Tag Archives: direct action

It’s up to us to save the NHS

15 Mar

I’ve been thinking and worrying obsessively about the NHS for the last week – I thought I’d get out some of my thoughts and highlight the action we can take.

The stark reality – which the mainstream media are doing a terrible job of conveying to the public – is that our NHS will soon become privatised under Langsley’s Health and Social Care Bill. Our much loved and world class health care system which is free to all who need it will become a greatly diminished service which will charge and exclude people. In fact, the privatization ‘reforms’ are already being snuck through by the government – something which is completely unconstitutional. Just because little chip and pin machines aren’t emerging on the desk of your GP or beside hospital beds doesn’t mean that significant changes are not already underway. The government are being deliberately sly – they are determined to serve up our NHS to the corporate vultures flocking overheard (watch this video here to see the close proximity that private health companies have with politicians http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/03/10/libdems-approve-obliteration-of-the-nhs/) – but they are clearly scared of the public reaction to this.

There has been huge opposition to this bill. I lost count long ago of the number of medical bodies who have voted against and spoken out against the bill. The general public too have been incredibly vocal and active. There have been numerous petitions. There has been lobbying of MPs and Lords. There was the wonderful Block the Bridge action by UK Uncut last year in which thousands gathered in an act of mass civil disobedience to stop the bill. And yet the government ploughs ahead, showing their utter contempt for democracy – and our health.

Now the situation feels incredibly urgent. The Bill goes for its third and final reading – a final chance to amend the bill (not good enough, we want it dropped) – on Monday 19th March after which there will be ‘consideration of amendments’. After this it will receive Royal Assent. There is the slim possibility that in her busy Jubilee year, the Queen simply will not have the time to give it her royal stamp, or whatever she does – however we should not count on this. Many people are aware that we need to do more to stop the bill, but we’re not sure what. I don’t claim to have any answers, but from reviewing the present landscape, there are things that are becoming strikingly obvious that may help us in our task. The main point is is that it is up to us to save the NHS. This sounds like a daunting task, but it’s the reality and it is possible. No other large bodies or groups (apart from Keep Our NHS Public) are up to the task – it’s all about people power now.

The politicians are more interested in the money of private healthcare providers than our appeals to them. Unless we really scare them by taking to the streets and looking really angry.

The unions have done nothing. Apparently they are worried that if they were to speak out to save the NHS the public will think they are only acting in the interests of their members. Well, they’re unions, of course they should be protecting their members, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also speak out when a wonderful public asset is being destroyed. The unions should get some guts.

38 degrees is an incredibly popular campaign group that promises ‘people.power.change’  (and an excessive use of full stops) however, their idea of people.power.change seems to involve raising lots of money from their members in a short space of time to put up big posters and then ignore their members when they call for 38 degrees to call for a march. I just received an email from them in which they lie that ‘we’ve tried pretty much everything’. They are actively disempowering their members by suggesting that the only ways to achieve change are through online petitions, and if these don’t work, oh well. Disenchanted 38 degrees members, you can still take to the streets – we’ve arranged our own demonstration this Saturday 17th March. It is your time, energy, and money that basically runs 38 degrees, so just channel this into actions up and down the country instead of the 38 degrees website.

Ben Goldacre tweeted that we should do everything to stop the NHS bill, suggesting we even defecate on our MPs lawns. Yet, despite this helpful suggestion, when someone tweeted him about the Saturday NHS demo – he simply tweeted back asking who had arranged it, and promptly ignored other tweets from his numerous followers requesting a retweet for the demo. What’s his issue? Why call for action and then ignore the actions when they’re there? *Cough* hypocrite.

So basically, that leaves us, the public to organise and take action ourselves. Perhaps singling out the groups and people above who have failed to act seems a bit brutal, but it’s just to save us time from appealing to them and to encourage us to work together which will be much more fruitful.

There are loads of thing that we can do together to bring about the end of the bill – taking action on the streets all over the country to make the issue visible and to cause disruption for those private health companies seems a good place to start. There is the demonstration outside the Department of Health this Saturday which we can make huge – tell everyone you know about it http://www.facebook.com/events/107457682717979/. If you can’t make it down, why not find some people in your area and take action locally being sure to get the local news along too. Use social media to report your own news.

After the demo on Saturday, we will move to a secret location that is looking to profit from the sale of our NHS. This action will send the message to them and to politicians that we will not allow them to make mega profits from our health service. Check out the awesome blockthebillbuilders website http://block-the-bill-builders.posterous.com/ for targets and get planning further actions so that we can highlight what exactly is happening to our NHS under this bill.

We have a short amount of time but many many actions planned. Get involved in whatever way you can. The NHS is a great common project which testifies what wonderful things we can achieve when we work together. Drawing from this spirit of togetherness, let’s organise to stop this bill.

(There’s a wonderful book called ‘Hope in the Dark: The Untold History of People Power’ by Rebecca Solnit – I’m sure there’s some beautiful quotation in here somewhere that I should include, but can’t find it at the moment – I’ll get back to you on this one.)

Stopping the Welfare Reform Bill

28 Jan

DPAC and UK Uncut protesters block busy West End road in action against the Welfare Reform Bill

Disabled People Against Cuts with the support of UK Uncut had called for this afternoon to be one of direct action against the welfare reform bill – an incredibly punitive bill which seeks to make the poorest and most vulnerable members of society pay for a crisis which they had no role in. Whenever I think about this bill, I am always absolutely horrified by it – that a government could ever seriously think that this is an acceptable thing to do – to actively cause harm to the people in our society who deserve additional support. I am baffled sometimes why the whole of the country is not out in the streets protesting against what the government are doing. Whilst the Lords are kicking up a fuss against the bill which is warmly welcomed- it is important that the rest of us take to the streets to show our opposition. The consequences of this bill are so serious that direct action is absolutely necessary.

We were to meet at Holborn Station at 11.30am to travel to a secret location. We piled into the tube station and emerged at Oxford Circus to join a group of protesters who had chained their wheelchairs together to form a road block across the top of Regent Street. This was a truly incredible act of direct action. As DPAC and UK Uncut noted, today the invisible would become unmissable as they confronted, and befriended, thousands of west end shoppers and brought the busy traffic to a halt. Hundreds of people moved in behind the road block and took over the street for the afternoon to come together in solidarity against the government’s welfare reform bill – demanding that this bill be stopped. Seeing these people chained together in a determination to have their voices heard was inspiring – I’m a complete wimp of an activist and it was incredibly poignant to see people show such courage. But, as a woman points out in John Domokos’ wonderful video of the day (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2012/jan/28/welfare-reforms-protest-oxford-circus ), it was also sad and shameful that they had to take to the streets in the first place.

There was a brilliant atmosphere on our people-filled road – a samba band played, people danced, people chanted, people talked together. Whilst the atmosphere was upbeat and determined, the space was full of lots emotions – for some, this was their first protest and so understandably it was quite a scary experience for them. In John’s video, one woman described how she had had to prepare all week in order to come to the action. To be amongst such determined and friendly people was a wonderful experience – even the police seemed won over – we overheard them saying ‘let’s just leave them’. (Although later on they did attempt to move our group on – they spoke through a megaphone, which as one protester pointed out made them sound like a duck, furthermore, as another protester pointed out, they did not communicate the message in sign language.) A community megaphone was passed around and one man started chanting ‘we’re all together’ – it was incredibly moving because this was exactly what our action was showing. In the middle of a space dedicated to pointless consumption, we were demonstrating the other values which we hold in society – caring, friendship, and community – these are our tools that we will use to stop the cuts.

This incredible direct action is a strong message to the government that we will not accept their welfare reform bill – they cannot ignore us. And if they do, well, we’ll be out on the streets again, and with growing numbers.