Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Liverpool Labour pulls out of NHS demo, protest still going ahead

Jake Morrison, the Labour councillor for Wavertree, has announced that the demonstration against NHS reforms on Friday has been cancelled. Offering apologies for the cancellation, he assures us that there will be another event in the next few weeks. This post is to confirm that, regardless of Jake's and the Labour Party's withdrawal, Friday's protest will still be going ahead.

In his announcement, Jake claims that police "have raised concerns, which I share, about public safety." Supposedly, they "weren’t able to guarantee that the necessary space was available for several hundred people to protest outside the Royal Hospital safely" and as such "we have agreed the best course of action is to no longer go ahead with the protest." The "we" in question being not the great number who had expressed their determination to come to the demo, but Councillor Jake Morrison and Merseyside Police.

If the reason given is true, then it is beyond pathetic. Police permission or cooperation is not a pre-requisite for static demonstrations in any event and I would at the least question their motives for trying to shut the protest down. Especially after the events of last Wednesday, when cops attacked protesters whilst Jake sat inside the town hall nearby, dutifully voting for millions of pounds of public spending cuts.

If - as is also likely - the reason given is just a cover for pulling out, then it only proves the sectarian motives behind organising a "Labour Party" demonstration in the first place. With the prospect of opposition from those who also opposed the privatisation of the NHS but weren't going to fall for the idea that "the NHS is only safe in the hands of The Labour Party," the party loyalists have bottled it. Last week, there were rumours that they were desperately scrambling to bus people in from Manchester for fear of being outnumbered. Today, they have simply declared a retreat.

This doesn't mean that those of us who are both anti-cuts and anti-Labour will be staying at home, though. If it did, it would only show us as standing for the same narrow, sectional interests as the Labour Party when that is not the case. The ruling class is determined to roll back all of the gains made by workers in the last century, and we stand opposed to that whichever party holds the seat of power.

As such, I would urge people to see the withdrawal of Jake and Liverpool Labour as a victory against the illusions offered by parliamentary politics, but also realise that it doesn't remove the real issue at stake. The NHS is still under attack, along with so much else which the working class depends on, and we have to be willing to stand and fight against that. It will be direct action rather than static protest which saves the NHS, but how can we hope to reach that point if we let police and politicians dictate when and where we can demonstrate?

Demonstrate against NHS privatisation, Friday 27 January
Assemble outside the Royal Liverpool Hospital, Prescot Street, 11am til 2pm