How People-Power Saved Glenfield Children’s Heart Unit!

Dusted in snow for the second year running, community campaigners came together on Thursday night in Leicester city centre to celebrate a victory of people-power over Tory cuts.

NHS England did not attempt to close our heart unit for no reason, this much was made clear in the first leaflet that was distributed by the Save Glenfield Heart Centre Campaign which stated:

“NHS England deny this is about cuts, yet the arguments they put forward are flawed. These proposals are being made at the same time that £22 billion in ‘efficiency savings’ are being demanded by the government.”

NHS England’s arguments for closure never made sense, and so the only reason they were eventually forced to see sense was when they felt the pressure of a mass campaign who power and passion only threatened to grow with time.

Although members of the public from all political persuasions, or none at all, joined together to play a vital role in fighting the threat of closure, we can be sure of one thing, and that is that the Tories do not have our best interests at heart when it comes to their ongoing efforts to privatise our NHS.

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Of course in recent decades the Labour Party have not been so different in their commitment to selling our health services to their corporate friends. But that has all started to change in the past few years now that a genuine socialist has been elected as Labour’s leader.

In fact in opposition to the vast majority of Blairite Labour MPs, working-class delegates voted unanimously for Labour to reaffirm “its manifesto commitment to restore our NHS by reversing its privatisation and halting Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships.” It is ideas like this that differentiate Corbyn’s Labour Party from the Tories whose ongoing cuts to health and social care are said to have killed 120,000 people.

Yet not all politicians are keen to point the finger at the Tories. Thus when television journalist, Rob Sissons, interviewed local Labour MP Liz Kendall for BBC East Midlands Today he said:

“You were telling me that you sometimes think that politics is a little bit too tribal, and you are quite pleased about how Conservatives and Labour came together on this?”

Kendall then responded:

“Well it’s been a completely cross party approach. What I am bothered about is getting the best results for my constituents and patients across the East Midlands. That’s what we’ve done by working together as a team. It really has been a team effort and I am very proud to have been part of it.”

But while there is no harm in thanking local Tory MP’s for the support, their support can only be possibly seen as opportunist, as these same Tories are still overseeing the decimation of the rest of our NHS. There is a reason why politics is quite tribal and it is because some politicians have a strong preference for placing the needs of big business before the needs of the rest of us.

Nevertheless the Save Glenfield Heart Centre Campaign group has demonstrated that a cross party approach to organising is not only possible, but can organise to win critical victories. This is because the dedicated organising committee of this campaign demonstrated in practice how members of the Socialist Party could work hand-in-hand with Labour Party members and others who were members of no political party at all in order to win! This is also why the group is affiliated to the national-based Health Campaigns Together group which earlier this year organised a march of around a quarter of a million people in firm opposition to all Tory health cuts.

By standing together as a class the working-class can win, and we must continue to win in other coming battles too. As Socialist Party member and chairman of the Save Glenfield Heart Centre Campaign, Steve Score, made clear in his own interview with Rob Sissons:

We are jubilant that we have won a victory today. NHS England have done a U-turn over their proposal to close the Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre, which is fantastic, and I think it is a result, above all, of people-power – of the thousands of people – who got together and fought to save the Centre, and it shows you can win.”

Likewise Gill Smart from the charity Heart Link made much the same point in another interview with Rob, saying:

People-power is fantastic. Without the people behind us we wouldn’t have got this result, and I would like to thank everyone who took the time out to vote and do the marches and everything, because without their help we wouldn’t’ have achieved this outcome.”

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