This statement was presented at a Leicestershire Against the Cuts demonstration in Leicester on Saturday 9 April to support the junior doctors:
We want to extend our warmest greetings and solidarity to the junior doctors. Universities in Leicester are well represented at this demonstration, and this is in no small part because many students today, no matter what field they study, see themselves in the junior doctors’ struggle.
We can all agree that the junior doctors’ battle in defence of their contracts and against the privatisation of the NHS has been nothing short of magnificent. Their strikes have revealed a determined workforce united in struggle, and have been an inspiration, not just to students, but to us all.
If Jeremy Hunt is successful in imposing this contract, consultants and GPs are likely to be his next target. He could then attack the terms and conditions of support workers within the NHS, whilst student nurses will lose their bursaries. But I think we should be clear: the Tories’ want nothing less than the privatisation of the NHS, pushing us back to an era when the poor, if they got unwell, would die in streets.
The doctors’ fight is, therefore, everyone’s fight.
Astonishingly, in a pro-EU article in The Observer last month, Jeremy Hunt actually stated that one of the reasons that he is campaigning to stay in the EU was to protect against the privatisation of the NHS – even saying that “Our doctors and nurses have never worked harder…”
Whilst we all know and appreciate how hard the doctors work, to hear it from Hunt, quite frankly, beggars belief. Hunt is an opportunist of the first order, he is a liar and a thief.
Like the rest of his mates, Hunt wants to take from us everything that we have fought for.
But the Tories can be defeated. With the split over the EU, the steel industry, and the recent revelations about tax avoidance, as well as their pathetically small 24% mandate, there is every chance of removing the Tories from government before the year is out. They are weak, and we need to leap on this opportunity.
But what would happen if the Conservative Party did collapse? What, in other words, would a Labour government mean today? I think that Jeremy Corbyn, in many respects, embodies some of the same principles that the doctors stand for. But the same cannot be said of the majority of the Labour Party. Locally, Peter Soulsby, Liz Kendall, Keith Vaz, and Jon Ashworth, have, alongside the majority Labour council, have been carrying out the Tories’ bidding with little to no resistance.
Across the country, the Labour Party have, in most cases, been as bad as the Tories.
We cannot be complacent about the fight against austerity. Should a Labour government be elected sometime in the near future, the fight to save the NHS will continue.
The BMA should make an appeal for concrete solidarity action from the trade union movement. A well-prepared national demo and an ongoing and escalating programme of industrial action would reveal the mass opposition to this attack on the doctors and the health system.
Co-ordinated strike action across the NHS in defence of pay and conditions should now be discussed and fought for in all the health unions. This could form a step towards a 24-hour general strike which would have the potential to defeat this imposition and shake this weak Tory government to its core.
Democratic planning of a publicly owned and run NHS with the full funding needed would end the threat that it now faces to its existence.
Support the junior doctors, save the NHS.
A meeting to discuss how we can build linkages between different trade unions and community groups in defence of all public services will be taking place at 7pm Monday 18 April, at Leicester Secular Hall. Speakers include Jane Nellist (National Executive of the National Union of Teachers) and a representative from the British Medical Association.