Street Protests at Conservative conference in Birmingham

Up to 20,000 believed to have joined march in central Birmingham to protest against spending cuts, austerity and Brexit

Thousands of trade unionists and other activists have marched through Birmingham to protest at the start of the Conservative party conference in the city.

Carrying banners largely protesting at austerity and cuts, but also referring to Brexit and a host of other issues, the crowd was marshalled by a heavy police presence and, in the main, kept its distance from the conference venue.

Some reports said up to 20,000 people took part, though police did not have their own estimate.

A West Midlands police spokesman said there had been one arrest, of a 17-year-old for an alleged breach of the peace after running through crowds with his face covered. He was being held until his parents arrived, the spokesman said.

Much of the march was organised by trade unions and there was representation from leftwing parties. Chants supporting the Labour leader began before the protesters even arrived in Birmingham, with “There’s only one Jeremy Corbyn” breaking out on the platform at London’s Euston station.

In one of the speeches, a senior union official called for the mandatory re-selection of Labour MPs, reopening one of the divisions debated at that party’s conference in Liverpool last week.

Speaking from the top of a fire engine, John McInally, vice president of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: “Let’s get this clear, it is not bullying and it is not intimidation to call for mandatory re-selection of MPs. That is nothing more than a basic democratic demand.

“Being an MP is not a career for life, and those who say they want to represent the Labour movement should be accountable to the Labour movement. And just imagine if those MPs fought the Tories with the same determination that they are fighting Jeremy and John [McDonnell, the shadow chancellor].”

Away from the main march, several other groups were allowed to protest closer to the conference venue. Just outside the security cordon stood a group of women protesting against changes to women’s pensions, increasing the age at which they can claim. Nearby was a group calling for an renewed inquiry into the 1974 pub bombings.

Closest of all to the security cordon was an intrepid pair of Ukip activists, handing out leaflets and inviting Tory delegates to “come home”. “We’ve not had any conversions today,” said one of the men, in a yellow Ukip T-shirt. “But a few people have taken leaflets. So you never know.”