On August 16, a group of mums in Darlington, in County Durham, set out on a march to the Houses of Parliament, ending this Saturday, September 6, “to build support for the NHS and to join up with amazing NHS campaigners across the country,” as they note on their website.
Their march, the People’s March for the NHS, was inspired by the Jarrow March in 1936, when, in the Depression, 200 people marched from Jarrow, 30 miles north of Darlington, to London to demand action from the government.
The campaign to save the NHS from the lying, Tory-led coalition government, whose leader, David Cameron, promised before the 2010 election that there would be no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS, is one that I have been involved in since 2011, when the privatising Health and Social Care Bill was first unveiled. I fought against the passage of the bill in the early months of 2012, and in October 2012 joined the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, which, over the following year, secured unprecedented grass-roots support (see here and here) against government and NHS management plans to disembowel Lewisham Hospital to pay for the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust. That campaign was ultimately successful, but privatisation continues to invade the NHS, as intended by the government, numerous hospitals face uncertain futures, and further legislation — like the hospital closure clause (Clause 119) of the 2013 Care Bill — have had to be resisted (again, with success).
As the Darlington campaigners note about their march:
[W]e aim to make the public aware of what the coalition government has been doing to our NHS and what has been happening to our hospitals and health services. It’s really hard to passively watch the rapid dismantling, privatisation and destruction of the NHS. First we had the Health & Social Care Act, then Section 75 and more recently Clause 119 of the Care Bill. The Government have legislated to open the NHS to the open market. We believe every penny saved in the NHS should go back into improving and developing our NHS. We don’t want to see private companies operating in the NHS under the heading of ‘efficiency’ when we know they are accountable to their share holders, who are only interested in maximum profit before patient health care.
Here’s what Louise Irvine, the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, had to say about the People’s March for the NHS on September 1:
I went on the march from Loughborough to Leicester yesterday with Jacky Davis of Keep Our NHS Public and was joined at the rally in Leicester by Carol and Barry from the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign.
It was really inspiring and uplifting to be with so many fantastic people committed to the fight to defend the NHS. The march is getting lots of local press coverage with many people turning up at the rallies. It’s a really unifying initiative, linking people across the country, and showing that the issues that are facing us here in Lewisham and London are the same across England.
As I noted above, the marchers are arriving in London on Saturday September 6, and I will be joining them at Red Lion Square in Holborn at 2pm, and will then march with them to a rally in Trafalgar Square at about 3.30pm, where Owen Jones will be speaking, and Billy Bragg will be playing. If you’re interested, you can join the marchers in Luton tomorrow (September 4) or in St. Alban’s on Friday, or in Edmonton on Saturday morning.
Also, if you can leaflet to promote the event in Lewisham or elsewhere in south east London, please visit this page and contact the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign. As they say, “Even just one hour leafleting your local school or station would be very helpful.” You can also follow the People’s March for the NHS on Facebook, and join the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign Facebook page in support of the march here. In addition, you can follow the campaign on Twitter, and see here for photos.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).
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So I posted this and then Facebook crashed. Glad to see it’s back up and running. The People’s March for the NHS is in Luton tonight. Yesterday was Bedford, and Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, joined the march and delivered a powerful speech. “This march is important on so many levels”, he said. “The NHS is being broken up without the permission of the people. The NHS is one of the most cherished institutions in this country. There are changes being made without people’s consent across the country and here in Bedford. The first thing a Labour Government would do is repeal the law which puts the NHS on the path towards privatisation. We want compassion over competition – people over profit.”
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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