The Rally Against Debt was an incredible event. It was wonderful to see hundreds of people turn out to give a voice to that silent majority who know that cuts in spending are right and necessary.
It seems there are two reasons to run a rally, and why – contrary to Tim's suggestion - it would be worth doing again if the right opportunity presents itself. First raising awareness by attracting attention focussed on your message, not trouble on the sidelines. Second bringing supporters together to build camaraderie and an effective movement.
We definitely got attention. If you judge it just by the BBC website, this interview was on their front page and this report was the most viewed in the news section. There was plenty more coverage across a range of print and broadcast media. The Guardian even ran a poll about it.
Other than bringing down the debt clock from the Midlands – kindly sponsored by Keltruck as it says on the side, this rally had pretty much no resources behind it except time from a few overworked TPA staffers and superb volunteers. From conception on 26 March to execution on 14 May it had a couple of months and interruptions like the AV campaign. Lots of people worked very hard, but I would wager that, even if you priced staff time properly, it cost a similar amount to an average think tank report, and generated far more media interest.
And there wasn't any trouble. Old Hoborn's little stunt burning the EU flag left an annoying mess, which we made sure we cleared up, but other than that I don't really see the harm. It's the EU, it's not like there is some proud people out there we've offended!
Some on the left, like Will Straw, have been complaining about how much coverage the rally got for the low numbers attending. What they miss is that journalists cover things not on the basis of the numbers turning out but how interesting they are. Otherwise no one would turn up to press conferences. Our rally had some great placards and the wonderful visual of the debt clock, a range of brilliant speakers, a message that we know from the opinion polls resonates with lots of people and the very fact that demonstrations against caving in to special interests are such a rarity.
We worked to get as many people as we could, and if we do it again we will try to get more, but hundreds were more than enough for the event to be worth our time. 350, or more, is far more than most political events of its kind get and a really impressive achievement from the staff and volunteers working to promote it.
While journalists did draw comparisons with turnout at the TUC march, they gave us a fair chance to make our point to a big audience. There was no violence and only the New Statesman is stupid or malicious enough to have fallen for the dreary counter protest trying to mislead people about the message from the rally.
It wasn't just the media coverage though, the rally was a great way of bringing hundreds of free marketeers, many of them normally working in silos or not politically active, together. There was a wonderful spirit. Over time it is the kind of thing that builds a political movement.
The Rally Against Debt was great. Whether or not we take up marching, let's hope that the right doesn't abandon the public square. It is a part of the political arsenal we should try to get better at, not avoid.