauren Booth - I don't think she'll be having Christmas dinner at Number 10 this year!


For a flavour of the occasion, visit Stop the War Coalition's website www.stopwar.org.uk/#TimeToGo  and see their slide show - although no sign of our KPC banner (specially adapted for one-person carrying).  However, sharp-eyed readers of The Friend (the Quaker journal) will find proof that it was there if they look carefully enough.


Finally back at Manchester Piccadilly Station, among all the other loudspeaker announcements

a memorable one: "The 18:30 Peace Train for London will depart from platform 8" (although the platform number was obvious from the gaggle of policemen at the entrance to platform 8!).


Hilary Evans