Socialist Worker

Big demonstration of people fighting for the NHS and against the Tories

by Socialist Worker reporters
Issue No. 2610

Protesters cheered calls to drive out privatisers

Protesters cheered calls to drive out privatisers (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Anger against the Tories' assault on the NHS was on the streets of London on Saturday.

Tens of thousands from across Britain joined the NHS at 70 demonstration organised by Health Campaigns Together and the People's Assembly and backed by the Trades Union Congress.

There was a sense of urgency among protesters as the NHS approaches the 70th anniversary of its founding on 5 July.

George from north London had come to “warn people” about the dangers of the US's privatised health care service.

He said, “My daughter was born with cystic fibrosis, she's a US citizen but can't move back because they don't insure people with pre-existing conditions.

“The same people running the US health service are now setting up offices here. I've been saying it for 35 years that it could happen here.”

People before profit for the NHS

'Hands off our NHS' (Pic: Neil Terry)


Fighting privatisation was a major theme of the demonstration. Chants of “Whose NHS? Our NHS” rang out across the crowd and a delegation of striking workers fighting privatisation in Wigan were at the front of the march.

Jean came as part of a delegation from Keep Our NHS Public Greenwich in south east London. “They are trying to privatise the NHS by stealth,” she told Socialist Worker. “I went with my husband to the urgent care department and we found out it was outsourced.

“The sign still just says NHS, but it's already happening.”

At the final rally in Whitehall there were loud cheers when shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth pledged that a Labour government would repeal privatisation. He also thanked "those that come across the world to work in the NHS" and called for a "special tribute to the Windrush Generation".

Wigan strikers on the march

Wigan strikers on the march (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Many people on the demonstration are looking to a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government to stop the Tories' assault on the NHS.

Corbyn told demonstrators to have the “absolute determination that we will go to the end of the earth and beyond to defend our National Health Service.

He sent out “a special thank you to the Wigan campaigners stopping privatisation of jobs and services. Congratulations to Unison and Unite union members for the work they’re doing”.

Huge cheers erupted when Corbyn said, “I don’t pay my taxes so some shareholder can rip off the public and squirrel the money away.”

Some protesters argued it was also important to fight now and not wait four years for a general election. Keith Strangwood, chair of the Save Our Horton hospital campaign, told Socialist Worker, “We're here because we need unity, it's about people power.

All politicians have been part of privatisation.

Push

A bigger push from the union leaderships—including strikes—could repel the Tories' attacks. Amerit, a Unison union worker from north London, told Socialist Worker, We need to keep up the pressure on the government.

“There has not been enough of it if you think about the whole situation with the Grenfell Tower fire and the Windrush scandal.”

Nurse Andy was leading chants on a lively Migrants Make Our NHS bloc organised by Stand Up To Racism. “The Tories are trying to divide us and stop us fighting for the NHS,” he told Socialist Worker.

“We have to show people that the NHS wouldn't work without migrants.

“We also have to organise on every ward and GP surgery to give confidence to workers to refuse to implement passport checks in the NHS.

“The NHS should be free for everyone.”

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said, “The only reason the NHS has kept going is because of our wonderful staff.

“Not just the doctors and the nurses, but the porters, the cleaners, the caterers.”

She added, “Don't let any of those poisonous politicians who want to scapegoat migrant workers divide us. We are united.”

There needs to be more struggle, more strikes like the one in Wigan and a systematic battle against racism and fascism.

Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism told the rally, “Theresa May is responsible for building a hostile environment for migrants. We will defend the NHS from the hostile environment.

“We would like you to come here on Friday 13 July to send a message to Donald Trump that he's not welcome. And we want you to come on Saturday 14 July against Tommy Robinson's supporters.”

Together Against Trump, Friday 13 July, 2pm, BBC Portland Place, march to Trafalgar Square for rally at 5pm. Unity protest against the Nazis and Tommy Robinson, Saturday 14 July, 2pm, central London. Go to www.facebook.com/events/169517280565963/


Doctors' conference rejects racism

Delegates to the BMA doctors’ organisation’s conference pledged to resist the Islamophobic “Prevent” strategy last week.

A motion said it “leads to racial profiling” and called on the “BMA to support all members who refuse to take part in the Prevent programme”.

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act legally forces public sector workers—such as health workers and teachers—to spy for signs of “radicalisation”.

The majority of referrals under Prevent are Muslim.

Jackie Applebee Turner from east London said, “The main focus is clearly on Islamic extremism and this builds a climate of fear and mistrust.

“It feeds Islamophobia and leads to racial profiling.

“Home Office data shows that Muslims are 40 times more likely to be referred than someone who is not Muslim.

She added, “Prevent feeds Theresa May’s hostile environment which emboldens racists and provides fertile ground for their organisations to grow.”


Ambulance strike over pay

Ambulance workers across the North West of England struck for six hours over pay last Friday.

It was the second walkout by the GMB union members as part of a long-running dispute over job evaluation.

They previously struck in June for the first two hours of each shift over the course of a day.

North Western Ambulance Service bosses have dragged their feet over a job re-evaluation process.

The GMB said paramedics working for NWAS have been waiting for the outcome for 12 years.

 

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