Hundreds of people gathered to give a rousing send off to the crusade launched by a group of North East mums protesting against the “privatisation” of the NHS.
One of the organisers, call centre worker Joanna Adams, 41, said she was “totally taken aback” at the turn out at their starting point, Jarrow Town Hall in South Tyneside.
“There must be seven or 800 people here,” she said. “It shows how many people care about the NHS. It’s really moving. It shows the majority of people are decent human beings, not the self serving and greedy people some would have you believe.”
Those taking part in the ‘People’s March for the NHS’ are to follow the historic Jarrow Crusade route of 1936 when over 200 men – and local MP Ellen Wilkinson – marched to the Houses of Parliament to protest about the lack of work.
The march this time is in response to government legislation they feel is leading to the privatisation of the NHS.
At the town hall send off speeches were given by politicians, union officials and Lizi Gray, the great granddaughter of one of the original marchers.
“It was a lovely symbolic gesture,” said Joanna.
Then, to the strains of the Proclaimers song ‘I’m Gonna Be (500miles) which the Scottish duo “gave” to the campaign and is now being used as their signature song, they set off.
The group will actually be walking 300 miles and are due to arrive at the Houses of Parliament on September 6, in time for Prime Minister’s Question time that day.
The idea stemmed from a group of 11 Darlington mums who wanted to highlight the damage caused by the Health and Social Care Act which has led to the increasing privatisation of the NHS
“The idea was floating around for a while – it seemed such a crazy idea – then in March we decided just to do it,” said Joanna.
As the marchers headed on their first leg to Chester-le-Street with many of those who originally come to give them a send off actually joining in, she added: “This is what British values are. We’re generous, we care about equality and justice, something that isn’t acknowledged. There is such a thing as society.
“They talk about choice, well this is our choice. We want the NHS. We want public services properly funded. We own it and they have no business trying to take it away from us.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Aug 2014
Health campaigners will retrace the steps of the original Jarrow Marchers as part of their fight to protect the NHS.
Several hundred people are expected to take part in a mass rally outside Jarrow Town Hall on Saturday, August 16, before a group of NHS campaigners head off on the 300-mile march to London.
Evoking memories of the famous 1936 Jarrow Crusade, when 200 jobless men marched from the town to Westminster to demand work, the event is billed as The People’s March for the NHS, with health protesters aiming to cover up to 16 miles a day, reaching the capital on September 6.
The 999 Call for the NHS campaign has already won the support of various organisations, including the TUC.
> That’s ironic… with the original Jarrow Crusade, the TUC of the day circularised Trades Councils advising them not to help the marchers. The Labour party also opposed it. And probably still would today.
Beth Farhat, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said: “This march is being organized by a group of mums in Darlington, emulating the Jarrow March, but in aid of saving our NHS.
“They have gained support from many organisations up and down the country, including trade unions.”
Rehana Azam, one of the rally organisers, said campaigners are opposed to many of the changes to the NHS introduced by the Social Care Act 2012.
She said: “We are opposed to what we see as the sell-off of the NHS by this Government,
“We aim to raise awareness about the issues and hope the rally in Jarrow will attract major media coverage.
> Given the recent media lack of enthusiasm about rallies of 50,000 people in London, perhaps best not to expect to much…
“There should be several hundred people massing outside Jarrow Town Hall on August 16, before the march sets off for London.
“We will be campaigning on the NHS and also against things like the bedroom tax.
“The plan is to have support from people like the Mayor of South Tyneside and there should be key NHS workers and trade unionists involved in the rally.
“About 1,500 have registered to take part in the march along the route, with about 50 people marching all the way.”
For more details, log on to www.999callfornhs.org.uk
> For the record, when the original Jarrow Crusade reached London, the Prime Minister of the day, Stanley Baldwin, refused to see any of the marchers’ representatives, claiming it would set a dangerous precedent.
Source – Shields Gazette, 26 June 2014