London: NHS 70th Anniversary March (30.6.218)

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This NHS March marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS by the Labour Party in 1948. It was also a protest registered by tens of thousands of people who gathered at Portland Place (not far from Oxford Circus Tube Station), to voice their opposition to ongoing Tory plans to privatize the NHS and introduce a US-style private healthcare insurance. The NHS is a British version of the free health system operated in the Soviet Union which was paid for through collective taxation and delivered free at the point of use. The NHS has been under attack for decades, with Thatcher changing its ethos from one of ‘care’, to one of ‘cost’. Twelve years of ‘New’ Labour rule saw this policy continued without any reversal of Tory cuts. Today, only Jeremy Corbyn has stated that a Labour Party under his guidance will fully restore the NHS to its former glory. Following a number of rousing speeches, the march moved off toward Westminster at around 1300hrs – as scheduled. There were at least 20 to 30 (or more) Red Flags in our part of the march, but there were more spread-out through the crowd. The People’s Assembly hae stated that around 50,000 people attended this march and I have to say that it was well organised throughout, with a very good and comradely atmosphere and the minimum of obvious police presence (other than the continuous helicopters). There was also a thin blue line in Trafalgar Square stretched across one of roads – presumably to prevent the march heading in the wrong direction. As we stood in the scorching (30 degree) sun waiting for the march to start, we were told that the Communist Party was giving out free vegetarian food! As this was right next to where we were standing, we ate some rice and dahl (and a poppadom). It transpired that this might have been a Hari Krishna mobile food kitchen moving around London dispensing free food (with donations accepted if given), that happened to station itself next to the Communist Party forming-up point. It was also interesting to see the Royal College of Nurses present as this union usually supports the Tories – but from what I heard from the individual nurses (who usually hold different political views to their union) enough is enough! I even saw a group of three nurses holding Red Flags!

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