[First published on our website: 1 November 2006]
Thousands of people descended on parliament on 1 November to demonstrate their anger at the devastating cuts and closures to the National Health Service. They came from all over the country. From Yorkshire to the south coast. From areas where the local hospital, which thousands rely on, is due to close, or from one of the towns where the accident and emergency or birthing unit and other wards are to be axed.
Nurses came in their uniforms and marched with banners saying: "Save Our NHS." And hundreds waved the Socialist Party placards calling for a national demonstration. The march was to the TUC lobby of parliament, but lobbying parliament is not enough.
No part of the NHS is safe in this government's hands. 20,000 jobs are to go. Cuts are planned across the board as hospitals are forced to 'balance the books', which means in ordinary language, making slashing cuts. Meanwhile, the private health care sharks are waiting in the wings to buy up NHS services. That's why the march to parliament was clear in its demand to stop privatisation. These cuts are about the privatisation of the NHS from top to bottom. The London region of the National Pensioners' Convention had done an important job in caling the demo and using it to bring together NHS campaigners from all over the country.
Denise Wood, from Hinkley and Bosworth Pensioners explained why she was there: "The NHS is the jewel in our crown. Without it, we are nothing. I think all the nurses and other health workers who have come on this demo should be proud of being here at the beginning of a massive, national campaign."
The calls for a nationally co-ordinated campaign which can unite local groups and trade unionists are becoming stronger and this organisation is coming together at grass roots level.
Two weeks ago in Nuneaton eight campaign groups from around the country met to set up People United Saving Hospitals (PUSH). They have called another national meeting for 2 December.
Vanessa Casey, one of the organisers of PUSH, told the socialist: "This is a brilliant demo. We've had a great response on the streets and we've met loads of people from different campaigns from all round the country. We have invited every local campaign to come to our meeting on 2 December and we want to have an inaugural day of action across the country on Friday 15 December."
The response from Wednesday's demonstration for this co-ordinating meeting was tremendous. We now have to campaign to make it as big as possible. The main call of those backing the Nuneaton meeting is for the unions to immediately name the day for a mass national demo.
Let's build on the march and lobby of parliament. Hundreds of people signed up to be part of a national campaign. Now lets give them the opportunity to do just that.