Socialist Worker

We can save the NHS if we act now

Issue No. 2293

The Tories are reeling from public anger at their attacks on the welfare state. They have been forced into humiliating U-turns over their “workfare” scheme that compels the unemployed to work for free.

Now opposition to their NHS privatisation bill threatens them with yet more woe. Health workers, patients and even senior medical staff have united to condemn the government’s proposals as a mortal threat to the NHS.

The NHS could be the Achilles’ heel for the Tories. The level of opposition to their plans is unprecedented. If mobilised effectively it could stop the bill in its tracks.

A victory for our side over the NHS would have immediate knock-on effects. It would drive a stake through their wider plans for privatisation and cuts.

But that potential has yet to be tapped. Some in our movement seem reluctant to seize the opportunity afforded by mass public opposition to privatisation.

The Labour Party could be leading the charge against the Tories—but instead it has kept its head down. Partly this is because the previous New Labour government pushed through its own version of NHS privatisation.

Trade unions have been more active in opposing the bill. Unite has called a lobby of parliament for Wednesday this week and Unison organised a rally in Manchester last Saturday.

But why don’t union leaders call a national protest against the NHS bill? Just like the brilliant 26 March demo last year, this could galvanise opposition and give confidence to everyone who wants to fight.

And let’s not forget that Unison, Unite and many other health unions have live strike ballots over pensions. If health workers struck now it could torpedo the government’s NHS privatisation plans.

Local activists have done brilliant work organising demos to save their hospitals and services. Health secretary Andrew Lansley can’t even visit a hospital without being hounded by angry staff, patients and protesters.

We need to step up a gear and deliver the kind of action that can bring this rotten Tory government down. And the 28 March public sector strike is a key part of that. It can be a day for everyone who wants to stop the Tory attacks.

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What We Think
Tue 6 Mar 2012, 18:39 GMT
Issue No. 2293
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