By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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NHS rally hears from Jeremy Corbyn – now march on 3 February

This article is over 6 years, 4 months old
Issue 2589
Over a thousand people packed the meeting
Over a thousand people packed the meeting (Pic: Socialist Worker)

“But out there people know that the NHS is socialism in action.”

It had a flavour of the mass rallies during the general election campaign last June. Emily, a sixth form student, told Socialist Worker, “I joined the Labour Party before the 2017 general election because I wanted to make a difference.

“We didn’t get a Tory landslide—now we need to hold them to account.”

The loudest cheers went to promises to stop the Tory cuts and end all privatisation in the NHS.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth slammed “eight years of savage cuts” and the “Tory-manufactured crisis in the NHS”. “We’re going to get rid of the Health and Social Care Act, we will legislate for a publicly provided NHS,” he said.

There is nothing inevitable about the Tory government falling. It could stumble on unless it’s pushed.

And he said a Labour government would guarantee the rights of European Union (EU) migrant workers in the NHS. “We will defend your rights, we will defend your citizenship,” he said. 

But only muted applause met Ashworth’s laboured flourishes that “we will take no lessons from the Tories on PFI”. Tony Blair’s Labour took up the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scam with zeal—and Labour’s official policy is to only review problematic ones.

The speeches around privatisation signaled a potential break from this policy.

The leadership’s radical rhetoric made people optimistic about a Labour government stopping the Tories’ assault on the NHS.

Caroline is a Labour Party and GMB union member who had travelled up from Canterbury.

“I think the Labour Party has a plan for the NHS,” she told Socialist Worker. “At the general election we elected Rosie Duffield, the first ever Labour MP in our area.”

But there was also a sense of urgency among some people about fighting the attacks now.

Many Labour members knew about the NHS demonstration on 3 February. Amy, a Royal Mail worker in the CWU union, told Socialist Worker, “I hope to be on the demonstration. We’ve got to throw the Tories out, we’ve got to trigger a general election.

“Theresa May is barely holding on, they’ve got to go.”


To cries of “No” inside the rally, Corbyn asked, “Are we going to let the the government stay in?”

“There is a choice between the Tory government carrying on in office or a different government with different priorities and principles,” he said.

Theresa May is swerving from one crisis to another—and the pressure is growing on Tories over the NHS crisis.

Yet there is nothing inevitable about the Tory government falling. It could stumble on unless it’s pushed. And we cannot wait to elect a Labour government in 2020 to defend the NHS.

That’s why the the NHS demonstration on 3 February is crucial. Called by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together, it could bring tens of thousands onto the streets of London.

It’s a shame that Labour, which has made the NHS a key issue, has not thrown its weight behind it.

Every health campaigner, trade unionist and Labour Party member should build it in the next week to turn out the biggest possible numbers.

NHS in Crisis: fix it now. March and Demonstration, Saturday 3 February, assemble 12 noon, Gower Street, Central London WC1. March to Downing Street

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