Socialist Worker

Dudley strikers debate New Labour - and win

Issue No. 1733

Two Labour MPs were shouted down by 350 Dudley health strikers on Monday. But striker and Socialist Alliance candidate Angela Thompson won a standing ovation.

She said, 'PFI means 170 job losses and 70 fewer beds. This is not what we elected the government to do. We're standing a candidate so we can expose to the people of Dudley exactly what's happening to their health service.' MP Ian Pearson attacked the strikers for continuing to fight against the Private Finance Initiative.

He scorned them for rejecting the government's shoddy deal at Christmas. 'It's the public you're letting down,' he cried to howls of derision. MP Deborah Shipley criticised the strikers for standing a Socialist Alliance candidate.

'Any vote not going to me helps the Tories,' she said. But each argument from the Labour MPs only enraged the strikers, many of whom have voted Labour all their lives. Tony, a security guard at Russells Hall hospital, blasted the MPs. He said, 'I can't believe a word you're saying. We know what you politicians are like-you've just had one of your government sacked for telling lies. 'I voted Labour and I'm ashamed I did.'

George Watkins, a porter, said, 'I was like a dog with two tails when Labour got in. But New Labour are so conservative. You took everything, all the policies of the Conservatives like privatisation, and look at what that's done to the rail.'

'Does it not play on your conscience that the longest strike in NHS history is happening in your constituency?' said Rebecca, a medical records worker. 'The strike wouldn't be happening if you'd kept your promises on the NHS.' One striker marched up to the front of the hall, seized the microphone and said, 'We've backed you at every election. My mother has been in the Labour Party for 50 years. We've been on strike for six months. We're doing everything we can to save to NHS. You should work till you drop to stop private firms taking over.' Another striker said, 'I think we should all turn our backs on the Labour Party.' The strikers voted on Tuesday for another three-week strike.

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Sat 3 Feb 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1733
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