Bystanders in the city centre cheered us on as 200 York residents marched through the city to a rally on Parliament Street on Saturday 21st May. The Defend our NHS York banner led the way, followed by hundreds chanting ‘Public health not private wealth!’.
It wasn’t just your usual suspects either. Families turned out and I spotted a few pushchairs in the human traffic jam. I didn’t hear any honking of horns so perhaps those inconvenienced drivers were supportive of our message.
The march arrived at Parliament Street where our booked out space at the fountains were occupied by a band (who were very good but didn’t have permission to be there!) so our rally was slightly thrown off, but the quality of speakers more than made up for that minor point. Baroness Afshar (Crossbench peer at the House of Lords) spoke first, followed by Gwen Vardigan from the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Smale, consultant gastroenterologist in York, Jen Clayton who made a fantastic speech about the slippery slope that we’re now on and drawing parallels to the tuition fees shame, and Tina Funnell as a long-time worker within the health sector.
So to those who missed the march and rally, here’s our message to the politicians who think they know best: Stop the Bill! The people don’t like it! It will lead to the destruction of the NHS and we’re just not going to stand for it!
And it looks like our efforts, along with many other marches and meetings and protests across the country, reported in local press, are being heard. In a speech by Nick Clegg today, he announced more watering down of Lansley’s original proposals and that the Bill may be forced back into the Commons for a rethink. Yet more signs that the Government are floundering. Water down a bad idea enough and you will only make it barely palatable and ‘barely palatable’ just isn’t good enough for the NHS.