(They are) there purely for observation, they are high up for that reason, and they (the guns) are used for their sight, which is stronger than any binoculars. They are not there to shoot people.” – Greater Manchester Police

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn got elected, the sun has been shining. Now the Tories are in Manchester it’s going to piss down all week.” – Billy Bragg

It was a bright, sunny day in Manchester, which happens more often than some will tell you, and the atmosphere was buoyant. All Saints Park was the venue for the warm-up to what Greater Manchester Police said was the biggest protest march they had ever had to deal with. The actual figures are hard to define. Was it around 80,000? The TUC talk it up, obviously, and the Manchester Evening News tallied it up as 50,000. One thing was clear: the city was forced to take notice.

As a veteran of such events, I can safely say from what I saw that you could have easily filled Old Trafford with those who turned up at the start of the day. As the whole thing grew, you could have stuffed the Etihad as well. What struck this veteran was the mix of people who took part. I expect to exchange greetings with fellow travellers, see the nuisance brigade and the hippies, who are always good for a laugh, and share in the camaraderie and great food. Then there are the musicians who set the carnival vibe, after whose performances at All Saints the great mass formed a beautiful shape and began its march down Oxford Road. There was one difference from previous marches: who were all these young people? People not yet sure of what to do, but sure they wanted to do something.

This was new, it was welcome and it was not a minority. But what caused it? The simple explanation is Jeremy. The Corbyn factor cannot be underestimated, because at last someone was talking to these people and not at them. These same people have seen how the media and Westminster have treated him and they have reacted, being drawn to his ‘new kind of politics’, a world away from the petty point scoring of old, and his defiance of the premature predictions that he will crash and burn.

The Tories were told not to wear their delegate badges when out and about in Manchester as it could provoke attacks. While throwing eggs at delegates and the tunnel of abuse they had to walk through had an element of staged drama about them, it was clear in the weeks leading up to the conference that Conservative theories are not welcome here. The people of Manchester have long memories, and none of them are good.

But why were the Tories here? Paying lip service to the Trojan Horse that is the ‘Northern Powerhouse’? No. Given the election result, it was much more a statement to the unruly North; the Tories are in town, we are in charge and you will accept it. Of course, this is nothing new. They have tried it throughout the ages and it has never worked. The debutant marchers, young and old, are tuned into this and we need to maintain and build on this anti-austerity momentum, because for once a veteran like me feels that they, we, can really do something. If they need snipers on the rooftops above a civil and good natured, trouble-free protest march – only two people were arrested – something tells me they are scared.

Dave Jones