Candidates protest against Birmingham NHS cuts
Some 25 people joined a hurriedly arranged protest against job losses and ward closures in City Hospital in Handsworth, Birmingham, last week.
Five of these were passers by who stopped to join in.
Alliya Stennet and Raghib Ashan, Respect candidates in Birmingham, led the protest at the local hospital. New Labour is presiding over thousands of job losses in the NHS across the country.
The Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS trust has announced that it intends to solve a £6 million deficit by cutting 800 jobs and shutting four wards.
This announcement was made on Wednesday evening. By Thursday lunchtime Respect members had collected hundreds of signatures against the sackings and had mobilised a protest which got coverage on both the BBC and ITV local news.
We will now be approaching MPs, councillors and the unions to launch a campaign to stop the cuts.
‘World will know if we win in Newham’
Respect campaigners were out in force across the east London borough of Newham this week.
The borough, which for years has had an almost exclusively Labour council, will be one of the major battlegrounds in the local elections in two weeks time.
Respect won the second largest number of votes in the borough in the general election and expects to take a number of council seats from New Labour.
Respect is standing 60 council candidates, contesting all the available positions on the council.
A launch meeting on Tuesday of last week saw over 200 people pack into Newham town hall to hear George Galloway MP, mayoral candidate Abdurahman Jafar, and leading Respect members Lindsey German and Yvonne Ridley.
Galloway attacked New Labour mayor Robin Wales’s plan to shut the much loved local Queens Market, selling off the land to Asda.
He said, “If the people of Newham re-elect Robin Wales on 4 May, then nothing will get better and Queens Market will definitely close.
“But if Abdurahman Jafar is elected along with Respect councillors then the whole world will know about it.”
Abdurahman Jafar said, “Newham Respect puts people first, which is the opposite of what Newham’s New Labour council has been doing.”
Campaigns move up a gear
Yvonne Ridley of the Islam Channel is standing for Respect in Church Street ward in Westminster, central London. Westminster is one of the richest areas in the country which makes the poverty in Church Street all the more shocking.
The Tory run Westminster council has ignored the needs of ordinary people.
Many people are responding to Respect’s arguments about housing, employment, education, health and pensions, and we hope to translate this into votes. We do a stall in the market and have leafleted all the houses in the ward. We are getting phone calls from people asking how they can help.
“A Liberal council pushing New Labour policies.” That’s how Yunus Bakhsh, Respect candidate in Newcastle’s Elswick ward, describes the local council.
Respect is campaigning against the city academy school which will be based in the area.Respect has already held a successful public meeting in the ward, leafleted the ward twice and activists are out canvassing.
The recent job cuts in the NHS are raising concerns as the general hospital is the biggest local employer. Yunus, who has worked as a nurse at the hospital for 18 years, says, “Defence of the NHS is vital for areas like Elswick as it employs large numbers of local people as well as providing essential services.”
In Southampton our campaign has got off to a promising start. I am standing in the Portswood ward.
The council is threatening to merge and close local schools, while hatching plans to build a “Super Casino” in the city.
There are also moves under way to set up an “independent sector treatment centre” at the local Royal South Hants Hospital, which will see private companies sucking money and staff out of the NHS.
We have leafleted the entire ward once and are now in the process of leafleting the area a second time. We are also going out canvassing.
We are off to a strong start in Oxford Cowley with much local interest in our campaign. The campaign has got momentum.
We have canvassed the whole ward once and now need to go back and visit the people not in the first time. Our candidate is Pippa Whittaker.
Local Cambridge candidate Tom Woodcock said, “We have canvassed large parts of the Romsey ward. We are getting an excellent response.
“Romsey has traditionally been a Labour seat but there is little appetite for ‘New Labour’ on the door step.”
Denise Knowelden and Sam Caldwell are the other Respect candidates in Cambridge.