Burning Effigies of Tories at the Bonfire of Cuts in Lewisham, a set on Flickr.
On November 5, 2013 — Bonfire Night — I photographed effigies of members of the cabinet of the Tory-led coalition government — including David Cameron, George Osborne and others, as well as key Lib Dems and Labour politicians — as they were burned by activists in a brazier in the centre of Lewisham, in south east London. The caricatures were drawn by a member of the political group People Before Profit.
The activists in Lewisham were part of a day of action across the UK, in which numerous protestors held Bonfires of Austerity, initiated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an anti-austerity coalition of activists, union members and MPs, to protest about the wretched Tory-led coalition government’s continued assault on the very fabric of the state, and on the most vulnerable members of society — particularly, the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled.
The borough of Lewisham, where I live, is famous for successfully resisting the government’s plans to severely downgrade services at the local hospital, and on Bonfire Night activists marched from Catford to an open space in the centre of Lewisham (by the main roundabout, and affectionately known as “the grassy knoll”), where they burned effigies of David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson. The protestors also burned effigies of the Lib Dems Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, key members of the disastrous coalition government, and Labour’s Gordon Brown and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday, the year-long struggle to save Lewisham Hospital from butchers in the government — and in the senior management of the NHS — ended in victory for campaigners, when the Court of Appeal turned down an appeal by health secretary Jeremy Hunt. The government sought to overturn the High Court’s ruling, in July, that Hunt had acted unlawfully when he approved plans for Lewisham put forward last October by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator.
Appointed under legislation for dealing with NHS trusts in severe financial difficulties (the Unsustainable Providers Regime), Kershaw had proposed closing A&E and other frontline services and selling off over half of Lewisham Hospital’s buildings and land as part of a package of proposals to address the financial problems of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, which has three hospitals in south east London. The result would have been just one A&E Department for the 750,000 inhabitants of the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, and a disgraceful scenario in which 90 percent of the mothers in Lewisham (a borough with a population of 270,000) would have been unable to give birth in their home borough.
Responding to the news, Tony O’Sullivan, the Director of Services for Children and Young People at Lewisham, and a member of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said, “This is a complete victory.” Referring to ministers and the Special Administrator, O’Sullivan added, “We always said they were acting unlawfully and undemocratically in using an emergency process to bypass meaningful consultation and destroy an excellent hospital.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Save Lewisham Hospital Victory Dance, September 27, 2013, a set on Flickr.
Sometimes you just need to have a party and celebrate, and that is what happened on Friday September 27, 2013, at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park, in the borough of Lewisham, which is the last surviving unreconstructed 1950s ballroom in London.
Hundreds and hundreds of supporters of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign gathered for a Victory Dance — the Spirit of Lewisham Victory Dance — to celebrate the campaign’s high court victory at the end of July over health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who approved plans to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital at the end of January, leading to two judicial reviews — one launched by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and the other by Lewisham Council — that ended in success on July 31, when Mr. Justice Silber ruled that Hunt had acted unlawfully when he approved the plans. See my photos here.
The plans had first been put forward last October by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the financial problems of a neighbouring trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, in the first use of the Unsustainable Providers Regime, legislation for dealing with bankrupt trusts that was introduced by the last Labour government. The proposals involved Lewisham, a solvent hospital, having its A&E Department shut, so that there would only be one A&E Department for the 750,000 inhabitants of the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, and cutting maternity services so severely that nine out of ten mothers in a borough of 270,000 people would have to give birth elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »
Save Lewisham Hospital Victory Parade and Rally, September 14, 2013, a set on Flickr.
On Saturday September 14, six weeks after a High Court judge, Mr. Justice Silber, ruled that health secretary Jeremy Hunt had acted unlawfully when he approved plans to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital (see here and here), campaigners and supporters of the hospital — and of the NHS in general — gathered in the centre of Lewisham, in south east London, and marched past the hospital and on to Ladywell Fields, the park behind the hospital, for a celebration of the victory.
At the rally in Ladywell Fields, there were speakers, stalls, bands and a general air of celebration and solidarity that even the rainy weather couldn’t dispel. We are, after all, used to poor weather, as our first march against the proposals, which attracted 15,000 supporters on a Saturday last November, took place in the pouring rain (see here). I took the photos above, which I hope capture something of our general resilience, and our refusal to have our spirits dampened by the rain.
The victory over the Tories, and the senior management of the NHS behind the proposals to downgrade Lewisham, was certainly worth celebrating. The plans for Lewisham, approved by Hunt in January, had been put forward last October by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the financial problems of a neighbouring trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, in the first use of the Unsustainable Providers Regime, legislation for dealing with bankrupt trusts that was introduced by the last Labour government. Read the rest of this entry »
Victory for the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, a set on Flickr.
Here are my photos from yesterday’s celebrations by campaigners for Lewisham Hospital — myself included — outside the High Court, and then outside Lewisham Hospital, following a spectacular victory in the High Court after nine months of campaigning.
As I explained in my brief report yesterday, after I returned from the High Court, Mr. Justice Silber, ruling on two judicial reviews submitted by Lewisham Council and the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, ruled that health secretary Jeremy Hunt had acted unlawfully when he approved plans to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital, including shutting its A&E Department, so that there would only be one A&E Department for the 750,000 inhabitants of the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, and cutting maternity services so severely that nine out of ten mothers in a borough of 270,000 people would have to give birth elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »
We won! Congratulations to the tens of thousands of campaigners who have been fighting to save Lewisham Hospital for the last eight months, since plans to severely downgrade services at the hospital were first announced.
Today in the High Court, Mr. Justice Silber, ruling on two judicial reviews submitted by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and Lewisham Council, ruled that the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had acted unlawfully when he approved proposals by an NHS Special Administrator, Matthew Kershaw, to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital. The ruling is here.
This was a stunning victory for campaigners — myself included — who have fought the proposals for the last nine months, ever since they were announced at the end of October 2012 by Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, based in the boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley, which was losing over £1m a week, partly through ruinous PFI deals. Read the rest of this entry »
Today is the 65th anniversary of the NHS, and I’d like to raise a toast to the visionary founders of the health service, who established a system of medical care for all of us, free at the point of entry and paid for out of general taxation, that has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, what a universal insurance system should look like.
The lives of my wife and my son were, without a doubt, saved by doctors and nurses in the NHS, and I am also grateful for those who saved me from a serious illness a few years ago. The medical emergencies we faced could have happened to anyone, rich or poor, but for 65 years the NHS has guaranteed that, regardless of how rich or poor you are, all will be treated equally.
The country that created the NHS, and that recognises its value, is the country I want to carry on living in, but it was hijacked 34 years ago by Margaret Thatcher, who was interested in private profit rather than the common good, and governments ever since have continued to behave as though all that counts is the profit of the few at the expense of the many — Tony Blair and New Labour being a particular disappointment.
For sheer destructive will, however, the Tory-led coalition government that has been laying waste to the country since May 2010 has taken the privatising zeal of Thatcherism and New Labour to hitherto unimagined depths. These butchers — mostly privately educated millionaires with a cesspit of mental health problems and a colossal grudge against the world — are determined to try and destroy the public ownership of almost every aspect of life in Britain, with one exception, ironically, being their own salaries.
The 65th anniversary of the founding of the NHS comes the day after two judicial reviews came to an end in the High Court, where, for three days, a judge heard lawyers for the government try to defend the unjustifiable decision, by senior NHS managers and the health secretary Jeremy Hunt, to savagely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital in south east London. Lewisham is my local hospital, and the plans to downgrade it would be devastating for the people of the borough, which has population of 270,000 people. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday, a High Court judge, Sir Stephen Silber, began hearing two judicial reviews intended to prove that plans to severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital in south east London — conceived and approved by senior NHS management and the Tory-led government — are unlawful.
The judicial reviews, submitted by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and Lewisham Council, which I discussed in detail here, follow a roller-coaster eight months since it was announced at the end of October 2012 that, as part of legislation dealing with bankrupt NHS trusts, an NHS Special Administrator, Matthew Kershaw — appointed in the summer to deal with the indebted South London Healthcare Trust, in the boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley — recommended that Lewisham, which is not in debt, and is unconnected to the SLHT, should merge with one of the SLHT’s three hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich, and have its A&E Department closed down, which currently receives 110,000 patients a year.
This is a drastic move that would then lead to the closure of all acute services, including the majority (90 percent) of all births in Lewisham, where 4,400 births currently take place every year, as well as Lewisham’s well-regarded children’s A&E, and other important frontline services.
With 270,000 inhabitants, and a growing population, the decision to force Lewisham’s residents to go elsewhere in an emergency is nothing short of madness. Getting to the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich involves a journey that, very literally, can take two hours by public transport at busy times, to a hospital that is already struggling with A&E waiting times, and the other options involve King’s in Camberwell or St. Thomas’s in Lambeth, neither or which has spare capacity. Read the rest of this entry »
Next week (from June 29 to July 5) is “Justice for Lewisham Week” in the London Borough of Lewisham, where the hospital that serves the 270,000 inhabitants has been under threat since last October, when Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the debts of a neighbouring NHS Trust, the South London Healthcare Trust, through legislation known as the Unsustainable Provider Regime, decided that one way of doing so would be to severely downgrade services at Lewisham (unconnected to the SLHT except by geographical proximity), shutting its A&E Department and axing 90 percent of maternity services along with all acute services.
At the end of January, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, approved the recommendations, but the people of Lewisham — myself included — refused to give up. Campaigning has continued relentlessly, and two judicial reviews were launched in response — one launched by Lewisham Council, and another by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. £20,000 was needed for the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s judicial review, which was raised by supporters of the hospital, including Millwall F.C. and other people (including 6,000 supporters of the campaigning group 38 Degrees) who understand that Lewisham is a test case for what the would-be butchers of the NHS can get away with (both in the NHS’s own senior management, and in government).
The judicial reviews will be taking place in the High Court in London from Tuesday July 2 to Thursday July 4, and the campaign is calling for people from the community to attend the hearing each day, and also for a big group of people to be there at the start of the proceedings on the morning of July 2nd. Please email Dagmar to sign up. Read the rest of this entry »
On Wednesday April 24, the House of Lords voted by 254 votes to 146 to dismiss a motion, proposed by the Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a shadow health minister, to prevent the passage of regulations relating to Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act (the Tories’ wretched legislation for NHS reform, passed last year), which was sprung on an unsuspecting public back in February.
The reason I call this the week that the NHS died is because the regulations enforce competition on almost all NHS business, paving the way for private companies to swiftly and effectively dismantle it, cherry-picking services they can easily make profits out of, and cowing the newly appointed Clinical Commissioning Groups (the GPs responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget), who will be afraid of ruinously expensive legal challenges if they dare to take on the private sector.
It is not strictly true, of course, that no one cares, but I stand by the necessity of such a provocative headline. In fact, a 38 Degrees petition was signed by over 360,000 people, but millions should have been on the streets since the Tories first announced their intentions to destroy the NHS. That, however, has never happened. On the night of the Section 75 motion last week, despite furious lobbying of peers, and some great speeches in support of the NHS (by Lords Hunt and Owen in particular), the last chance to block the legislation was lost. Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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