Great turnout today at the rally on Ealing Common where two marches (from Southall and Acton) converged with the message “Save Our Hospitals” ringing out loud and clear. A sizeable chunk of those in the crowd were not your usual protesting types but the proposed NHS reorganisation (or rather cost-cutting exercise) has struck a chord with many for whom this was their first ever demo – from pensioners to babies in buggies.
There was a shared platform befitting this common cause with Ealing Central Tory Angie Bray speaking alongside Ealing Labour MPs Steve Pound and Virendra Sharma and Hammersmith’s Andy Slaughter – a rarity as Ealing Lib Dem leader Gary Malcolm points out. Also in attendance were Seema Malhotra MP for Feltham and Heston and John McDonnell MP for Hayes and Harlington- even though there are no closures in their seats. Councillors from all three parties too spoke out against and came from as far as as Kensington and Chelsea, underlining how disasterous the proposals to decimate Accident and Emergency services in west London will be, with knock-on effects across all of these boroughs. If this crackpot scheme goes ahead ushering in the effective destruction of Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals, the nearest A and E for people in Ealing Borough (which includes places as far away from central London as Northolt) will be St Marys in Paddington. The hassle and expense involved in getting there will inevitably have potentially fatal consequnces. As health professionals (including newly elected Labour GLA member Onkar Sahota) too pointed out NHS staffers are firmly against too.
At times I had flashbacks to previous demos I’ve attended: was almost expecting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out out out” to be chorused. Saw plenty of SWP banners, they always had a reputation for bandwagoneering with any cause going seized on for a recruitment drive but it felt a bit odd to see the Conservatives (who are not locally in coalition with Ealing Lib Dems) employing Socialist Worker type tactics, even having Tory t-shirts printed for the occasion (modelled in the photo by Cllr Phil Taylor). Isn’t it their government forcing through these short sighted cuts? Shouldn’t they be applying pressure on their leadership, or crossing the floor if they are the two are so out of synch that they cannot be reconciled?
Finally as with is usual at demos in gauging the exact number who were, there are widly varying estimates: the BBC says 1000 The Ealing Gazette doubles this to 2k. Heve seen figures of 15-20,00 claimed at an upper limit and 8,000 from the organisers.