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Uprising against A&E closure in Huddersfield
Aaron Bailey & Iain Dalton, Huddersfield Socialist Party
"If this doesn't make them listen, I'm not sure what will!" - One protester summed up the mood of the biggest demonstration Huddersfield has seen since 1918.
8,000 people marched against plans to close the A&E department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) and to downgrade the hospital.
It was recently revealed that the rent being paid for the land for the replacement, smaller, hospital site at Acre Mills comes to £670,000 a year.
This has led many people to conclude that it is a similar scandal of funnelling our money to big business as was the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal at Calderdale hospital, part of the same NHS trust, which is seen as responsible for Huddersfield losing its consultant-led maternity unit several years ago.
More and more people are coming to the conclusion of the Socialist Party that the PFI deal must be scrapped.
Socialist Party members have played a key role in this campaign, particularly amongst students and young people, including pushing the university students' union beyond just holding an initial protest.
Socialist Students member Lianne is the official representative of the students' union on the campaign steering committee, and Socialist Students member Jenny is a college student who got Corbyn to pose with a #handsoffHRI poster when she recently visited parliament.
But this campaign has further to go. As Mike Forster, Huddersfield Socialist Party secretary and chief steward of the demonstration said: "This was a terrific response and a great start to the campaign in general."
The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has just formally launched its 14-week consultation, and the campaign, along with its 10 (and growing) community groups will be attending each of the planned 'road shows' to voice opposition.
The CCG is running scared; it has already delayed the launch of the consultation and cancelled the planned road show at the university that was scheduled for last Monday.
Mike Forster, 27.2.16, photo Iain Dalton
There is a growing realisation of the wider need to defend the NHS and fight austerity generally.
Support was expressed from the platform for the junior doctors striking against unsafe working hours, but it also found expression in the hundreds of copies of the Socialist bought, as well as a packed post-demo Socialist Party public meeting.
We are determined to win this campaign. Not only are lives at stake with the increased journey times to A&E that will result if we don't, but also for the huge confidence boost it will give workers locally and nationally if we manage to defeat this attack on our health service.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 29 February 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.