Last Wednesday saw two very significant events in the Groundswell story. The first was the launch of the NHS Reinstatement Bill in Parliament to which 999 Call For The NHS have now lent their support.
The second was Joanna Adams and 999 Call For The NHS receiving the Ron Todd Award – in memory of the former Transport & General Workers’ Union leader – for their 999 Call People’s March For The NHS venture last Summer (an initiative not to be confused with the current People’s March For The NHS under the auspices of new campaign group The People’s Vote For The NHS).
We filmed a photo-op of Green MP Caroline Lucas with key Save Our NHS campaign groups’ members and a clutch of MP’s outside Parliament before Lucas went off to table the Bill there. One MP did a quick check on the placards behind him before concluding that “I don’t mind being in front of that one…” – an NHS Reinstatement Bill placard. As I observed previously, these details matter. Now known as The National Health Bill Lucas described it as “Driven from the bottom up…The bottom line is a fully public NHS”.
999 Call have decided to back it despite retaining concerns about its present formulation. Though they appreciate the considerable steps it takes towards achieving its ultimate aim – to de-marketise the NHS and return it to its full public service remit – the Bill still appears to contain holes for the privateers to exploit using international trade and competition law.
The Bill’s proposal to make the Treasury rather than hospital trusts responsible for the Private Finiance Initiatives’ (PFI’s) huge cost and debt liabilities remains fraught. I spoke to Lucas, who acknowledged that it “could be more radical” and expressed hope that, under a sympathetic new government, the outstanding items of concern could be rectified.
But could an incoming Labour-dominated administration be trusted to really commit to such a radical recourse? The Ron Todd Award ceremony at the Unite union building off City Road later that evening was an eye-opener.
Before the presentation of the Award the President of the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) Peter Pinkney – 1970’s cool with earring, black buttoned-up waistcoat and jeans – launched into a blistering attack on the Labour Party’s lack of socialist principles and leadership. He startlingly asserted that he’s going to vote Green. With their commitment to repealing anti-trades union legislation, re-nationalising the railways, gas, electricity and the NHS the Green Party “sounds pretty bloody socialist to me!”
Joanna immediately followed him up with her and 999 Call’s own adverse experiences of the Party machine. “The biggest opposition we’ve had is from the Labour Party!” she recounted. She announced that she, too, is personally going to vote Green. It was an epiphanic moment to witness the leader of a prominent trade union and the leader of a grassroots campaign group sharing their personal rejection of their historic representatives.
And it spoke volumes about the once Labour faithful’s loss of belief in the Party’s commitment to turning back the tide of the free-market era of the last 30+ years.
Quite unexpectedly, on a sunlit discussion-filled spring day followed by an impassioned evening ceremony in which trade unionists and grassroots campaigners talked in fresh, united voices, it seems we have found the final building blocks for our Groundswell film. We have lift-off!