The Labour Party is fighting to make the NHS its key issue for the general election. But this argument isn’t just raging between the Tories and Labour.
Health campaigners are continuing to fight for the health service and debating the best strategy to beat back the attacks.
This was evident at a 500-strong Defend London’s NHS rally in Hammersmith, west London, on Tuesday of last week.
Different speakers were united on the need to kick the Tories out, with rapturous applause for anyone who bashed health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Labour MP Andy Slaughter said, “Hunt isn’t just a PR man or a snake oil salesman—it’s his job to privatise our NHS. But Hunt won’t get away with it, because you’re here.”
But what that means is up for grabs. For Andy Slaughter it’s a Labour government with Ed Miliband in Number 10.
“It’s Labour that will save the NHS from this rotten Tory/Liberal government,” he claimed.
Labour has pledged to repeal the hated Health and Social Care Act, which brought in the latest raft of privatisation, but it’s still committed to Tory cuts and privatisation.
It was clear that many people want to go further than what Labour is offering.
East London GP and Save Our Surgeries campaigner Jackie Turner said, “It was Labour health secretary Alan Milburn who was one of the biggest architects of privatisation.”
Jackie won applause arguing for the unions to fight. “We had two vibrant stoppages last year—it wasn’t just about pay. But now we have to push the health unions to stand up for the NHS,” she said.
Joss Bell from the Socialist Health Association uncritically praised Burnham’s ten-year plan, claiming “the NHS just can’t survive another top down reorganisation”.
In reality, it’s an alibi for being silent on Labour.
Candy Udwin, the London chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said, “We need to get the Tories out—we’re all united on that.
“But we need to fight for it, not just vote for it.”
Slaughter said that if Labour wins the election “we’ll be in the same position as we were in 1997”. He’s right—we’ll have to keep up the fight.