Our NHS
September 10, 2014 – 8:28 pm | No Comment | by:

A reminder from Lung contributor Jonathan Allsopp that we’re in danger of losing the NHS unless we don’t fight back:
Ellen Wilkinson is a name that’s probably unfamiliar to many outside of Manchester or the north …

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Our NHS by:
September 10, 2014 – 8:28 pm | No Comment

A reminder from Lung contributor Jonathan Allsopp that we’re in danger of losing the NHS unless we don’t fight back:

Ellen Wilkinson is a name that’s probably unfamiliar to many outside of Manchester or the north east of England. Ellen’s story is not the sort of history that gets taught in schools and colleges. Mainstream history tends to confine itself to wars, royalty and the pillaging of foreign lands rather than the struggle for the rights of ordinary folk. Especially when that struggle is lead by women. Red Ellen was a fierce campaigner for feminism and socialism and one of the first women to be elected to Parliament at a time when women under the age of thirty were still unable to vote. In 1936, with eighty per cent of people out of work in her Jarrow constituency, in the north east of England, Wilkinson organised a march of unemployed workers from Jarrow to London where she presented a petition to Parliament.

Jarrow

Nearly eighty years on and another female-fronted march from Jarrow arrived in London last Saturday. The People’s March for the NHS was organised by the “Darlo mums”, a group of ordinary working mothers from Darlington dismayed at the dismantling of our beloved National Health Service. The three hundred mile march from Jarrow took them twenty two days and followed the route of the original Jarrow marchers through the heart of the country. It joined the dots of many local campaigns against cuts and closures of NHS services in the likes of Calderdale and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire and Hammersmith and Fulham in West London.

I joined the march for its final mile-long leg from Red Lion Square in Central London and there was applause from bystanders and the supportive tooting of horns from motorists as thousands marched down The Strand and poured into Trafalgar Square for a rally to mark the end of the march. Estimates of the number on this final leg varied from five thousand to twenty thousand but irrespective of the exact number it was a mighty fine turnout.

In Trafalgar Square we listened to speeches by the likes of the writer and journalist Owen Jones, the leader of the National Health Action Party Clive Peedell, the musician and campaigner Billy Bragg and several Labour MPs including the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham who reiterated his promise to reverse the Health and Social Care Act if Labour wins next year’s election. But the square was lit up later on by an electrifying speech by Joanna Adams, the Darlo mum whose idea it was to stage the march. She’d been on telly earlier in the day in a brief interview on the BBC’s breakfast programme but sadly there were no television cameras present to witness a brilliant, impassioned address. As with the huge Gaza rally a few weeks before the BBC prefered to ignore those exercising their democratic right to protest.

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For more than ten minutes Jo ripped into a speech that crackled with passion for the NHS and anger at the politicians who have failed to protect it. The marchers were not aligned to any political party she said, it was down to us, the people, to stand up and protect the NHS from the capitalists. “The NHS is owned by us, loved by us and can only be saved by us” was the message on the marchers’ t-shirts. The march may have ended but the fight for the NHS is only just beginning.

The speech tapped into a sense of huge disappointment with politicians and a feeling that they cannot be trusted when it comes to preserving the NHS. Yes, Labour have condemned the damage caused by the Health and Social Care Act and the privatisation of the NHS, but in power they presided over the further marketisation of the health service and the expansion of the Private Finance Inititaive that has left so many hospitals with shiny new buildings but crippling debts. This feeling of mistrust was echoed at the National Health Action Party’s annual conference the following day at London’s historic Conway Hall. The party was formed in 2012 and, like the People’s March for the NHS, is a grassroots movement aiming to stop the demolition of the NHS.

The NHAP aims to stand a candidate in next year’s general election in the seat of every MP that voted in favour of the Health and Social Care Act in 2012. The conference saw the unveiling of the party’s first batch of parliamentary candidates and they all made short speeches setting out their views and reasons for standing. Several smiled apologetically for being inexperienced at public speaking but, like the Darlo mums, their passion for the NHS shone through and it was refreshing to hear people speak without recourse to the buzzwords and stock phrases that litter much modern day political discourse.

Joanna Adams’ speech concluded with the words “socialism is neither dead nor a dirty word and some politicians would do well to remember that”. It was a timely reminder that whilst most Labour MPs are keen to avoid any references to the s-word for fear of scaring off the voters of Middle England, the NHS is an example of socialism in action and proof, if it were needed, that it is possible to organise society so that compassion comes before competition and people are valued more highly than profits. The NHS stands proud as the symbol of a caring and civilised society. It’s why so many Tory MPs dislike the NHS and are happy to see it flogged off to the private sector.

Next May will see perhaps the most important general election of our lifetimes for the NHS. If the Tories win a majority it will mark the end of the NHS as we know it, as a comprehensive national health service, free at the point of access and one that puts patients before profits. The evidence is all around us that the dismantling of the health service has already begun. Since April of last year over £13 billion of NHS services have been put up for grabs with over seventy per cent of these contracts going to the private sector. Meanwhile ten per cent of GP surgeries are now run by private providers. This is happening, often quietly, as companies like Virgin, Circle and Serco win contracts but continue to use the trusted and familiar NHS logo.

saveournhs

This matters because privatisation fragments care and diverts funds away from healthcare in the form of profits. Companies aim to maximise profits and often cream off the more profitable elements of services, leaving the more complex and costly services to the NHS. There was no democratic mandate for this privatisation, no party campaigned in favour of dismantling the NHS at the last election. Between now and the general election in May next year we have an opportunity to show our support for the health service that was recently labelled as the best in the world by the respected Commonwealth Fund. Too often, we take it for granted that the NHS will be there when we need it and that we won’t have to reach for the credit card to pay for our healthcare. But not anymore, we’re in real danger of losing the health service that the post-war generation fought so hard to establish.

I salute the Darlo mums. Red Ellen Wilkinson would have been proud of every single one of them. Let’s join them in their fight to save the NHS.

Mule of Oi
August 31, 2014 – 11:04 pm | No Comment | by:
Mule of Oi

It’s come to our attention that religious extremists are conspiring to take control and run our real ale pubs, oil and oatcakes. Men have been seen, wearing great bushy beards, unkempt straggly hair, wearing strange …

Scholes slams blues for lack of support
August 29, 2014 – 8:00 am | No Comment | by:
Scholes slams blues for lack of support

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes hit out at the club’s blue rivals, for the poor atmosphere they create at European home games.

Fit and proper…
August 29, 2014 – 7:55 am | No Comment | by:
Fit and proper…

I much preferred it thirty years ago when the middle classes looked at you as some kind of social leper if you spent your Saturday afternoons on the terraces. Now we are saturated with it and everyone has to have their say…writes Andrew Rhodes

Looking after your bottom ends…
August 26, 2014 – 12:39 pm | No Comment | by:
Looking after your bottom ends…

“No one likes us, we don’t care” – I always thought that Millwall’s favourite song was better suited to Manchester United, particularly in the late ‘90s when every away game in a small provincial town …

Cartoon lions and millionaire footballers
August 25, 2014 – 10:56 pm | No Comment | by:
Cartoon lions and millionaire footballers

Has the Class of ’92 got involved `to put something back into the community’ or to ultimately make money?

Glazers thrive despite on-pitch failures
August 20, 2014 – 6:32 pm | No Comment | by:
Glazers thrive despite on-pitch failures

An excellent piece from The Guardian‘s David Conn:
Amid the reams of corporate boasting in the Glazer family’s pitch to make $200m from selling a small slice of Manchester United plc shares, a section trumpets to …

Spirit, patience, gentleness
August 16, 2014 – 8:24 am | One Comment | by:
Spirit, patience, gentleness

‘Spirit, Patience, Gentleness,
All that can adorn and bless
Art thou – let deeds, not words, express
Thine exceeding loveliness.

The Great War – myths and realities
August 4, 2014 – 11:25 am | No Comment | by:
The Great War – myths and realities

The Working Class Movement Library‘s exhibition, The Great War: myths and realities, opens on Wednesday 6 August.  It explores topics such as Salford’s response to the outbreak of war, the strength of the anti-war movement …

Future heads…
August 1, 2014 – 1:13 am | No Comment | by:
Future heads…

FC United has, since its inception, prided itself on “doing things differently”. I think we can all agree that Course You Can Malcolm is something which is very different indeed.

The fiery particle (vote Ellen)
July 31, 2014 – 10:41 am | No Comment | by:
The fiery particle (vote Ellen)

One of those being touted as a deserving recipient of this civic award is Ellen Wilkinson. Ellen featured on the cover of issue eight of A Fine Lung, and in issue 11 Elsie wrote a lovely piece about her.

CYCM: Think about the future…
July 28, 2014 – 9:35 am | No Comment | by:
CYCM: Think about the future…

Anyone who knows anything about football knows that football is not about football. Anyone who does not know that knows nothing about football

Derby della capitale
July 21, 2014 – 3:36 pm | No Comment | by:
Derby della capitale

The Drunken Ship in Campo Dè Fiori has not been too welcoming to English football fans in recent years with supporters of Middlesbrough and Tottenham stabbed by Ultras when their clubs visited the city.

The Sun lied? Never…
July 21, 2014 – 3:19 pm | One Comment | by:
The Sun lied? Never…

Following the news that the Tulisa Contostavlos trial collapsed after the judge said he had ‘strong grounds to believe’ Sun reporter Mazher Mahmood lied at the hearing, we thought it worth looking back on this ace piece from our site a while back…

Salford Tories, the gift that keeps on giving
July 11, 2014 – 2:11 pm | No Comment | by:
Salford Tories, the gift that keeps on giving

We reported in May the bizarre tale of Salford Tories’ attack on the Working Class Movement Library, the amazing collection which they are lucky enough to have on their patch.  News – and indeed incredulity …

Strike a light…
July 9, 2014 – 7:19 pm | No Comment | by:
Strike a light…

As the country prepares for the widespread horror set to be wreaked by selfish public sector workers, the wonderful British media are gearing up for what they do best.

I got a story I want to tell
June 28, 2014 – 7:23 pm | No Comment | by:
I got a story I want to tell

A life that encompassed incredible personal tragedy and a lifestyle that took him to the brink of madness…Bobby Womack

Somewhere Tehran
June 25, 2014 – 7:32 pm | No Comment | by:
Somewhere Tehran

By Jonathan Allsopp
I followed Iran during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Working as a volunteer English tutor at the Refugee Education & Employment Programme in Sheffield, I’d recently met a lad from a Persian …

Miffin: my part in his downfall
May 30, 2014 – 11:36 pm | No Comment | by:
Miffin: my part in his downfall

The jolly ho ho approached me, you can’t make personal remarks. I didn’t I replied, I just shouted ‘you fat git’. You pointed in his direction and shouted ‘you fat git’. No, I’m sorry but …

Message of peace
May 26, 2014 – 5:58 pm | One Comment | by:
Message of peace

A reader has written to the council about Manchester’s Peace Garden:
I am writing in connection with the redevelopment of St Peters Square and the demise of the Manchester Peace Garden.
I fully support the redevelopment of …

Home advantage starts in the dressing room
May 26, 2014 – 5:51 pm | No Comment | by:
Home advantage starts in the dressing room

After visiting some grounds around Europe I have seen how the design of the away team dressing room is used to try and gain a psychological edge, writes The Colonel…