When I first heard of the Peoples March for the NHS, I was filled with a lot of hope. I was under the impression this could be a real big stick with which to bash the establishment, an establishment which has for successive governments treated the NHS as two things, a gift to give to their jolly old chums, and a magic trick with which to manipulate the masses during election time. A real opportunity to highlight to people from Jarrow to London how much disdain the privately educated mob view their health and well being. How dismayed I was then, when it seemed Labour was now using this march to launch its new election campaign, as it was reported in the Guardian while the march was in full swing: “Ed Miliband will put healthcare at the centre of his general election campaign in a bid to capitalise on voters concerns about the Nhs,” and oh boy were they capitalising. I forget how many Labour politicians and pro-Labour stooges I witnessed falling over themselves to declare their support and address rallies, but I personally got to witness Andy Burnham in Bedford, and the Labour fest that became of the Trafalgar Square rally. You may think I am being overly negative, but ask yourself this, can you trust the Labour party? Can you trust its politicians? I could turn this article into an analysis of how, where and when Labour have betrayed us and the NHS, but most of you already know.
I took part in helping organise the Northampton leg of the branch, a lot of work went into it, I assume a lot of work went into it across the country by all the organisers. A big thank you and a big shout out to all those that made the Northampton leg of the march work, thanks to you all for the time and effort involved. The organisers are the unsung heroes of the march, and to me are the most inspirational thing to take from it all. They were not jumping out of the minibus for every photo opportunity, or given center stage in London, or any stage for that matter, but without them, the march wouldn’t of got past day one. Up and down the country, people gave their time and money to facilitate a march for the NHS, so there is hope there. Well done to all the organisers for their hard work and dedication in making it possible, I only hope they continue to be as dedicated in fighting for the NHS in the long term.
Things soon turned a bit sour when the marchers arrived, they were an hour and a half late, which was fine, these things happen. They were not happy to see us, nor did we get a warm welcome, and things went from bad to worst, as we were walking down with them to All Saints Square, one of our lot began chanting “They say cut back, we say fight back,” he was then told in not so kindly terms, to be quiet as his chanting was too political, this put people off from joining the march, and needless to say, a group left early from the rally because of it. They were then rude to the organiser, and the details of the conversation I will not go into, needless to say, they were very ungrateful for the hospitality and work that we had put in for them, five of them were not happy with the place we had arranged for them to stay and went off to a travel lodge.
I put this down to it being a long day and them being tired, things did not marginally improve the next day, and all in all the experience left me feeling a bit pissed off and let down by something I had a lot of hope for. The other organiser for the Bedford leg had seemed to arrange things behind Northamptons back, and the reason why became apparent as the march progressed. I think I need to add here as well, A core group of the marchers, usually the ones you see at the front of all the pictures, seemed to spend quite a bit of time in the van, and only jumping out for the photo ops (they did do some walking, but I think the hardcore walkers didn’t get a lot of the media attention), coincidently these were the same group of people which were very rude and ungrateful, there seemed to be two camps within the march which polarised different attitudes towards the people helping them, and towards each other (I also got told off a few times for walking ahead of them during the march).
Anyway after a couple of miles, a bunch of people jumped in the van, and we continued walking until we got near Lavendon, we were running behind schedule, so we all got ferried just outside of Lavendon, and the reason for this will again become apparent soon. However when we got to Lavendon a plaque was presented, a nice photo opportunity was had, something the Northampton organiser had nothing to do with. We got to the pub the Bedford organiser had told us to go to, only for the Northampton organiser to start getting grief because the owner wasn’t expecting us (supposedly the whole village would have been out if they had known we were coming something else we got moaned at about, god knows how they knew to present the plaque, and recreate a few photos), all in all it soon descended into a farce, with Northampton taking the flak, because the Bedford organiser went and completely ignored what she had planned. Then why all this was happening, and why the Northampton lot were being sidelined became apparent, we were told we had to meet Andy Burnham at 4.30 at Biddington and we “can’t keep him waiting.”
So back into the minibus we jumped as we got drove from Lavendon to Biddington, there I met a really inspirational lady who had COPD, her grandson died due to the benefit cuts and she wanted to march the mile or so into Bedford with us. How upset I was that the march left us, and this woman had to constantly apologise to the few of us that stayed with her, because she felt a burden as we were not walking with the rest of them. What was this march about? This woman should have been leading us, instead of being made to feel like a burden, she should have felt honoured, I know I definitely did after walking the mile or so with her. All of this, because we couldn’t leave Mr Burnham waiting, just what were we doing this for again? So we met Burnham, something the Northampton organiser had no input on, or was even aware of and marched off to Bedford, I didn’t stay for the rally, I left the march in disgust, feeling let down and demoralised. We later got informed that no one was allowed to stay with the marchers any more, and if anyone joined them, they would have to arrange their own accommodation – thank god we turned around then.
Then fast forward to the London rally, we went down to show our support, after all, who doesn’t support the NHS and want to fight for it, outside of the vampiric establishment that is. Low and behold, two Labour politicians on the podium, and Labour champion Owen Jones, this from something which we were told a few days earlier was not “political.” We have seen now with this and with the People’s Assembly how the Labour party in opposition is using these very good grassroots initiatives to boost their own ratings and to give themselves a bit of credibility. The Labour party betrayed us, it sold us down the river to big business, and now it is coming for our votes, every time we see a Labour politician at one of these events, they should be on their hands and knees begging us for our forgiveness, instead of being facilitated to lie and cheat us, all over again. I stayed around till the end but all in all, I felt really disillusioned with the march and the marchers as a whole. Instead of Labour getting a seat of honour at the London rally, the regional organisers should have been recognised for their commitment in making it happen, I wonder how much support Labour gave to the march organisers, and march along the way? In Northampton, they tried going over our head, then completely ignored us.
My overall opinion on the march is that it seemed to descend into a media frenzy, it became more about getting that good photo opportunity than actually spreading a message of resistance against the establishment who are seeking to destroy the NHS. Hats off to all those who walked, no matter how far, and for all those that made the march possible. I think it is great that the darlomums did this, do not get me wrong, I think they started out with the best of intentions, and it is magnificent that people up and down the country came out in support of the NHS and made this march possible. But what now? The vibe I seemed to be getting was that we need to vote Labour to save the NHS, was that the aim of the march, to get people to vote Labour? Labour sold the NHS down the river once before, how can we trust them not to do it again? We cannot continue to treat Labour as honoured guests at dinner, when they have been stealing from our house and sleeping with our partners! With hindsight, I think there should have been a much more longer term objective, it would have been great that instead of it being hijacked by Labour, it got behind the NHA or any of the parties which are actively campaigning against the very interests that the Labour party support, or that it went into communities to actually build resistance against the establishments plans, instead of quickly passing through on their way to their next photo opportunity or meeting with a Labour politician. Regardless of the outcome of the next election, whether we have Labour, Tories or a coalition, one thing is for certain, the fight for the NHS is only just beginning.