Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/689/12960
NHS protesters occupy Westminster Bridge
Hundreds of protesters blocked Westminster Bridge next to the Houses of Parliament on Sunday 9 October to demonstrate their support for a publicly owned National Health Service (NHS). This positive action was organised by UK Uncut in protest against the government's upcoming NHS Bill which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.
Among other changes, the Bill will remove the duty of the Health Secretary to provide health services and place the running of GP services in the hands of private consortia. It is a further step along the road to privately owned, American style, health care. This road was originally fashioned by the Thatcher and Major governments and then drastically accelerated by New Labour with the introduction of Foundation Trust hospitals and a huge increase in PFI privatisation schemes. The current Con-Dem government has simply picked up where New Labour left off.
Support for the 30 November strike action over pensions and cuts by public sector workers was prominent in many of the speeches at the blockade as well as solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in the USA and the big social movements in Israel.
The comedian Mark Thomas made an appearance at one of the assemblies, performing a 15 minute set to cheers and laughter, which contributed to the carnival atmosphere on the bridge.
The main focus of the assembly seemed to be planning further actions, chiefly the Occupy the City protest on 15 October. If there was any weakness in this method of organisation it is that it is difficult to engage in a discussion about overall strategy of the movement beyond organising the next action.
UK Uncut also handed out a leaflet with the headline: "This is the last chance to save the NHS". Although the sentiment of urgency is understandable given the attacks the NHS faces, the phrasing is unfortunate as it could lead to demoralisation among the public.
Given the potential power of the working class, nothing is irreversible. Health unions will soon be balloted for strike action on 30 November against attacks on public sector pensions. This strike will give a taste of how action can be taken against the destruction of the NHS
In The Socialist 12 October 2011:
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party fundraising
The Socialist - readers' comments