Yesterday was a thrilling and inspiring day, as 250,000 people marched in London against the Tories’ war of attrition on the NHS. Labour MP Aneurin Bevan, the ‘father’ of the NHS said that “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it” and it was a tonic for the soul to see that so many people do, and so passionately.
— ITV London (@itvlondon) March 4, 2017
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey and PCS’ Mark Serwotka – still recovering from a heart transplant – spoke to the marchers and showed – again – why they are the people we need at the top of their respective organisations.
But while every person who attended the march covered themselves with honour in stark contrast to the Tories’ continuing contempt for and lies about our NHS, there is also a shameful Labour ‘roll of dishonour’ – the huge number of right-wing MPs who not only failed to get out and show support for the UK’s – and Labour’s – greatest achievement, but failed even to mention it.
At the head of the ‘rollcall of shame’ of Labour MPs who ‘forgot’ the NHS march must be Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson. He had time to tweet to US-based Tory Louise Mensch and to comment on the Obama-Trump ‘feud’:
But not a dicky bird on the NHS. Not one. Clearly US politics is of considerably more interest to Tom than the plight of the health service we all rely on under a malignant Tory government.
That or he’s too busy counting his latest donation from Max Moseley.
One of Watson’s former deputy leadership rivals also let it somehow slip her mind that a quarter of a million people were essentially on her doorstep – as Stella Creasy is a London MP.
Creasy is based in Walthamstow – but to judge by her Twitter feed, the march didn’t exist. Ms Creasy is quite prolific on Twitter and her feed runs through the day into the early hours of this morning – but while she had time and interest to tweet about Hugh Jackman’s new film, Harriet Thorpe’s boots and Fruit bloody Pastilles, the NHS is conspicuous only by its absence.
In all, some 100 right-wing Labour MPs are believed to have completely ignored the NHS march, at least in their social media feeds. Mike Gapes and another failed leadership contender, Angela Eagle, deserve dishonourable mention.
Why don’t you check your (Labour) MP’s feeds and let this blog know what you find?
Edit: Readers have reported their MPs’ (and a mayor’s) lack of mention of the march as follows:
Mary Creagh, Sadiq Khan (who DID tweet the next day about being on a women’s march), Jess Phillips
On a special scroll, however, currently all on his own, is former party leadership challenger Owen Smith. Mr Smith was criticised during last year’s leadership campaign for his history promoting Pfizer’s involvement in the NHS and the likely impact this would have on his support for the NHS. He denied this was an issue.
However, yesterday Mr Smith didn’t just ignore the NHS march – he attacked it:
Mr Smith’s contemptuous dismissal of the march disgraces him even more than the disingenousness of his reply – a tactic that was also being used by LibDems yesterday to justify their decision to ignore the march and go leafleting about Brexit. He never tired of quoting Bevan as his hero during the leadership campaign, but that is now exposed as the nonsense it always was.
Smith knows full well that campaigning for the NHS is not an either/or matter. Marching to put pressure on the government and raise awareness now is crucial while Labour fights to get into government and save it. You’d have to be a simpleton or dishonest to claim otherwise – and Mr Smith is not a simpleton.
Perhaps he’s just kept taking the (Pfizer) tablets.
But Smith is almost irrelevant now, after the fiasco of his woeful leadership campaign. Of much greater concern is the fact that more than a third of Labour MPs – exclusively, as far as can be told, on the right wing of the party – who consider US politics, film stars and even, God help us, Wotsits and Fruit Pastilles and matter of greater interest and enthusiasm than the NHS that Labour created and on which you and I reply.
Perhaps they’re in the wrong party and should be told that by their local members at the next parliamentary selection.
But we should end on a positive note that Labour, Unite and PCS are led by people who have the NHS close to their heart – and are not afraid or too proud to turn out with masses of ordinary people to show it.
We should be thankful for that – and work just as hard to make sure it stays that way as they do for #OurNHS.
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