On the evening of Wednesday 28th of October over two thousand gathered in Leeds city centre to protest against the governments attacks on the working conditions of junior doctors and the continuing privatisation of our NHS. The new proposals would see junior doctors forced to work extra hours with an effective pay-cut and has provoked a furious reaction from already stretched NHS workers.
James Ellis, Leeds Socialist Party
The crowd was made up not just of junior doctors, but also nurses, cleaners, GP’s, consultants, students and members of the public. The crowd was in a militant and positive mood and, based on discussions we had with people there, many were protesting for the first time. The make-up of the crowd reflected how this issue is uniting all within the NHS against the savage Tory attacks on our healthcare system.
There was a wide range of speakers at the protest, all attacking the governments proposed changes and making impassioned defences of the NHS, but most stopping short of proposing next steps and moves to defeat the government other than an appeal for people to ‘write to their MP’.
Messages of solidarity came from a variety of speakers representing other roles within the NHS with many consultants and senior doctors working overtime to allow their junior colleagues to protest.
A senior doctor and lecturer admitted to voting for the Conservatives in the previous election (which did not go down well with the crowd) but said he now regretted that decision and would be fully supporting junior doctors if and when they take strike action.
None of the speakers mentioned the ballot currently being organised by the BMA for strike action, but the NHS workers we spoke to were all enthusiastically in support pledging they would be voting yes and willing to take industrial action to defend their jobs and our NHS. We gave out hundreds of leaflets putting forward the need for coordinated action to defeat the attacks on the NHS and were met with a great response – our NHS badges being particularly popular!
Whilst the speakers should have gone further by calling for a yes vote in the upcoming ballot and outlining a strategy to defeat the government, the clear show of solidarity from all sections of the NHS and the willingness of the protesters to take the fight to the government on the industrial field should have the ever popular Mr Hunt worried. This militant mood needs to be encouraged and action taken across the entire healthcare system, indeed across all sectors of society, in defence of the NHS.
The NHS was created by a mass movement of working class people in the post war years. By standing together and being willing to take on the government in a meaningful way through a coordinated action including calling for a general strike, we can again create a healthcare system free for all run democratically by workers and service users, not run in the interest of private profit.