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Expression of local anger at 'butchering' of Whittington hospital
Nick Auvache, Camden Socialist Party
An estimated 5,000 people joined the march to save the Whittington hospital on Saturday 16 March. The campaign which called the demonstration sprung into action when plans were announced to slash the workforce by a half, reduce beds by a half and sell off valued nurses' accommodation.
The hospital board angered staff, patients and local residents by not even bothering to carry out the semblance of a public consultation prior to making its decision.
The determination of the hospital management to drive through these cuts shows the utter contempt that they hold towards workers and patients alike.
Saturday's demo was an opportunity for the campaign to throw this back in their face and show that this butchering of the Whittington hospital will not be tolerated.
Despite the blustery wind and persistent rain protesters assembled in their thousands as they marched down the Holloway Road to a rally held outside the hospital itself.
At times it felt like the demonstration was going in both directions as cars on the opposite side of the road cheered and beeped their hooters in support.
Many of North London's celebrities had supported the campaign. Ken Loach, X Factor star Alexandra Burke, actor Dominic West as well as comedian Victoria Wood had all publicly supported the demo and some marched alongside the thousands of local residents and workers.
However those present realised that this was not a roll call of local celebrities but a genuine expression of local anger.
This march comes after the recent protest in Lewisham when 25,000 marched against cutbacks in health spending.
It further underlines the importance of the NHS, that is seen as an essential service that should not be touched and must be defended at all costs.
The political nature of the demo was not lost on the protesters as they chanted slogans such as "Hospitals for people not for profit!" and "No cuts, no closures!"
There were many speakers at the demo including Labour MPs David Lammy, Frank Dobson and Jeremy Corbyn.
Whilst they made passionate pleas to defend the Whittington they failed to outline how this should be achieved.
Also absent from their speeches was a recognition that although this Con-Dem government is keen to cut back on health care, the last Labour government enthusiastically backed privatisation in the NHS and massively extended PFI schemes which have contributed to the problems of underfunding in the NHS.
David Lammy said that he would chain himself to the doors of the hospital to prevent further sell offs. Direct action may well help the campaign, however this would need to be conducted as part of a wider drive to build the campaign, involving the local community and workers in the hospital - where possible in a plan of industrial action.
Also the wider trade union movement needs to be involved in this fight and others around the country.
There is huge potential for these campaigns to be united. The TUC could do this by calling a national demonstration.
The theme should not just be saving the NHS but bringing down this government at the same time and explaining what steps would be necessary to really guarantee a future for the NHS.
This task was largely left to the Socialist Party that had a strong presence on the demo. We had a number of stalls and gave out thousands of leaflets outlining our alternative to cuts and austerity.