Saturday, 6 October 2012

Save our Hospitals: March & Rally Report

Strange bedfellows took to the metaphoric sheets this afternoon as a march in opposition to hospital cutbacks wound its way through the borough from the Bush to Hammersmith and on to Fulham. Socialist Worker newspaper sellers mingled with members of both the Labour and Conservative Parties at the start of the march on Rockley Road W12, while most of the people belonged to none of the above but just didn’t want to see the end of their local hospital.

There was almost as much noise coming back at the horn and whistle blowing campaigners from the passing motorists, who sounded their horns and frequently gave the thumbs up when they saw the Save our Hospitals banner.

During the march, supported by our Council and which was covered by the BBC, ITV and LBC radio, there was much good natured banter but a determination that, after the relentless propaganda carried in the local press in favour of these cutbacks from managers of the NHS in NW London, this was their time to be heard. It was also heartwarming to see banners hoisted aloft bearing the names “Brent” and “Ealing”, a sure sign that these people were not about to repeat the cynical divide and rule tactics adopted by Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in particular.

And that unity, which I was first so impressed by when the two campaigns – community and council – came together one night in Hammersmith Town Hall, also found its expression in the succession of speeches that greeted the crowd upon their arrival at the Lillie Road playing fields just south of the threatened Charing Cross Hospital.

Murad Qureshi AM
Assembly Member Murad Qureshi, who comes from Westminster, was there to extend his friendship and support as was Ealing MP Virendra Sharma. And there were some comical moments too, as the Tory Councillor Peter Graham was followed by a speaker from an organisation called the Revolutionary Middle East Workers Solidarity Council, or some form of those words put together. There she stood, Yasser Arafat style black and white Keffiyeh draped across her revolutionary chest, as Mr Graham looked on, blinking. He later confirmed my suspicion that this had been a first for him. And I suspect it might have been for our radical Comrade, too.

As a flavour of some of the speeches, here's a bit of what Labour Leader of the Opposition Stephen Cowan, had to say:

There were, without doubt, several thousand people in that field and many more who took part in the march itself. To get that many people, most of whom had probably last been on a march decades ago and on a Saturday afternoon, is no mean feat. And it’s no mean measure of the strength of the opposition to these plans.

If Cameron and co really want a fight on their hands by allowing NHS bosses to ride roughshod over local people and close, as Andy Slaughter MP pointed out in his speech, the very same A&E Departments he promised he’d keep open during the election then he’ll have a fight on his hands.

I suspect the NHS bosses in question may wish to reflect on that. Long. And. Hard.

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