Tens of thousands of people marched against vaccines in central London on Saturday—and they were joined by hundreds more in other towns and cities across Britain.
The demonstrations built on previous protests by the conspiracy-driven movement that has consistently mobilised large numbers of people.
But now the movement’s organisers hope to latch on to health workers that face losing their jobs for being unvaccinated.
As with previous demonstrations, the march on Saturday brought together people representing a spectrum of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination ideas.
It includes an element of people frustrated or hit hard by lockdowns, including small business owners and some workers. It also included people sceptical or unconvinced about the safety and effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine—and those who believe it is some sort of conspiracy.
In both cases, the trajectory was to the right.
Far from a fringe element, those pushing “harder” conspiratorial ideas, often rooted in antisemitism, are at the core.
And although the demonstrations are not a fascist movement, they are places where a variety far right groups are tolerated and even welcomed.
The most significant difference on Saturday’s march was the organised presence of some health workers.
A group called NHS 100k organised a large feeder march of people in specially-produced blue hoodies. Most appeared to be genuine health workers and their families or supporters.
Many carried homemade placards demanding freedom of choice and informed consent, and emphasising the threat to jobs and the NHS, rather than advancing conspiracy theories.
Some even declared they’d had the vaccine themselves, but were against it being imposed on others.
But the main march’s organisers used the health workers to give the movement a stronger sense of respectability and legitimacy. They encouraged those in blue hoodies to lead the demonstration chanting, “Save our jobs.”
The “harder” element among the marchers linked vaccine mandates to their own conspiracy theories.
And the NHS100k website, where the health workers on the march bought their blue hoodies, casts doubt on the effectiveness of the vaccine and promotes false anti-mask “research.”
It provides a model email to send to trade unions demanding to know what they are doing to oppose vaccine mandates. And it encourages its supporters to join the right wing English Workers Union, which is run by the leader of the far right English Democrats party.
Clearly, the right hopes to build on frustration and disillusion among some health workers at the major unions for failing to oppose sackings of unvaccinated health workers.
In the same way, the anti‑vaccination demonstrations have established a large following in a vacuum left by trade union leaders, the Labour Party and the left.
When there has been so little opposition to the Tories—few strikes and even fewer demonstrations—the anger at Johnson finds other outlets.
The danger is—particularly among health workers currently—that these are paths to the right.
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