Thousands of Londoners marched on Saturday 18th May to ‘Defend London’s NHS’ in a protest organised by an “unprecedented coalition of London residents, medical staff, trade unions and health campaigners”. Socialist Appeal supporters on the demonstration report on the latest mass protest against the Tory attacks on healthcare.
Thousands of Londoners marched on Saturday 18th May to ‘Defend London’s NHS’ in a protest organised by an “unprecedented coalition of London residents, medical staff, trade unions and health campaigners”.
London is not being spared the government’s backdoor NHS privatisation and closure programme. Closures planned across the capital include nine accident and emergency departments, a number of maternity units and thousands of hospital beds.
According to the campaign organisers, “hospitals and community services are also threatened with takeover by multinational private companies. Hundreds of thousands of London residents have pledged their opposition to these privatisation plans for the NHS.”
The turnout on the day was impressive for a London-only demo. What was particularly noticeable was the large number of big groups of school students and youth present on the demonstration. This proves the enduring value that generation after generation sees in the NHS. There are, as Bevan hoped, millions of “folk left with the faith to fight for it”. Every ounce of determination will be needed to preserve the NHS as a free public service while we have this government in charge.
Several demonstrations – such as those surrounding the Lewisham, Whittington, and Ealing hospitals – have now proven that the mood is there to fight for the NHS and against cuts and privatisation. The mood needs to be given a political expression and organised into a militant fight. We cannot afford to allow it to dissipate. Labour gave support to the protest, but they must back this up with a commitment to reverse all cuts and privatisations and end PFI. If they threw their weight behind such a campaign, protests like this would swell.
The UNISON leadership also needs to step up their game. On Saturday their banners were conspicuous by their absence and were outnumbered massively by Unite, despite UNISON being the main NHS union. Undoubtedly many rank-and-file UNISON members participated on Saturday, but this participation must be given an organised character by the UNISON leadership. The whole labour movement must rally around the campaign to defend the NHS against privatisation.
Ultimately the labour movement must fight to kick out this government and replace it with a Labour government on a socialist programme, and this fight should be lead by the trade union leaders with the calling of a one-day general strike.