Jacob Rees-Mogg was heckled and chased by protesters outside the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, as hundreds gathered near the venue to express their anger at the government.
The business secretary was escorted by police officers as he made his way through crowds of booing protesters in Victoria Square on Sunday who were demonstrating against rising energy costs and falling living standards.
Rees-Mogg told Sky News as he was led though the crowd: “There have been protests at Tory conferences since time immemorial, it’s nothing new.
“It’s a fact of democracy. They’re shouting but it’s perfectly peaceful. And the right to peaceful expression of your view is fundamental to our constitution.”
The protest, organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, attracted hundreds angry about the cost of living crisis and the government’s economic policy.
Addressing the crowds, the rail union leader Mick Lynch described the chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget as “the most profound statement a politician has made for the last 50 years”.
“It’s a shame some of our politicians aren’t as bold and radical in our direction,” he added.
“Over the last six months we’ve seen the decadence and corruption of the ruling class in this country,” he said. “They are acting in the interests of their people, you don’t have to be a Marxist or a radical or a socialist to understand that.”
He told the rally that “we are in the middle of a class struggle” and said “we pay tax to support our people not to subsidise the rich”.
The protesters marched through Birmingham to the International Convention Centre, where the annual Conservative conference is under way, chanting “Tories are not welcome here” and “Tory scum out of Brum”.
Many people travelled to the city to take part in the protest, including Christine Collins, a social care worker from Bolton. “We’ve come down because we’re so angry, it’s so unfair, the scales are really not balanced any more,” she said.
“It’s made me even angrier today seeing the Conservative delegates laughing and looking at us with total disregard. It seems like they do not care, and I find that quite scary.”
Suzi Boardman, who works in education in Bolton, said people were angry after a decade of cuts and austerity. “In local government we’ve gone through 10 years of not having cost of living rises, our wages have gone down in real terms, it’s been a struggle,” she said, adding that she doesn’t believe the government’s strategy of “trickle-down economics” will help.
“The rich people who are getting their taxes cut, they’re just going to invest that, it doesn’t circulate, it just stays with the rich, it doesn’t come down to the poor. They’ve been doing ‘trickle-down’ for the past 10 years, it doesn’t work,” she said.
Jane Elledge, 53, an IT trainer from Bromsgrove, told PA news agency: “Enough is enough really. We’ve had Brexit, we’ve had falling standards, we’ve had people having to work two jobs, people starving, people with no heating, and just the kind of final straw is the announcement of the richest people getting a tax cut.”
The Lichfield MP, Michael Fabricant, dispelled rumours on social media that he was “attacked” by protesters outside the conference, saying: “I was directed wrongly right into the middle of the protest. I think the protesters thought I was deliberately provoking them. But no one touched me. Just shouted abuse”
He said one protester tried to blow a plastic horn in his ear as he walked. When they refused to stop, he grabbed the horn and threw it away. “I was not pushed or shoved, nor did I fall over,” he said. “As far as I could see, the crowd was noisy but self disciplined. We live in a democracy and people have every right to protest.”
On Sunday the education minister and Stoke North MP, Jonathan Gullis, apologised after a leading figure from the youth wing of the Conservative party called Birmingham a “dump” as he arrived for the conference.
Daniel Grainger, the chair of Young Conservative Network, has since apologised and deleted his tweet.
Gullis told the BBC: “It was a dumb comment made in complete ignorance and I firmly apologise, as a member of the Conservative party, to all the people of Birmingham.”