Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Battle for London

The 2008 London mayoral election is the most bitterly fought since the Greater London Authority was set up in 2000, 14 years after the Greater London Council was abolished by Margaret Thatcher.
It is seen by the Tories and their backers as a test-run for winning the next general election, while Livingstone is carrying the burden of dwindling working class support for Labour as it drifts even further to the right under Gordon Brown.
The United for Ken campaign, set up by the Labour Party pressure group Compass, calls this campaign “a battle between the forces of progress versus reaction in the nation as a whole”.
The campaign’s statement, endorsed by trade leaders, Labour MPs and activists, academics and artists, says there has been “no greater threat since Margaret Thatcher shut down London democracy in 1986”.
Since 2000 Livingstone, with relatively limited powers, has achieved more in terms of housing, transport, policing and the environment than any government, local or national, in the past three decades. London is now regarded around the world as a model for running a major city.
His main challenger, tory Boris Johnson, has no actual experience of government apart from being MP for Henley-on-Thames and shadow minister for higher education. His candidacy betrays the lack of experience talent the tories are able to field.Livingstone himself is an ordinary Londoner, but Johnson has few links with the capital and has lived the life of a privileged grandee.
Livingstone was born in Lambeth, educated at Tulse Hill Comprehensive, and became a local councillor in Lambeth in 1971.Johnson was born in New York, educated at the European School in Brussels, Ashdown House, Eton, and Oxford, where he was a leading member of the Bullingdon Club, known for drunken binges and “trashing” restaurants.
He regrets the end of colonialism, is an enthusiastic supporter of George Bush and Iraq war, opposed the Kyoto climate treaty, is against the welfare state, wants the "teaching" of homosexuality in schools to end, and has even attacked chef Jamie Oliver’s campaign for healthier school dinners.

Stark choice for Londoners

He is against the highly popular £25 charge on high-emission ’Chelsea tractors’, and plans to scrap Livingstone’s 50% affordable housing policy, claiming “quotas are not the answer”.
He has a long record of nauseating bigotry, overseeing an editorial saying the the people of Liverpool had a "deeply unattractive psyche" for their reactions to the death of Iraq hostage Kenneth Bigley and the Hillsborough tragedy .
He has written of "orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing" in Papua New Guinea, described "tribal warriors breaking out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief” (Tony Blair), and says the Commonwealth supplies the Queen with “cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies." According to journalist Rod Liddle he refers to black Africans in private as "piccaninnies".
It is hard to put such a history of comments behind you, yet Johnson rebuked people attacking his comments for “going on about this kind of thing” and “trivialising the debate”.
He has attracted powerful support, from the Evening Standard, part of the Daily Mail group, and from media supporters of neocon thinking, some posing as “leftists”.
Londoners face a stark choice in this election. Livingstone, despite his faults, is a true Londoner and seen as a man of the people who travels on public transport. As one elderly muslim resident said in broken english: “He’s the best man, he only demands to help the poorer people”.
Johnson is London’s own George Bush, trying desperately to pose as progressive. He is not up to the task of running London, but if he wins we can be sure he will turn the clock back to the worst times of class privilege and division.
Working class Londoners have seen through the media blitz for Johnson and the lies to undermining Livingstone. But the most crucial task is to mobilise the class to come out and vote on May 1st.

A neocon witch-hunt against Livingstone and Jasper

“The lead attack dog is of course the Daily Mail group's Evening Standard. It is being used day in and day out as a battering ram, not just against Ken Livingstone, but against the ideals of more democratic, egalitarian and sustainable politics. It is indeed the few using their wealth and influence over the many.” - Unite for Ken

The 2008 mayoral election in London is taking place in a very different atmosphere from those in 2000 and 2004. Livingstone has been targeted by a witch-hunt of McCarthyite proportions, and attacked from the right and the left.
The incessant corruption allegations against Livingstone’s race advisor Lee Jasper have undoubtedly affected Livingstone’s standing in the opinion polls, even if only temporarily.
Livingstone is the best-known politician in Britain to have opposed the Iraq and Afghan wars, and has become a target for British neocons supporting the ‘war on terror’. Boris Johnson's campaign is being run by Lynton Crosby, election manager for successive victories by Australia’s arch-warmonger and Washington stooge John Howard.

The Standard’s neo-con attack dogs

The Evening Standard is openly leading the anti-Livingstone bandwagon, which includes two apparently ‘left-wing’ journalists who have adopted right-wing neocon ideas - Martin Bright of the New Statesman and Observer columnist Nick Cohen.
Bright has warned that “a vote for Livingstone is a vote for a bully and a coward who is not worthy to lead this great city of ours". His pamphlet for the centre-right Policy Exchange think-tank attacking dialogue with the Muslim Council of Britain was praised by US neocon Richard Perle. He describes the Chávez government in Venezuela as linked to “Iran and cocaine-smuggling guerrillas".
Nick Cohen, after drinking with leading neocon Paul Wolfowitz in Annabel’s nightclub, described him as "a politician committed to extending human freedom."
He claims Livingstone is running London with a “secret Marxist cell” of “grimy conspirators of the totalitarian left” (ex-members of Socialist Action), and says Livingstone’s engagement with representatives of mainstream political Islam is appeasing the “Islamist far right”.
Insidious campaign tactics
Johnson and his influential backers are also using insidious campaign tactics to label anyone backing Livingstone as his “stooges”.
At a debate organised by the Evening Standard - without Livingstone’s presence - Michael Eboda, editor of black newspaper the New Nation, said Johnson’s racist comments in the past were "an extremely big obstacle to being able to work with what is almost 12 per cent of London's population."
But Observer journalist Nick Cohen warned Eboda, to "be careful" not to take Mr Livingstone's side as he had his own a history of "revolting" comments.
Eboda said he was “not on Livingstone's side, not in any way, shape or form."
But the main focus of the media onslaught has been on unproven allegations of financial impropriety against Lee Jasper, London’s leading black political figure.
Jasper has been cleared of any wrongdoing by both Scotland Yard and an independent audit. But that didn’t stop the Standard from devoting 10 front pages and 36 full-page articles to the allegations.
There have been only two arrests linked to the alleagations, in two out of the dozens of community groups receiving London Development Authority grants. Neither one was linked with Jasper.

“A spiteful and racist media campaign”

In the end it was revelations about his private life, and scores of reporters camping outside his home, which led him to resign in March.
According to Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, “the Standard wanted a scalp” and the pressure on him and his family became intolerable”.
Woolley, writing in The Voice, says Jasper has been the victim of a “spiteful and racist media campaign” which had subjected black organisations were to “shockingly disproportionate” levels of scrutiny.
“Right now our best defence is solidarity. We need to tell Jasper that we care and a wretched media that we will not be defeated,” he said.
Livingstone has also described the Standard’s allegations as a “racist smear campaign".
The intensity and nastiness of the campaign against Livingstone reflects powerful interests - big business and London’s wealthy elite - who are backing the Tory party and have no concern for policies which have benefited ordinary Londoners. But most working class Londoners know better than to believe the torrent of drivel flooding the media, and they know that their interests are best served by Livingstone.

Stop the BNP in London!

There is a very real danger of the British National Party winning one of the eleven proportionally elected seats on the Greater London Assembly by crossing the 5 per cent vote threshold on May 1st.
In 2004 the BNP fell just 5,000 votes short in with 4.8 per cent of the vote. Since then the BNP has emerged as a significant force in outer east London, with almost 8,000 votes in Barking and Dagenham in the 2005 general election.
In last year’s local elections the BNP’s share of the vote fell in many parts of the country, but as leading anti-fascist group Searchlight points out, despite the BNP’s recent internal splits the party “often does well despite itself”.
There is also the UKIP factor. In 2004 UKIP took 8.2 per cent of the vote in London, but since then has virtually collapsed in the capital. Many of its votes are likely to go to the Tories or the BNP.
Both UKIP and the BNP have done well on the outskirts of London rather than inner London, taking the white right-wing vote.The BNP needs just over 8 per cent to win two assembly seats, and 11 per cent to win three seats.
Searchlight’s Hope not Hate campaign is having its biggest mobilisation in London so far for the May 1 election. The anti-fascists’ most important weapon is boosting turnout and mobilising voters.
A large proportion of London voters from all ethnic backgrounds are strongly against the BNP. According to polls by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation the BNP is Britain's most disliked political party, with three-quarters saying they would never vote for it under any circumstances.
The factors which have helped the BNP gain support in recent years have not gone away, and most of the wards it is targeting are held by Labour, which is losing support in its old working class strongholds.
As part of the BBC’s White Season series on white working class alienation, Newsnight recently interviewed BNP leader Nick Griffin.
So the fight to stop the BNP in London is far from easy and there is much work to be done. The main groups mobilising the anti-fascist vote in the capital are Unite Against Fascism, which is chaired by London mayor Ken Livingstone, and the Hope not Hate campaign.

The Battle for Transport

Ken Livingstone’s transport policies have been copied around the world. He pioneered travel cards and congestion charging, expanded the Freedom Pass, and is the first to seriously tackle vehicle pollution and boost London-wide cycling.
All this would be threatened under Boris Jonson, a climate change denialist and friend to road rather than public transport users.
He says Livingstone is “clobbering" motorists and opposes the £25 charge for larger cars, claiming it would have little impact on C02 emissions.
Johnson called Livingstone’s attempts to avoid part-privatisation of the tube – now exposed by the £2 billion Metronet fiasco - “ideological warfare”.
Livingstone points out that "from his transport plans nobody knows what he plans to do with the tube."

Freedom Pass

Livingstone plans to extend the Freedom Pass, used by pensioners and disabled people, to 24 hours a day if he is re-elected. He has already given free bus travel and tram to under-18s in full-time education.
Although Johnson’s website promises the Freedom Pass is an “untouchable right for London pensioners,” both he and Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick said the proposal was “eight years too late”.
In reality under a Tory or Lib Dem mayor there would almost certainly be no Freedom Pass at all.
Livingstone fought off Tory attempts in the House of Lords to remove his powers to operate the Freedom Pass, and last year the tories tried to replace free travel for under-18s with a far more restricted scheme in only six London boroughs.

No-strike deal

Johnson is currently holding secret talks to find a Transport for London head prepared to “take on” the Rail Maritime and Transport union, and proposes a no-strike agreement with the union.
Such a deal would be a recipe for staffing and safety cuts with far-reaching implications for London commuters.
An RMT spokesman said Johnson was “living in cloud cuckoo land if he believes this kind of approach could ever work. The RMT does not sign no-strike deals and would never give up its right to strike.”

Porsche v the people of London

German luxury car maker Porsche is threatening to challenge the £25 charge on high emission vehicles with a judicial review, calling it "unjust". A spokesman said “successful people from across the world” would be put off living in London by the charge.
The mayor's office has described the move as an attack the democratic right of Londoners to discourage the use of “gas guzzling and polluting vehicles”, and if successful would mean imposing high levels of pollution on Londoners.
The Stuttgart-based company has launched a website which says “Porsche is not prepared to sit by and watch a world class city indiscriminately damaged”. It claims that three out of four Londoners oppose the new charge.
Its poll, based on a sample of only 505 adults, included questions on how Londoners voted in the last mayoral election. It does not actually ask those polled whether they are against the CO2 charge, but says 68% thought it was too high. According to the mayor’s polling the charge is supported by 71% of Londoners.
The new charge is part of an environmental strategy – Britain’s first – including a clean air zone and spending £500m to encourage walking and cycling. The goal is a 60% reduction in London’s CO2 emissions by 2025.
Road pollution in London is known to cause severe health problems, and existing road taxes mean drivers of smaller cars are effectively subsidising 4x4 drivers.
For once the wealthy – in this case around 30,000 4x4 and sports car drivers – are being targeted by the new charge, while the cleanest cars will pay nothing.
Motorists’ organisations have resorted to ludicrous arguments against the charge, such as the RAC Foundation’s claim that it "is gesture politics rather than a serious attempt to tackle London's air quality problems".
In fact Livingstone is the first politician in Britain to implement effective and co-ordinated transport and environmental policies, after decades of government support for road building and drivers, while public transport has been run down and privatised.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Celebrating the birth of Kim Il Sung

Friends of Korea gathered at London’s Marx House last Saturday afternoon to celebrate the 96th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the great leader of the Korean people who liberated the country from Japanese colonialism and led the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea until his death in 1994.
NCP leader Andy Brooks along with Chris Coleman from the RCPB(ML) and Jong In Song from the Democratic Korean embassy in London all spoke about the DPRK’s support for national liberation and socialism and the celebration finished with music and a buffet that included Korean food to mark the occasion.
photo: Andy Brooks speaking

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Protests and Censorship

NEARLY 20 years ago the supporters of Greenwich Against the Poll Tax saw an opportunity in the coming London Marathon to get a little media coverage for their campaign. The evening before the event fly-posters and slogan painters were out covering walls all along the route as it ran through the borough. On the day other supporters stood alongside the route holding placards and some living in high-rise flats had hand-painted bed-sheet banners unfurled from their windows. But anyone watching TV sports and news coverage or reading press coverage would have been totally unaware of the protests. Camera angles were carefully monitored and coverage edited to make the protests completely invisible.
Since then numerous other campaigns in all parts of the country that have tried to use major events to snatch a little publicity – campaigns to save hospitals, schools and many other causes – have been rendered invisible by well-oiled and skilful media censorship.
So those of us who have been engaged in such protests know full well that the media coverage last weekend of the progress of the Olympic flame through London, which dwelt on the efforts of protesters claiming to represent the people of Tibet, was giving those protesters all the support it could. And this was a deliberate and conscious decision by a mass media and state machine that has ignored and rendered virtually invisible peace protests involving hundreds of thousands of marchers through the capital. The only people who knew these massive events ever happened have been those who were physically present and those who watch foreign news bulletins – which do judge these demonstrations worthy of reporting.
Yet the capitalist British media have the nerve to accuse the Chinese authorities of failing to give enough reportage of the Olympic flame protests, which involved only a couple of hundred demonstrators at the most.
We may safely assume that when a protest involving a couple of hundred is given acres of news coverage in the mainstream media it has ruling class and Government support. Our government does not want openly to sabotage the Olympics – Britain has too much vested interest in the next games and, in this time of growing economic crisis, it wants to remain on civil terms with the government of the People’s Republic.
But Whitehall and Washington also want to use every opportunity for a back-handed swipe at the country that is proving that capitalist methods firmly controlled by socialist planning are providing a much healthier economy than their free-trade scramble for profits and unfettered greed.
The people responsible for “Shock and Awe”, for Guantanamo Bay, for Abu Ghraib, for Diego Garcia, for the death of Baha Mousa and for the slow murder of Palestine want to lecture the Chinese on human rights!
So they pick on a movement that wants to detach Tibet from China and drag it back to an age of mixed feudalism and slavery, where nearly half of all babies died before their first birthday and where families could be ordered to give up their very young sons to a life of religious and superstitious indoctrination. The imperialists portray this extreme right-wing and racist movement as a heroic band of martyrs fighting for national liberation.
Another event capturing media coverage it does not deserve is the 40th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech. Enoch Powell was an ambitious but not too bright right-wing Tory MP, who as Minister for Transport in the Macmillan government in the 1950s sent recruitment teams to the West Indies to encourage people there to come to work as bus drivers and conductors in London.
Later, following the Notting Hill race riots, he sought to gain popularity by campaigning against black immigration into Britain, making lurid predictions of civil strife between black and white communities. His claims became so outrageous even the Tory party had to dump him and he ended up in obscurity with the Ulster Unionists in the occupied north of Ireland.But it is worth noticing that his dire predictions have spectacularly failed to come true and that, generally, black and white workers are living and working peacefully alongside each other and that immigrant communities in Britain in general have made great contributions.
And now the patronising middle classes and intelligentsia have stopped trying to impose their version of integration, the process is happening naturally, on a basis of mutual respect and equality in the working class.

London news roundup

Big changes in Pakistan

A WAVE of big changes in favour of popular democracy is sweeping Pakistan after a year of desperate efforts to suppress change by military dictator General Musharraf, culminating in the assassination of Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto, Taimur Rahman of the Communist Workers’ and Peasants’ Party told a meeting organised by the London District of the New Communist Party.
He explained the history of Pakistan, created as a land of landowners and indebted peasants with a powerful military clique, in contrast to the popular democratic traditions of India.
But the people of Pakistan want democracy, progress and prosperity. Taimur gave a brief history of popular democratic and working class movements in Pakistan and the formidable obstacles they have faced. Then he gave an eye-witness account of the recent elections there and the mood of the people. Now big advances are possible, and though this is not a socialist revolution, the unprecedented popular unity against Musharraf and his United States backers has created a mood of optimism.
Many had feared that Musharraf would rig elections earlier this year, with the lawyers and supreme chief of justice arrested and unable to supervise the polling process. But the vote against his party was so great after the death of Benazir Bhutto – which many suspect he had a hand in – that he could not hold back the tide of popular indignation. The religious right-wing also suffered heavy losses in the poll. The Communist Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, though it did not stand in the elections, has made many recruits and built important alliances with other progressive and trade union bodies.

European Court threat to London Olympics?

THE GIANT general union Unite warned that a judgement made last week by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) could mean that London’s Olympics will either be built on poverty wages or not at all as industrial unrest spreads.
Unite is warning that the ECJs decision that a Polish subcontractor operating in Germany can lawfully pay construction workers less than half the German construction industry’s agreed wage could have a devastating affect on the building of London’s Olympic infrastructure.
Unite says the ECJs judgement could mean that foreign companies employing people in Britain can ignore employees’ collective agreements and legally pay workers below agreed wage levels.
The ECJ judgement on the Dirk Rüffert v. Land Niedersachsen case concerned a Polish subcontractor of the company Objekt und Bauregie, which paid employees working on a prison building site only 46.5 per cent of the prescribed industry minimum wage.
The ECJ decision found in favour of the company on the grounds of freedom of movement and the provision of services across the European Union.
Unite is now calling for the powers of the ECJ to be curbed to allow national governments and national courts to have sovereignty on collective agreements and collective action.
Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said: “The European Court of Justice has made a number of decisions that we believe threaten EU countries with being forced to use cheaper agency labour, the undercutting our industry agreements and the ability of trade unions to defend them. Today’s judgement is by far the most damaging.
“This decision effectively means that foreign companies working here in the UK, or in any other European country, can flout domestic laws and collective agreements with regard to pay.
“This is a recipe for disaster and, if applied here in the UK, will cause massive industrial unrest and threaten the delivery of major infrastructure projects including the Olympics site.
“We are calling on the UK government and the European Parliament to act to ensure that minimum industry standards are upheld and we want the role of the ECJ, which has greater powers with regard to these vital issues, to be revisited.”

Tibet: The Truth (oppression, monks, nuns... you're wrong)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Stopping the lying BNP

by Caroline Colebrook

THE FIRE Brigades Union was the co-sponsor, along with Philosophy Football and Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, of a packed event in the Offside Bar in the City Road Islington designed to raise funding and awareness of the current massive campaign running in the capital to prevent the neo-Nazi British National Party from gaining enough votes to win a seat on the Greater London Assembly in the May local elections.
Entertainers included comedian Shappi Khorsandi and the grime theatre of Decypher Collective – four young men who presented a rap poem about the way capitalist production methods entrap young workers both physically and mentally. Top of the bill was singer Billy Bragg.
He performed a Woody Guthrie number from the early 1940s, telling fascists they were bound to lose and the Internationale. He was presented with a £2,000 cheque from the FBU towards his Jail Doors Guitars programme which tours Britain’s prisons, giving guitars to prisoners and teaching them to play them as a way of raising morale and rehabilitation.
The prisoners find it easy to connect with the history of blues music and the music of people like Guthrie and Johnny Cash.
Two films were shown, one of the 2007 Hope Not Hate Campaign as the campaign bus toured council estates all around the country where BNP candidates were standing, bringing entertainment, music and anti-fascist campaigning to working class people.
The other film, Who Shot the Sheriff? marked the 30th anniversary of the 1978 Rock Against Racism Carnival and explored the role of music in mobilising anti-fascists against the National Front in the 1970s. It also showed the longstanding links between the rock band The Clash, which played at that event, and the FBU. The Clash raised money for the FBU during a strike in 1978.
That carnival is to be remembered and repeated with a Love Music Hate Racism Carnival on Sunday 27th April in Victoria Park, east London.


FBU general secretary Matt Wrack paid tribute to the thousands of volunteers and Searchlight regulars who have been working hard in recent week, distributing anti-BNP leaflets and the Hope Not Hate news sheet – Save the City we Love produced in conjunction with the Daily Mirror.
He and Billy Bragg both warned how plausible the BNP is becoming to some working class people who have been let down by the Labour government.
Billy Bragg is a native of Barking and reported that the BNP there are claiming to be “The Labour Party your mum and dad voted for” – taking up issues on the doorstep like housing, jobs and NHS cuts.
The BNP lies through its teeth and blames immigration for everything but both Bragg and Wrack emphasised the need to rebuild the Left, to take up these issues and fight for all working people as the best way of destroying BNP credibility.
Thousands of young trade unionists are becoming involved in leafleting and campaigning against the BNP – many who would think twice about campaigning for New Labour.
The civil service union PCS is a major sponsor of the coming Love Music Hate Racism Carnival, which aims to inspire another mass movement against racism and fascism and to mobilise a vote against racism in the Greater London Assembly and local council elections taking place a few days later.
PCS paid tribute to the group of political activists who got together 30 years ago with a group of musicians to form Rock Against Racism.
It was a movement formed in reaction to rising xenophobia and racism fuelled by Nazi organisations such as the National Front.
Bands including The Clash, Steel Pulse and the Tom Robinson Band helped create a political movement among music fans – the most memorable event being the Rock Against Racism “Carnival against the Nazis” in April 1978. beginning
A huge rally of 100,000 people marched the six miles from Trafalgar Square through London’s East End – the heart of National Front territory – to a concert in Victoria Park. The concert and march spelled the beginning of the end for the NF in the face of a young and diverse mass movement.
PCS is proud to support the “Love Music Hate Racism Carnival 2008 – Rock Against Racism 30th Anniversary”. The Carnival will see a diverse range of musicians uniting against racism and fascism. A lively carnival procession will also take place through London beforehand.
Acts confirmed so far include: Babyshambles RAR Allstars featuring Very Special Guests Jerry Dammers and Roll Deep, The Paddingtons and many more.
Billy Bragg will be there of course – as he was 30 years ago, a member of the massive audience at the event that politicised his career.
Speakers will include PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, Tony Benn, Derek Simpson (Unite), Weyman Bennett (LMHR) and Gemma Tumelty (NUS).
The public sector union Unison is also getting involved in combating the BNP threat encouraging people to vote as the surest way of seeing off the fascist organisation and stop it spreading its politics of hate.
Last year, the union played a key part in preventing a BNP breakthrough. It proves that local action works. But, the union says, there is no room for complacency.
The BNP currently enjoys the highest levels of support for a fascist party in British history. Doing nothing is not an option.
Unison branches and regions are working alongside other trade unions, local political parties and community groups to prevent the BNP making any electoral gains this year.
The London Hope Not Hate campaign is looking for volunteers on Tuesday 30th April to help with leafleting at every London Tube station. Anyone wishing to help should contact the campaign at and give details of which Tube station they would prefer to cover.

Saving the NHS from profit-mongers

CAMPAIGNERS last Monday protested outside the Department of Health in Whitehall over plans for three GP surgeries in Camden to be taken over by an American commercial health company. Keep Our NHS Public say the issue now occupies the “front line” in their battle against privatisation of the NHS. Camden Primary Care Trust’s decision to award the contract for the three surgeries to United Health had led to an outcry by local people.
One patient, Barbara Saunders, is attempting to block the contract by seeking a judicial review that the consultation was not carried out properly. Last week around 200 residents gave a no confidence vote in their PCT. The borough’s health scrutiny committee will now look into the issue.
The Prime Minister had refocused privatisation on primary care, having moved it away from hospital services to some extent by scrapping plans for third wave independent sector treatments centres and the pulling out of seven already under development last November.
The plan for United Health to run the Brunswick Medical Centre in Bloomsbury, the King’s Cross Road Practice and the Camden Road Surgery from April, would correspond with this.
But in London as elsewhere, it is not a plan with widespread public approval. In a statement the campaigners note: “The American multinational appears to have been favoured due to its promise of substantial cost cutting, sparking fear among patients that the standard of care will decline.”
Professor Wendy Savage, retired obstetrician and campaign supporter said: “We hear all the rhetoric about a patient-led NHS, but that seems to mean nothing if the patients disagree with the Government’s privatisation policies.”
And last Saturday around 200 campaigners marched from Blackheath through Lewisham, past Lewisham Hospital to protest at plans to close the Accident and Emergency Unit there.
The protest was supported by local Mayor Steve Bullock, who said: “Over the last few weeks a whole range of people across the borough have made it clear they are very, very concerned about any threat to Lewisham Hospital, especially accident and emergency and maternity services.”
The march was organised by the Greenwich and Lewisham pensioners’ forums. Frances Hook, chairwoman of Keep Our NHS Public, said: “We will be highlighting our belief that the A Picture of Health consultation has been neither fair nor transparent.
“We want a moratorium on the A Picture of Health because not everyone knows about the proposals and many of those who do have just found them confusing.”
The Picture of Health document proposes a series of options that could lead to the closure of one or more of four hospitals in Lewisham, Bromley, Woolwich and Sidcup and would hit services in all of them.
Far from having too many A&E units, attendances at south-east London’s A&Es increased by 28 per cent between 2002 and 2006. Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich would be expected to increase its emergency admissions by 40 per cent under these plans even though it often diverts ambulances to Queen Mary’s in Sidcup because of lack of beds.