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Thousands expected at anti-cuts rally

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Thousands of union activists and other campaigners will join a rally in Westminster today to protest against the government’s spending cuts, amid warnings that they will make Britain a more unequal and “nastier” country.

Labour leader Ed Miliband will not be among them but aides denied the decision not to take part directly was a U-turn despite Mr Miliband’s declaration last month that he would “definitely” attend.

Mr Miliband will meet union members from his constituency to hear their concerns about the coalition’s deficit reduction programme, but will not participate in the rally.

Aides insisted there had been no formal invite as the TUC is treating the event as “non political” and had not asked any politicians to attend.

They were forced to defend the move after Mr Miliband, asked at the TUC conference during the leadership campaign if he would pledge to attend, said: “I’ll attend the rally, definitely.”

The comment was seized on as significant, not least since his brother, and then leadership front runner, David was the only candidate not to commit to taking part.

Ed Miliband went on to narrowly win the contest, partly thanks to the votes of union members.

His spokeswoman said: “There was never any formal invitation from the TUC; it is not a political event. Two weeks ago he talked about ‘playing a part’.”

She said Mr Miliband’s role would be to “listen to the voices of concerned union members”.

The rally, held a day before chancellor George Osborne’s spending review announcement, will bring together a broad coalition of union members, community leaders, campaign groups and users of public services, and will be followed by a lobby of MPs inside Parliament.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, left, will tell the rally that the government’s cuts programme is a political choice, not an economic necessity, that will make Britain “a more unequal, more squalid and nastier country”.

Mr Barber is expected to say: “Tomorrow, the government will announce unprecedented cuts in public spending - deeper than any of us can remember. They will bite deep into our social fabric - and hit some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.

“They want us to believe that they have no choice and that this is economic necessity. Yet economic experts across the spectrum warn us that the cuts are too deep and too rapid.

“At worst the cuts will plunge us back into recession, and at best they will condemn us to lost years of high unemployment and growth so weak that the deficit may well stay high.”

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