Saturday, 3 February 2018

RTUC marches to save the NHS

Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP,
addresses the closing rally by video link
On 3 February 2018, from midday to 16:00, a contingent from the Reading labour movement joined comrades from around the country to protest against the Conservative Government's wanton destruction of our National Health Service. Members of both the Reading Trades Union Council and  the Reading & District Labour Party gathered in London's Gower Street before marching via Trafalgar Square to Whitehall to hear speeches by politicians, NHS doctors and nurses as well as patients whose treatment has suffered as a direct consequence of Conservative Party policies. Whether it be restraint in health spending, outsourcing of NHS services to such failing businesses as Carillion and Capita or alienation of European Union citizens who are leaving NHS employment in droves, the Tories are showing themselves determined to fragment and sell off the United Kingdom's most precious of services. Virgin Health and Nuffield Health are just two examples of firms cashing in on the carve-up.

Reading & District Labour Party join the march, including Sue Taylor
(PCS) (left) and Cllr Rachel Eden (GMB) (third left)
A large group of foot-soldiers from RDLP marched behind a Reading Labour Party banner, including such regulars at RTUC meetings as Sue Taylor (PCS) and Cllr Rachel Eden (GMB).

John Partington (TSSA) with John McDonnell MP,
Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
John Partington (TSSA), joining fellow trade unionists and labour activists from Oxford and Luton,  bumped into John McDonnell MP, Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was moving freely among the rally, talking to fellow protesters and awaiting his leader, Jeremy Corbyn's address to the crowd. In marked contrast to other political parties' leading figures, John does not ensconce himself in an ivory tower. His place is among the people - energising his supporters and engaging in debate with those who oppose him.

Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (UNITE) (right) sharing banner duties
Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (UNITE) also joined the march, lending Jeremy Corbyn's constituency a hand in carrying their banner. Reading's labour movement continues to demonstrate the breadth of its reach, influence and fraternisation!

The event was organised by the People's Assembly and Health Campaigns Together and attracted tens of thousands of people from across the country. Local events were also organised, including a series of leafleting campaigns in Reading by the RDLP in the days before the event, bringing the protest to people's attention and encouraging people to head to London on the day. The turnout demonstrates the importance of the NHS to the people of Britain. The People's Assembly plans to arrange further such events going forward - and the Reading labour movement will be arranging its own protests and informational sessions to keep the local people informed about the damage the Conservative Government is doing to health and social care - and offering socialist alternatives.