Around 1,000 people marched through Birmingham last Saturday to demand an end to privatisation of public services. There were 36 banners on the march including the local RAGE campaign against the closure of elderly people's homes, Defend Council Housing, the regional FBU and UCATT union banners, and several from local Socialist Alliance groups.
The march was called by the Dudley hospitals strikers, who have recently voted to continue their strike action to stop the transfer of their jobs to a private firm. 'We're being sold down the river to make businessmen richer,' said striker Ann Downton. Kevin White, a machine operator in a local factory, explained why he joined the march: 'I think PFI is a disgrace, and it's about time people got together and fought it.'
Phil Goalby from the FBU said, 'Do you remember in 1997 when they said, 'Things can only get better'? Better didn't mean paying for a university education. Better didn't mean single parents losing benefits. Better didn't mean Dudley health workers having to come out on strike. That's not better, that's worse. The fat cats of the city carry on making money. When the Labour Party come round asking for money, it's time we said no, not until you implement policies that are worker friendly.'
The demonstration headed for local New Labour MP Gisela Stuart's surgery. Marchers refused to leave until Stuart came out to address them. Her only comment was, 'I ask you to respect the constituents in my surgery.' She did not say whether those constituents agreed with having their local elderly people's homes, hospitals, fire service and council housing run by private companies.
Bill Challis, a longstanding Labour Party member who was at the protest, said, 'It feels like I'm in the right place. I canvassed for Gisela Stuart and she is a complete sell-out Blairite to the core.'