Why we marched for #OurNHS70 Birthday

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Our NHS is 70

Saturday 30th June, saw tens of thousands march in the capital both in celebration of the 70th birthday of the NHS, but also in protest at the attacks against it by this government.

Jointly staged by Health Campaigns Together, The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, the TUC and 11 health unions, our demonstration was the only national celebration of the NHS and people came from all over Britain to demand the government listen to their demands to end privatisation and fund the service properly.

The Day

Marchers carried colourful banners and dressed in bright clothes and they came in their thousands despite the heatwave to stand up and be counted in defence of our NHS.

Before the march set off the crowds were treated to speeches introduced by Louise Irvine, co-chair of Health Campaigns Together (HCT) – including from activist Peter Stefanovic, John Lister editor of HCT, [Twitter links here, here and here] and KONP co-chair Dr Tony O’Sullivan [Facebook], Richard Burgon MP and many more.

The speeches included strong messages to join campaigning groups such as Keep Our NHS Public in order to assist in the fight to save our NHS both at local and national level.

The march then assembled behind the now familiar street-wide demonstration banner of the organisers – Health Campaigns Together, People’s Assembly and the TUC. The banner read

Our NHS is 70 – Free, For All, Forever!

The march was lead by NHS staff and campaigners, prominent politicians including John McDonnell MP,  celebrities including Julie Hesmondhalgh, Sally Lindsay and Ralph Little, trade union leaders including David Prentis and many more. Notable on the front banner was Jonathan Ashworth who showed his commitment to working with the health campaigns going forward as the Labour Party prepares for political office.

At the rally in Westminster, thousands lined the streets to hear music from 2 Tone star, Rhoda Dakar and speeches from campaigners from all over the country. Tired, hot but enthusiastic demonstrators were also treated to songs from the NHS Choir as they headed toward the stage.

At the end of the rally Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the crowd saying supporters of the NHS need to “go to the end of the earth and beyond” to defend it. He went on to say,

“It is a symbol of an uncaring and cruel and divided society that so many go through mental health stress, so many go through it alone, and so many, sadly, take their own lives. I want to live in a society where we have a health service worthy of the name paid for by all of us, for all of us. It’s called socialism. I want to see the same principles applied in education and in housing,”

A Success

This 70thbirthday demonstration has been a great success with an ever increasing break through into the mainstream media with coverage from all the major news outlets of the day. More importantly, our main objective to disrupt the dominant narrative that was geared toward anodyne, toothless celebrations from the government and the establishment, was achieved, with public awareness growing that the NHS is not safe in the Tory Government’s hands.

Happy Birthday NHS

It’s clear that we have a huge amount to be proud of in the NHS, and a huge amount to be grateful for, especially the hard work carried out by it’s dedicated staff, special among them the amazing Windrush Generation. But the vital struggle to defend our NHS from this government and its cynical attack by underfunding, outsourcing and privatisation must go on.

And it will.

As Aneurin Bevan said, “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with faith to fight for it”.

We at KONP have the faith to make sure our children and our children’s children can have their own celebrations for an NHS that is publicly owned and publicly run in the future.

Happy 70th Birthday NHS!

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