On Saturday 15th September, around 200 trade unionists, activists, socialists and members of the public marched from Harlesden to Central Middlesex Hospital to oppose NW London NHS’ plans for closing the A&E dept at Central Middlesex and a number of other hospitals in the area.
Brent TUSC have been supporting the “Defend NW London Health Services” campaign initiated by Brent Trades Council, and for the previous two months we have been carrying out a regular petition outside the hospital itself. Support from the public has been very good and the campaign has collectively gathered thousands of petitions calling on Brent Labour-led Council to fight the NHS cuts by building a mass campaign amongst the Trade Unions, community groups and the public.
The anger felt from those on the march against the planned A&E closure was palpable, and whilst the “official” leadership of the demonstration wanted to keep it a single issue campaign, it was clear that most people linked the A&E closure with the wider Con-Dem austerity emanating from central government. TUSC linked the NHS cuts with cuts to other services such as council tax, housing benefit, youth services and library closures. In our literature and public megaphone announcements we made it clear that the Labour-led council should refuse to implement the Tory cuts agenda and instead set a budget based on the needs of the people of Brent. Yet as soon as a TUSC member had announced this on his megaphone, Labour councillor Roxanne Mashari turned round and told him it would be irresponsible to break the law by setting an “illegal” budget! Perhaps Labour councillors can explain how “responsible” it is to implement Tory cuts to vital public services and make families homeless!
When the marchers reached the hospital, a rally was held with various speakers, including Isabel Counihan, whose family had been made homeless by Brent Council. Isabel and the Counihan campaign made sharp criticism of Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, who had done nothing to help the family. Only until supporters lobbied a public meeting several weeks ago and disrupted a Brent Council meeting that failed to discuss the Counihan’s issue, despite the family following all the procedures to get their case on the agenda, did the Council finally begin to take action! Butt was clearly nervous when he spoke and feeling the pressure the Counihan campaign was building. Whilst Labour support the NHS campaign, it is from a completely hypocritical position where they are carrying out £41 million of cuts to essential services in Brent! We had produced a t-shirt with the slogan “Brent Council get off your Butts, fight the cuts!” which we sold to supporters on the march. Councillor Butt enquired as to whether this was a reference to him, but we explained it was simply the use of the American slang for bottom…
The simple truth is, Labour councils are not willing to fight the Tory cuts, and are quite happy to implement the cuts in the name of “responsibility”. The two Labour Councillors in Southampton that voted against the cuts have now been suspended and are likely to be expelled. In response to the TUC call to consider general strike action, Ed Miliband stated that he would not support strike action taken by the Trade Unions against austerity, and he had no intention of repealing the Thatcherite anti-Trade Union laws.
Most workers and young people should be in no doubt that Labour are now another party of Big Business, just like the Tories and Lib-Dems. It is clear that if Labour aren’t going to oppose the cuts, then we should stand candidates who will! TUSC support any steps towards genuine working class representation and will support all candidates who agree to oppose all cuts.
TUSC says No cuts in Brent! For the council to set a needs budget! Better to break the law than to break the poor!