Arty McBain is a former Conservative Party official.
It is claimed that 250,000 marchers took part in Saturday’s TUC march to Hyde Park. Maybe. High numbers are notoriously difficult to estimate correctly, especially when it is in the interests of those doing so – the TUC and the police – for them to be high. Our cynical rule of thumb in the Party during our 1979-97 government was that the police tend to double the numbers and the organisers double them again.
On Saturday a friend counted via television the numbers passing a certain camera. There were 20 every five seconds, which equates to 14,400 per hour or 72,000 over four hours. If we leave a very generous allowance of 100% for denser parts of the march and for the much smaller feeder marches which joined it at various points, we still have a figure of only 144,000.
The 800 buses the TUC allegedly booked could carry only a maximum of 40,000 people; the 10 trains only 8,000 if we allow 100 people per carriage and 8 carriages per train. If we assume that every TUC assisted place was full and that twice as many people arrived under their own steam, we come to exactly the same figure, 144,000.
Two personal experiences tend to confirm the likely exaggeration. I once organised a march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. As the head of the march arrived under Nelson’s Column, the end was just leaving Hyde Park Corner. It filled Park Lane and Piccadilly simultaneously! We were incredibly excited. Yet the final crowd was disappointingly small – we claimed 10,000 but I suspect 5,000 was nearer the truth. Trafalgar Square can hold 20,000 people, 12,000 in the well and 8,000 on the north terrace. The terrace was empty and the main part could have taken twice as many easily.