Lack of human and financial resources and shortage of time has meant a frustrating wait till yesterday to see the ‘rushes’ of our material shot 3 weeks ago when 999 Call’s Joanne Land came to London. In them she witnesses without surprise a Tory filibuster blocking of a Parliamentary hearing on Labour MP Clive Efford’s NHS Bill, which many campaigners anyway see as too leaky on privatisation.
We also recorded other Southern campaigners who see 999 Call For The NHS as their best hope to protect and promote the cause of rescuing the NHS from the privateers and returning it to its original comprehensive public service remit. The NHS Reinstatement Bill is the focus right now for many. If it’s radical enough it could be critical in helping unite the disparate campaign groups, a key objective of 999. In our footage Joanne emerges seemingly encouraged from her meeting with the Bill’s group. I say ‘seemingly’ because in this drama everyone’s cards are close-chested.
Joanna (Adams) and her fellow campaigners still need reassurance from the Bill’s final draft that it ensures true protection of the NHS. The PFI’s (Private Finance Initiatives), with their costly 30-year contracts made under the previous New Labour government, and which handed large parts of the NHS to the privateers, remain a thorny problem.
Last Sunday I recorded a London-based 999 Caller Deborah Harrington whom Joanna had asked to attend another NHS Reinstatement Bill meeting on 999’s behalf. She emerged circumspect but “cautiously optimistic”. However she also said there had been talk of delaying the Bill till after the Election. This seemed odd. Why, after their talking up of the draft Bill as an important preparatory step in readiness for a post-Election Bill to be delivered by a new government, should they withdraw it from the fray now? Might this be part of a don’t-rock-the-boat-for-Labour push in the run-up to the Election?
In turn this cult of fearfulness adds to the bafflement, indeed cynicism, of so many disillusioned Labour supporters who despair at the Party’s continuing avoidance of rocking the boat of the free marketers at all meaningfully. The disrepute of banks and bankers, the ravages of austerity and vast transfer of wealth to the few would seem to offer Labour an open goal to a resounding victory. But they won’t shoot.
When, in her Trafalgar Square speech, Joanna said “They bailed out the wrong people!” she was simply pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes. If they can bailout the banks why can’t they do the same for the NHS? Labour’s sidestep of this obvious vote-winner and its almost self-chosen Election vulnerability begs questions.
Are the cynics in Groundswell right that the City is actually at the centre of driving government agendas and that the Labour Party has long been co-opted into this by the Masters Of The Universe? Might that explain its failure to take on the City? And explain the apparent pressure placed on doubters and dissidents in the NHS campaign movement, who threaten the NHS privatisation programme, to toe the Party line?
Sometimes I feel I’m in a John Le Carre-like thriller. Everything is open to doubt. Who’s who on the chessboard? What are their motives? Nothing is what it seems. And the stakes are huge – for the privateers hundreds of billions of land and other assets to be annexed; for the ‘plebs’ the loss of not just one sacred publicly-owned institution the NHS but the remains of what’s left of the post-War dream.
Joanna and her ‘Crazy Gang’ of grassroots campaigners “making it up as we go along” are taking the film into a disturbing, shadowy but fascinating battlefield. Watch this space.