Monday, February 19, 2007

Defending the NHS without blinkers

It’s good to see Dave Prentis writing in the Morning Star this morning, promoting the activities on 3 March being organised by NHS Together.

Everyone who can should support one of the many local events which are being organised around the country on 3 March by the unprecedented coalition of all NHS unions.

However, Dave isn’t giving the whole picture when he says – in support of the events of 3 March that “Gone is the blinkered view that London is the only place to be if you want to protest. A demo-fatigued capital is being given a rest in favour of vibrant, local, inclusive events that are easy for people to get to and where families and local people can come together to make their voices heard.”

This really is a false dichotomy. There is no choice between local action and national events if we want to save our NHS – or mount any campaign to influence Government policy. We manifestly need both.

Indeed, Dave Prentis reported to the UNISON NEC in October that it was intended that there would be a national demonstration early in 2007 following on from the NHS Together lobby of Parliament on 1 November last year.

To quote from our website; “the lobby will kick off a winter of campaigning, leading to a national demonstration in February next year, the NEC heard.”

Plans for the national demonstration were abandoned because of a poor response to consultation with other Unions and within UNISON. We should be honest with ourselves that this was a setback – it means we have more work to do to get the campaign to where we want it to be. It does not mean that we are no longer in favour of national demonstrations!

The inevitably uneven nature of the crisis affecting our health service does make it difficult to mobilise for national action in every area – but if we seriously want to make the Government change course then part of what we need to do is march in our thousands down Whitehall. A national demonstration is not a “be all and end all”, but it will be part of a successful campaign.

That’s not a blinkered view, it is the view that was put to the UNISON NEC by our General Secretary last year. The Greater London Regional Council is to put a proposal for a national demonstration to UNISON’s National Delegate Conference in June. Let’s hope that the 3 March helps us build up a campaign which really can shift the Government.

1 comment:

Kate Ahrens said...

The thing is that there already is a huge amount of local campaigning being done, but the London-centric political world and the London-centric media aren't interested.

From my UNISON branch in Leicester we're going to the Birmingham rally on March 3rd but will almost certainly only get local Birmingham press coverage despite the event being called as an all-Midlands event.

The national papers and telly won't cover any of it, or if they do it will be a hidden 10 second snippet.

If we want to build and promote a high-profile mass campaign that will make the politicians sit up and take notice then we need national events where we all come together as one.

As someone from the midlands it doesn't really make that much difference to me where such an event is held, but we all know that transport links make it easier for the bulk of people to get to London than anywhere else.

All this London-phobia is just an excuse on the part of the union leaderships to avoid calling a mass demonstration that would show the real strength of feeling in support of the NHS and push them into taking a firmer stand against the government.