It’s the day after the March for the Alternative and it was fantastic to see hundreds of thousands of people there, united in opposition to the ConDem cuts. Having set my alarm for 5.15am to leave Leeds after stitching my banner until the early hours, it felt great to join with half a million people protesting together, including a good gang marching behind the blue banner which read “fight for our NHS”.
Big Society NHS members had come down that day from as far and wide as Yorkshire, Oxford, Newcastle and London. We met early, some changing into scrubs, whilst others spray painted last minute banners by the side of the road. Amongst the NHS focused marchers were academics and concerned members of the public, as well as medical students, Occupational Therapists, junior doctors, nurses and consultants – whose banner bore the Nye Bevan quote “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight”. We certainly have the faith to fight.
The award for cutest members of the march go to two children whose mum is a member of Keep our NHS Public. They sang “Save the NHS, it is the best, Lansley go West, Save the NHS” into our megaphone to cheers from the crowd.
Biggest thanks of the day goes to NxtGen whose fantastic Andrew Lansley rap provided us with a fantastic chant, as well as slogan for our banners; “Andrew Lansley – greedy, Andrew Lansley – tosser, the NHS is not for sale, you grey old manky codger”.
Although we struggled at times to keep up with his high speed rapping, playing his rap via the megaphone certainly kept us in high spirits as we danced our way down Embankment. We even stopped off en route at the Department of Health and showed them just what we think of their boss through the medium of slightly questionable dance moves, we were greeted with cheers of support.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it to Hyde Park to hear the speeches of Labour leader Ed Miliband alongside trade union leaders such as Bob Crow. The route was so congested with demonstrators that five hours after starting we had made it a grand total of 0.9 miles to Trafalgar square, where we greeted by a yet more music and dancing – a carnival spirit.
But the real question is what happens next. Will our demonstration have made a difference? I hope so, but only as one part of the picture, there’s so much more to do. As many have highlighted, more people marched yesterday than came out to oppose the Poll Tax protests of 1990 which were followed by Thatcher’s resignation and a Conservative party U-turn on the issue (the tax was scrapped and replaced three years later). So it can be done. As Polly Toynbee said in The Guardian on Saturday: “This march is just the beginning; the opening salvo in a long campaign. Ignore the cynics: every pair of feet will make a difference.”