Thursday, January 16, 2014

Question Time in New Cross and the ongoing campaign to save the NHS

BBC Question Time was broadcast from Goldsmiths in New Cross last week, as it was in January 2013. At that time the campaign against the closure of services at Lewisham Hospital was at its peak, and there was a lively demonstration outside as well as  a determined presence inside which made sure the issue was raised loud and clear.

With the campaign successful (at least for the time being), the focus of local NHS activists has shifted to the wider issues of privatisation and threats to services elsewhere. In particular they are highlighting the fact that having lost in court to the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is now trying to move the goalposts to prevent similar challenges in future. 

Dr Louise Irvine, New Cross GP and chair of Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, has started a petition against this 'hospital closure clause', so far signed by more than 140,000 people. It states:

'We call upon you to withdraw Chapter 4 and clause 118 of the Care Bill (the ‘hospital closure clause”)  that will make it possible to close viable hospitals without proper consultation.

Why is this important? Recently, Jeremy Hunt lost his appeal against closing Lewisham Accident and Emergency. The law that protected it would be removed if Clause 118 passes. The Clause will allow the government to close or downgrade any hospital in the country, with barely any consultation of local people, if there is a Trust in financial difficulties anywhere nearby. They will be able to appoint an administrator to one Trust who will be able to take decisions to fast-track the closure of hospitals in another area - no matter how successful or popular those hospitals are - using the 'unsustainable provider' legislation that was designed only for insolvent Trusts. If it becomes law, this Clause means that *no* hospital will be safe, no matter how successful'. Check out this link for more information
Outside BBC Question Time at Goldsmiths, 9 January 2014

So outside Question Time last week there was again a save the NHS protest, and inside Clause 118 and Lewisham Hospital was put on the agenda, prompting Conservative MP Nadine Dorries to promise that the new power would not be used to close services at Lewisham - in her words 'Lewisham is absolutely protected'.

One of the things about BBC Question Time is that despite the generally predictable opinions of the politicians on the panel, and despite the BBC selecting the audience on the basis of political sampling, there are moments of 'speaking truth to power' when views contrary to the mainstream political consensus get a rare airing from the floor. There was plenty of that in the questions last week on issues such as migration and Mark Duggan as well as the NHS, and in the reactions of the audience - Conservative MP's Nadine Dorries' anti-immigrant rants were met with silence for instance.  And there was the moment when Marilyn from Save Lewisham Hospital campaign gave an impassioned 'I am so tired of this Government' comment from the floor: 'What I object to strongly is this coalition government... using the smokescreen of immigration to hide what you are doing, privatising the NHS, killing the welfare service' and scrapping legal aid. That got one of the biggest cheers of the night.

Watch Marilyn's question here


bmillsltfc said...

Marilyn was great- and is now a YouTube star with over 80,000 views much to her surprise .What was shocking was Dorries blandly asserting that clause 118 won`t affect Lewisham .
Does she think we re stupid ? Last year she said she would talk to Hunt about our cause - then backtracked and also rejected requests to publicise the January demo as "it would be dominated by the SWP and trots" or some such nonsense

NAT said...

Dorrie's comments on immigration didn't, I think amount to a rant, and the issue that she was focussing on were met by a nonplussed silence because they have not had airtime or leave to be discussed. I would suggest that the silence with which they were greeted was testament to shock that the unspoken agreement between government parties had sundered and that it might in consequence be possible to discuss this matter without fear of being labelled. Let's face it uncontrolled immigration has a greater impact on working class communities than it does on others.

Marilyn was great.

Transpontine said...

OK Dorries' style wasn't particularly ranty, but her contribution was strange with its linking together flooding with migration. I don't really agree that there's some kind of consensus not to talk about immigration, it seems to be all some politicians and papers go on about. When an 84 year old man with dementia dies in handcuffs in immigration custody for the crime of trying to travel from one country to another I don't think we can talk about 'uncontrolled immigration' either. I'm afraid that's what stronger immigration controls looks like.