Yesterday a small gathering took place outside Hammersmith Hospital on Du Cane Road in Shepherd's Bush. Organised by our council it was intended to demonstrate their committment to saving both of the hospitals slated for downsizing by the NHS. It came after some of us pointed out that the council only really seemed to be bothered about the threat facing Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham, with a senior councillor telling me that he wasn't convinced by the case for the hospital in Shepherd's Bush.
So welcome that they decided to do this. But less welcome was the fact that when our MP turned up to support the protest, our councillors - and their press officers - started behaving like schoolboys.
Held at 1.30pm on a Monday the protest was never going to attract a great deal of people, the purpose was mainly a photo-call, the images of which could then be used on the council website and elsewhere as part of the campaign. But our MP is Labour and our council Conservative, of course, and the council press officers were clearly under orders not to let a Labour MP in the photos.
So they stood in front of him every time the cameras came out. Genius!
There is a real danger that these two political groups end up dividing the opposition to the plans, thus weakening the campaign, and end up letting the hospitals be closed by default. There are already competing petitions - run by the council and the MP, and there are set to be competing websites and all the other paraphernalia associated with campaigns. It is nuts.
|The council's campaign|
Both of those strategies would actually work quite well together if they were combined - the council has a very well resourced press office, while for his part Mr Slaughter clearly has significant convening power in the local area. He also, of course, sits in Parliament and this wednesday will be leading a debate on the closures at which a Department of Health Minister will have to try and defend them.
Wouldn't it be a great idea if they worked together?
Yesterday evening Mr Slaughter sent the letter below to new council leader Nick Botterill, on that subject, asking for a meeting so that they can agree to work together, at least on this. I hope Mr Botterill can respond positively and that, on this issue at least, the ferrets-in-a-sack syndrome can be put to one side. The fate of our hospitals is way more important.
Here's Mr Slaughter's letter:
9th July 2012
I hope we can meet very soon to discuss ways of campaigning in tandem to oppose the closure of Hammersmith and Fulham’s A&Es and the downgrading of its hospitals.
The issues facing the borough and our constituents are literally life-changing and they are looking to their political representatives to give them a unified voice against changes nobody wants.
Several hundred of my constituents have formed themselves into the group “ Save Hammersmith and Fulham Hospitals”, which they asked me to chair last week, while making it clear that they wanted the campaign to reflect the whole spectrum of opinion across , and beyond, political parties.
In this spirit, we agreed the following principles are important:
- We need a single, unified campaign. With two separately identified campaigns, the danger exists that one might become a poor relation.
- Each element in the fight needs to cooperate fully and openly with other campaigners.
- We want the council to join us in lobbying the government as well as the NHS locally.