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We were makin’ love by Wednesday…

Submitted by on July 5, 2017 – 7:28 amNo Comment

NHS Strike

The Pyramid field at Glastonbury is enormous. You have to stand in it to truly appreciate the scale of both the field and the whole site, which can be seen in its entirety if you’re stood on the hill on the back right as you’re looking at the stage.

To your right, in the distance above the West of the festival, beyond the John Peel stage and dance village, is Glastonbury Tor, the hill with the famous tower that appears on a lot of the artwork and often panned to as fawning BBC presenters remind you there’s not a festival like it on earth. To the left, downhill towards streets of vans selling any type of food you could want, a long path takes you to the Other stage, Glastonbury’s second biggest, and even further in the distance The Park and South East Corner.

From that position, high up at the back of the Pyramid field, the scale of the place is most starkly apparent.

“Such and such are on next”

“Where?”

“The Park”

“Yeah, fuck that. Who’s on here next?”

You have to go everywhere at Glastonbury via somewhere else and never in straight lines. It’s just too big. If you are at The Park and someone is on at the Pyramid, you’ve got to really, really want to go and see them. And you’ve got to avoid all the many, many distractions on the way or else you’ll do what thousands of people do and you’ll end up seeing some other band or performance and vow to definitely see such and such next time they’re on. Or watch on iPlayer.

This year’s line-up nonplussed me. I wasn’t disappointed, I just didn’t really know many of the names and if I did know them it was from their anodyne commercial radio ear-worm music that I was in no hurry to hear live (Katy Perry was fucking great by the way). So for me the standout slot on Saturday afternoon was Jeremy Corbyn’s speaker bit at the Pyramid before two rapping blokes, who I oddly warmed to after Jezzer had said his piece.

The sun was out, drying up the morning’s rain, and the wellies were now a sweaty inconvenience. We’ll get a good spot near the front, I thought, then we’ll be in a good position for whatever was on for the rest of the afternoon, including the Foo Fighters, the headliners who I’d be told were unmissable. Approaching from one of the main routes to the right of the stage, there was a sea of people going in our direction and struggling to get within sight of the stage. I’d seen this before but only for legend or headline slots and this was Saturday mid-afternoon and none of those.

We can’t see who’s on stage because we’re behind it but we can hear them – it’s early 2000’s drum and bass hall of famer Craig David and he’s got tens of thousands of people going daft in the field in front of him. I can imagine those who’ve never been to Glastonbury are at this point hurriedly scrubbing it off their to-do list.

It was uncomfortably busy so we did a left and made our way around the outside of the main field, through some of the camping and re-appeared in the top right corner. Like me, I reckoned thousands were at a loose end. They were spread out across every square foot of the Pyramid field enjoying – yes enjoying – the novelty of Craig David resurrecting himself after years of being hounded out of restaurants or chased down streets by people doing the Bo Selecta voice at him. And then he finished his set, thanked everyone and left, which is what I thought most people would do before Corbyn came on. They didn’t. They stayed. Everyone stayed. And more arrived.

Jeremy-Corbyn-Glastonbury-Festival

Michael Eavis, the festival’s founder, appeared on stage to a typically adoring welcome. He told the assembled Blackburn away sized crowd that he thought we finally had a leader of the Labour party who could fulfil all the hopes shared by many at the festival – non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, social justice, equality, quilted toilet paper and bearable comedowns. He didn’t say all of that, I just assume. Jezzer’s opening message for Donald Trump to “build bridges, not walls” broke any ice. The crowd were fixed on him. Craig David was but a distant memory.

You’ve seen the speech so you don’t need me to critique. Like I said though, if you wanted to see it live then you really had to want to see it live, especially if you were a good walk away, which thousands must have been. Some will have started their walk there a good hour or so before, getting their spot as Craig David did his thing. More and more arrived and tried to get in to the field all the way through his fourteen minutes.

At both sides there were hundreds who couldn’t even get within view of the stage and listened on speakers. It is a bit odd, isn’t it? They (and me) paid £230 for a ticket, plus all the other associated costs of going to Glastonbury and they (and me) took time out of their frantic Saturday schedule to go and see Corbyn, the old CND campaigning Labour bloke, speak. In fact, they didn’t do that – they made Corbyn their Saturday schedule over everything else they could have been doing. And there was lots and lots of things they could have been doing instead.

So why did they do that? Why did I do that? Why did I fight my way through crowds that felt a little bit dangerous and endure half an hour of Craig fucking David to listen to a politician tell me about how he sees the world?

Today a three-day strike by hospital workers defending their right to acceptable conditions and pay has begun. They are striking against Serco, a multi-billion pound global company that won the contract to supply cleaners, porters and other staff to hospitals in London. Serco’s CEO is Winston Churchill’s grandson. Our solidarity with Serco workers is absolute.

Their first act when taking over the management of staff at the Royal London hospital was to abolish paid breaks whilst increasing their workload. ‘Do more for us’ they say, ‘and then when you need a break we’ll stop the clock and stop paying you’. It is believed the bid for the Barts NHS Trust contract, covering a number of London hospitals, was a ‘loss leader’. In other words, they opted to make less profit from this deal to get their foot in the NHS door so that they can then mop up other similar contracts as the Tories continue their programme of rampant privatisation.

Cleaning supplies aren’t replenished at the rates needed, there is an alleged atmosphere of intimidation and bullying and staff have been denied the insulting lower-than-inflation 1% NHS pay rise. This is, after all, a commercially rather than care driven organisation.

I do some work in public sector contracting and the main question you’re asked is who else in the sector you provide services to. If you can name names then your chances of then winning more contracts in the sector increase markedly. There are supposed checks and balances and procurement processes in place to show that contracts are bid for and awarded fairly but anyone who has realistic hopes of providing services to, say, the NHS knows that they have to play a game.

The game that Serco are playing, so say workers, is one in which they erode pay and working conditions to fund the ‘loss leader’ which will lead to them winning more NHS contracts. But that’s not the narrative we hear. We are told by Tory-backing right-wing media that migrant workers drive down wages. These, mostly migrant workers, are fighting for better pay and conditions. Their wages are actually being driven down by corporations like Serco fighting for the right to buy and then sell us back the NHS that our families built.

NHS march

This is Tory Britain, where the people who prop this country up are beneath a small rise in their earnings in favour of cuts which drive them to foodbanks and which cost lives. They are literally killing people with their programme of pernicious cuts, underpinned by The Sun, The Mail etc who want you to blame a failing NHS and other public services on immigration, over-crowding and abuse of the benefits system. Those services can then be sold on so these big-hearted corporations can do a better job than this chaotic, expensive, unsustainable system.

Unsurprisingly, this strike won’t make it on to the primetime news bulletins but thankfully the mainstream news organisations’ influence over the masses is waning and people are waking up. And that’s why, on a sunny Glastonbury Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn is speaking to a crowd only bettered in number by the Rolling Stones. Because he cherishes the NHS. Because he loathes watching May skip hand in hand with Donald fucking Trump towards the nuclear apocalypse. Because an extra £2 per sheet of cladding is worth paying if it stops hundreds being killed in a burning tower block. And because, as he said to huge cheers on that Pyramid stage, a better world is possible.

You can get swept along by the vibe – yes vibe – at Glastonbury. But it’s not all hippies and vegans taking a few days off from knitting their own shoes to preach peace and love in Somerset fields. There is a wide cross-section of us there, including a huge number of previously politically dis-engaged young people. And even larger numbers of pilled-up Scousers in Bayern Munich shirts. They came together on Saturday the 24th of June to show JC and the watching world that we’re not having it any more. And to watch Craig David do some pretty catchy remixes.

#makeJuly5NHSday

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