The whole shadow health team visited Reading today as part of what Andy Burnham jokingly called their ‘UK tour’. They started by visiting a GP surgery and meeting health workers and then had a more public meeting with – GPs, other health professionals, trades unionists and Labour party members (photo below). They were determined and clear that the Health bill can be defeated.
One way of showing support is to sign the ‘drop the bill’ government petition – it’s got 45,000 signatures so far, there should be many thousands more!
I didn’t take notes at the meeting but here are some of the things that I remember: Andy talked about the removal of the ‘N’ in NHS and a postcode lottery. He quoted Nye Bevan’s view that the NHS would survive as long as there were folk with the faith to fight for it. He said we’ve got the faith but we need to fight. They talked about putting pressure on Libdems who’s voters and members did not and as far as I can work out still do not want a dismantling and destruction of the NHS. I raised that a lot of Conservative voters hadn’t wanted the ‘top down reorganisation’ and yet I’d been told by my local Conservative MP that it was a myth that doctors and nurses were against the bill – could we put pressure on them as well? Diane Abbott in typically forthright style said that they were either deluded or deluding people. Jamie Reed came across to me as very passionate, when I was talking to him privately and thanking him for coming he said “Anything for the NHS”. Quite right too. The thing that he said in response to a question that most struck me was that he said, yes the Labour party is proud of the NHS but it doesn’t belong to the Labour party, it belongs to the people of this country, and that this is a campaign that the public need to get behind.
He also said that if David Cameron was thinking about his electoral chances he would drop this bill as it will be a disaster and dog him for the rest of his government.
I know that we’ve had a massive response from Reading’s residents about this issue, and I hope that the government comes to it’s senses. If there is a massive public outcry over the next few weeks I think it could happen.