Today was the day! The People’s March for the NHS reached Leeds.
The March started on 16 August – from the NE. It’s en route for Westminster, where marchers aim to present a petition to MPs on 6 September. It’s a deliberate recreation of the historic Jarrow March of the unemployed in 1936. As that march did for unemployment, this one aims to alert the whole country to the crisis in the NHS, and to the threats to it.
The marchers are walking under the banner of ‘Keep our NHS Public’, calling on the Government to act now to preserve the traditional values of the NHS. Today’s leg started from Harrogate – and ended in a rally in Leeds City Centre. Tomorrow it will set out south through the city on its way to Wakefield and beyond.
Alex Sobel – Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Leeds North West, joined the march in Harrogate – along with Neil Walshaw, Labour Councillor for Headingley. Alex was among those who addressed the marchers as they came into Leeds.
“The nation is quite rightly proud of the NHS, its principles and values, and they want to see them preserved for future generations. This march clearly shows just how much support there is for the NHS across the country.
“The Government have taken some really concerning steps in the last four years which threaten the very nature of what the NHS stands for, for example putting private profit ahead of patient care and tying the NHS up in complicated competition law. This march is all about sending out a clear message that people won’t just stand by and let six decades of NHS values be eroded away.”
The march follows a show of support for its aims by Leeds Labour Council. A white paper resolution was tabled by Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing, Cllr Lisa Mulherin, in July. It was passed by Leeds City Council – with the support of Labour and Green councillors. It called on the Government to halt the privatisation of the NHS.
The marchers came from the Ring Road through Moortown and into Meanwood and Headingley. Thousands are expected to join them as they make their way south – a feeder march set off today from Halifax and Huddersfield to do just that! Some will march the whole route. Others will join them for sections, to show their support.
Among these latter were a contingent from Leeds North West Labour Party – who met the marchers as they entered the constituency and accompanied them to the rally in Leeds City Centre.
As Nye Bevan said
‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it’
The LibDem/Tory Coalition’s actions have theatened to undermine that faith and the NHS itself.
The People’s March shows that people understand that – and continue the fight.