Posts Tagged ‘NHS privatisation’

Goodbye and Good Riddance – March 2023

Monday, January 1st, 2024

Goodbye and Good Riddance – March 2023: Continuing from yesterday’s post some more pictures from 2013, from my albums on Facebook from March 2003.

Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
Croydon Residents Protest 15% Council Tax Hike. London, UK. 1 Mar 2023. People from the London Borough of Croydon protest outside the Council offices against the council raising Council Tax by 15%. The huge rise is needed because of of swingeing cuts in support from central government and years of mismanagement by both Labour and Tories, particularly in the council’s housing company. The proposed rise comes on top of years of cuts to essential services in the borough. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
A Tree Is Planted In Memory of Bruce Kent. London, UK. 4 Mar 2023. Jeremy Corbyn and Valerie, Bruce Kent’s widow, come to plant the tree. Several hundred came to the planting of a tree in Finsbury Park in memory of Bruce Kent who died last June. A prominent Catholic priest he became a political activist and one of the great peace campaigners of our times. Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn and Kent’s wife Valerie who together planted the tree. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
Million Women Rise 2023. London, UK. 3 Mar 2023. Women, including many from migrant groups, met just off Oxford Street for a march organised by Million Women Rise, a collective led by Black women, which welcomes all women to attend. They called for an end to male violence against women and girls in all its forms. They want an end to everyday and structural racism at the heart of policing and our immigration system and society generally. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance - March 2023
Bank of England – Hand Back Venezuela’s Gold. London, UK. 4 Mar 2023. A protest at the Bank of England on the 10th anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death demanded they return the 31 tonnes of Venezuela’s gold in their vaults. The UK government has refused to recognise the elected government of Venezuela and insists the gold belongs to the opposition led by Juan Guaido whose interim presidency has been dissolved by the democratically elected National Assembly. Peter Marshall
Save The NHS, Support Strikers and Welcome Migrants. London, UK. 11 Mar 2023.Thousands marched in London from a short rally at Warren Street calling for decent pay for all NHS workers. They demand an end to NHS privatisation and a return to a publicly funded public service. Migrants Are Welcome with and have played a vital role in the NHS, with large numbers of nurses, doctors and other staff from abroad, and they supported Gary Lineker in his description of the substance and tone of Government policies. Peter Marshall
Iranians Continue Protests For Regime Change. London, UK. 11 Mar 2023. Iranians continue their protests in London in solidarity with protesters in Iran calling for the end of rule by Mullahs. In Parliament Square a group held placards against the gassing of schoolgirl protesters and Iran and calling for Twitter to ban the Taliban, as well as pictures of those killed and held Iranian flags and banners supporting the mourning mothers and fathers of Iran. Peter Marshall
Save Our Schools Carnival, London, UK. 15 Mar 2023. Striking teachers, parents and supporters march to a carnival event in Trafalgar Square organised by the National Education Union as a huge Budget Day show of strength to demand the Chancellor and ministers deliver a fully-funded above inflation pay rise to #SaveOurSchools. They demand action to end poor pay, low funding, the SEND crisis and excessive workload, to support pupils in poverty and end inappropriate inspection and tests. Peter Marshall
UN Anti-Racism Day March. London, UK. 18 Mar 2023. Women Life Freedom, Iran. Thousands march through London to make clear that refugees are welcome and oppose the government’s racist policies against immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. They demand safe routes for migrants and an end to institutional racism in policing and an end to Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and prejudice against Black, Chinese, Asians, gypsies, Roma, travellers and other communities in the media and government. Peter Marshall
UN Anti-Racism Day March. 18 Mar 2023. Thousands march through London to make clear that refugees are welcome and oppose the government’s racist policies against immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. They demand safe routes for migrants and an end to institutional racism in policing and an end to Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and prejudice against Black, Chinese, Asians, gypsies, Roma, travellers and other communities in the media and government.
Peter Marshall

More pictures from these and other protests in March 2023 in my Facebook Albums.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023

Sunday, December 31st, 2023

Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023 – The past year has certainly been an “annus horribilis” that puts 1992 into shame in that respect and it ends with an ongoing genocide on a scale that would have been unimaginable before the development of recent weapons as well as unthinkable.

Today’s post is a baker’s dozen of images I took in the first two months of the year, January and February 2023 at some of the twenty-seven events I photographed then. It isn’t a collection of my “best photographs”, though I’ve tried to pick some of the more succesful I’ve taken. All these (and many others) are still online in my Facebook albums and most if not all available for editorial use from Alamy. They are displayed in date order.

Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023
London, UK. 18 Jan 2022. Nurses and other medical staff and supporters marched from a rally at University College Hospital on the first day of a two day nurses strike. Shocked by news of 500 avoidable deaths each day due to delays in emergency care they demand the government drop actions aimed at destroying and privatising the NHS and take urgent action to end staff shortages, including increasing pay and ending underfunding. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023
London, UK. 21 Jan 2023. Iranians and supporters march through London with the slogan ‘Women Life Freedom’ in support of continuing protests in Iran following the death of Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police and demanding regime change. They condemned the continuing repression and arrest and hanging of protesters and called for the release of prisoners. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023
London, UK. 30 Jan 2023. Enough is Enough UK and the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom protest at Downing Street as the Tories push their anti-strike bill through Parliament. The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill has enraged trade unions and opposition MPs and is being debated by a ‘Committee of the whole house’ to rush it through without proper scrutiny and detailed debate. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023
London, UK. Feb 4 2023. A crowd protested loudly by the private street leading to the Israeli Embassy as a part of a worldwide fight by Israelis to preserve democracy in Israel and oppose the inclusion in the government of criminals and religious bigots which they say is unacceptable. Many brought their children with them to show their love for Israel. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023
London, UK. 11 Feb 2023. A police officer grabs a protester as Stand Up to Racism oppose the fascist Patriotic Alternative (PA) who came to try to end Drag Queen Story Hour UK events at Tate Britain with drag queen Aida H Dee. They rejected the PA claims that these story-telling sessions for parents and young children are “child grooming”, “paedophilia”, or in any way sexual. PA at the protest included several well-known former BNP members. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023
Kashimiris protest at India House calling for an end to the military occupation by India by 800,000 troops. The called for freedom for Kashmir, for the release of political prisoners, and for the return of the body of Maqbool Butt, secretly hanged by India in Tihar Jail in 1984, to enable a dignified burial. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance 2023
11 Feb 2023. Iranians protest in London in support of continuing protests in Iran following the death of Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police and demanding regime change. They condemned the continuing repression and arrest and hanging of protesters and called for the release of prisoners and for a revolution to free the country from religious dictatorship. Many of those present were calling for the return of the Pahlavi monarchy.
Peter Marshall
London, UK. 11 Feb 2923. The Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign met in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for a Night Carnival procession though London calling for the refusal of extradition for Julian Assange to the USA where he would face life imprisonment in harsh conditions that would threaten his life and for his immediate release. Assange is a journalist who released details of crimes by others, not a criminal. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live New
London, UK. 25 Feb 2023. Stop the War Coalition and CND march in Lodon calling for an end to the war in Ukraine. Though opposed to the Russian invasion they call for peace talks to end the huge suffering and deaths of civilians and soldiers which is being fed by the supply of arms to Ukraine and point to the dangers of escalation, possibly nuclear. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
London, UK. 11 Feb 2023. Iranians protest in London in support of continuing protests in Iran following the death of Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police demanding regime change. They condemn the continuing repression, arrest and hanging of protesters and call for the release of imprisoned protesters, but also for a revolution to free the country from religious dictatorship. Many of those present were calling for the return of the Pahlavi monarchy, others want neither monarchy
London, UK. 18 Feb 2023. Somalis rally opposite Downing Street against the violations of human rights against the people of Sool, Sanag and Cayn. People are being slaughtered, hospitals burnt, schools destroyed and water, food and medical supplies cut off. They call on the UK government to end funding and training the Somali government forces carrying out the atrocities and hold President Muse Bihi to account. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
London, UK. 25 Feb 2023. Protesters crowded the roadside at Trafalgar Aquare with placards against Mayor Khan’s planned extension of the ultra low emission Zone (ULEZ) which will make drivers of extra polluting vehicles pay a daily charge for driving in the whole of Greater London. The ULEZ will help cut London’s lethal air pollution which kills thousands each year and ruins the health of many others. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News
London, UK. 25 Feb 2023. We Own It organised a protest in Parliament Square after an Oxford University study linked the treatable deaths of 557 people to NHS privatisation. They filled the square with 557 people each holding a numbered placard and a small bunch of flowers for each of those who has died because of privatisation and demand that this end and our NHS be fully returned to being a public service. Peter Marshall/Alamy Live News

If you want to find out more about any of the events you can find the albums with more of my pictures on Facebook. More from later in 2023 in another post.

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Monday, April 24th, 2023

Wednesday 24th April 2013 was a busy day for protests in Westminster. And there was one in the City.

Protest the Privatisation of NHS – Old Palace Yard

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

The House of Lords was debating NHS regulations which imposed full competitive tendering on the NHS, a key part in the escalating backdoor privatisation of the NHS.

Unite had set up a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ game show hosted by people wearing ‘David Cameron’ and ‘Jeremy Hunt’ masks and listing the likely costs of various procedures due to the tendering system. They feared “that the coalition’s NHS policies, including a multi billion pound funding squeeze coupled with a massive reorganisation, will destroy the 65 year old health service, paving the way for a new marketised system where paying up to £10,000 for maternity costs or £13,450 for a new hip is the norm.”

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unite said that already more than £20 billion of health costs go to private companies, who take their decisions on the basis of profit rather than the interests of patients. The Lords were debating a motion for the annulment of the regulations on the grounds that Parliament had been assured “that NHS commissioners would be free to commission services in the way they consider in the best interests of NHS patients“.

Protest the Privatisation of NHS

Bring Shaker Aamer Home – Parliament Square

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Following a petition with 117,387 signatures to bring Shaker Aamer home from Guantanamo, a debate had been held that morning by MPs in Westminster Hall, where most of the 17 MPs who spoke called for his release, including Shaker’s own MP, the Conservative MP for Battersea, Jane Ellison, who also came out to speak with the protesters.

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unfortunately such debates, although they do increase pressure on the government to take action have no actual consequences. But perhaps it did help to persuade the government that it had to ignore the embarrassment of British agents at being complicit in his torture by the US and make clear to the US government he should at last be released after being held for 12 years, long after he had been cleared of any involvement in terrorism. As I noted, “The facts about torture are now largely public and totally indefensible and it is time for justice to be done.”

Bring Shaker Aamer Home

Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet – Princes St, CityDrax AGM, wpp

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett speaking at the protest

I had to take the tube to the City to attend a protest outside Gocer’s Hall where the AGM of Drax, the huge coal-burning power station near Selby in Yorkshire was being held. Drax was planning to convert half its capacity to bio-mass and become the largest biomass-burning power station in the world, using 1.5 times the total UK wood production per year.

The wood pellets would come mainly from devastating clear-cutting of highly diverse forests in North America, and although re-grown will eventually remove the same amount of carbon this will take a hundred years or more – during which time the carbon Drax emits – roughly 50% greater than burning coal – will be contributing to disastrous global warming.

Drax already has a disastrous impact in South America were land is being grabbed from traditional communities for open cast coal mining, usually with complete disregard for their human and civil rights, cleared of its biodiverse forests and diverted from food production – often in places where food is desperately needed. Conversion to wood-burning at Drax will result in even more environmental and social destruction.

The incentive to change to wood-burning is that under current government policies Drax will receive huge government subsidies from funds intended to promote renewable energy, diverting funds from schemes for energy production and conservation that actually will help to combat climate change.

Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet

Gurkhas Call for equal treatment – Old Palace Yard

I returned to Westminster, where Several hundred Gurkha pensioners and supporters were holding a rally on the 198th anniversary of the first recruitment of Gurkhas into the British Army to deliver a petition to David Cameron asking for equal treatment to other British Army ex-soldiers.

British Army Gurkhas who retired before 1997 were granted the right to settle in the UK in 2009, but their pension remains only a fifth of that of other British soldiers, and is impossible to live on in the UK, being based on the cost of living in Nepal.

Gurkhas Call for equal treatment

UK herbalists Want Regulations – Old Palace Yard

Also in Old Palace Yard were UK herbalists, both traditional and Chinese, protesting against the failure of the government to bring in the statutory regulations they had promised to do by 2012.

Under EU regulations from 2004, traditional remedies then in use could continue to be provided until 2011, but after that had to be covered by national policies to regulate their safety and effectiveness. Although the government had promised to set this up, it has so far failed to do so, and they are now unable to prescribe many commonly used and effective common herbal remedies.

UK herbalists Want Regulations

Get Britain Cycling Report Launch – Parliament Square

Finally, in Parliament Square, Christ Boardman, a gold medal cylist in the Barcelona Olympics posed with MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group to launch their report ‘Get Britain Cycling.’

This calls for more to be spent on supporting cycling and that it should be considered in all planning decisions. They want more segregated cycle lanes and for the 30mp urban speed limit to by reduced to 20mph. Children should be taught to ride a bike at school and the government should produce and annually report on a cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan. Cycling has enormous advantages both individually and for us all in better health and reducing pollution with reduced health spending.

Get Britain Cycling Report Launch

Saving the Whittington

Monday, February 27th, 2023

Saving the Whittington

Saving the Whittington
A huge campaign in 2010 led to Andy Burnham, then Health Secretary stopping the Whittington hospital board’s plans to close its maternity and A&E Departments. A major event in this campaign was the march I photographed on Saturday 27 February 2010 from Highbury Corner to a rally at the hospital at Archway.

Later in 2013 when the board announced plans for more cuts another successful campaign stopped these, and in 2016 there was yet another campaign over redevelopment plans in concert with a private contractor.

Many people tell me that protest never works and that campaigners are simply wasting their time, but in 2022 the hospital announced a £100 million refurbishment of Whittington Hospital’s maternity and neonatal facilities, which still deliver over 3,600 babies a year, and the A&E department is still open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I counted almost 2000 people walking past me a short distance from the start on the two mile march to the hospital, and more arrived for the rally, swelling the numbers to around 3-5,000. Or as the BBC at the time called it, in their usual way of minimising protests, ‘hundreds’ of protesters. But at least, unlike most protests, they did report on it.

Among the marchers and speakers where almost every local politician, including David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and then Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who pledged his support for the hospital and all its services, revealing that he had been born there. Frank Dobson MP who was Secretary of State for Health from 1997 to 1999 also gave a powerful speech in support, as did Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry were also at the event, as well as Terry Stacy, the leader of Islington Council.

The proposals for the cuts and downgarding of A&E had come from a rationalisation programme initiated by Lord Darzi, a surgeon and national adviser in surgery to the Department of Health and a Labour Peer from 2007 until he resigned the whip in 2019. His report suggested moving much care from hospitals to GP-led polyclinics and to greater centralisation of trauma, stork and heart attack services to centralised specialist services.

Frank Dobson

Polyclinics remain rare, but although the greater specialisation of acute services made clinical (and financial) sense it failed to take into account the problems of London’s congested streets which would have led to long delays in treatment for many patients. Those inevitable delays would have meant deaths. And the selection of Whittington for closure neglected its good road and public transport connections which make it an ideal location for emergency cases as well as other patients and visitors.

Why Whittington was chosen as suitable for closure probably came down to two factors. One was certainly the age of the buildings, but perhaps more important was that the same factors of location and transport links made it an exceptionally valuable site for property developers. Had the cuts gone ahead in 2010, the rest of the hospital would probably by now also had been closed, with the site developed, including some of those old buildings converted into luxury flats.

Many more pictures from the march and rally at Save the Whittington on My London Diary.

Save the NHS – Lewisham 2013

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Save Lewisham Hospital March & Rally – Saturday 26 January 2013

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

On Saturday 26th January 2013 an estimated 25,000 people marched through Lewisham to save their hospital from closure and to protect the NHS, showing south London united against the closure on pure financial grounds of its highly successful and much needed A&E and maternity departments.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Now the whole NHS is facing a crisis, and a similar united response across the country is needed to save it. It becomes clearer and clearer that this crisis has been deliberately engineered in order to destroy our health service and hand it over to private providers, particularly the US health giants.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Two years ago, US health insurance giant Centene Corporation took over 49 NHS GP surgeries and practices. Now as Jeremy Corbyn posted a couple of days ago on Facebook, “US health insurance giant, Centene, is the single largest provider of NHS primary care in England. Privatisation is the cause of — not the solution to — the NHS crisis. Stop wasting money on private contracts and start investing in a fully-public NHS instead.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Unfortunately both Tory and Labour parties have taken part in the move towards privatisation of the NHS, though Tories have been more open in their support of such changes as suggesting the introduction of charges to see a doctor. But both parties have introduced changes which have brought private companies into providing NHS services, have taken large donations from private health companies, and have leading members who profit from them.

It was under Labour that the NHS took on poorly thought out Private Finance Initiative contracts that have landed many local health trusts with huge debt repayments, many of which extend to the middle of the century, and it was these which led to the crisis in Lewisham.

The PFI contracts were negotiated by civil servants and were and are a bonanza for private companies. Under them we pay totally ridiculous charges for simple jobs – such as Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust paying £8,450 to install a dishwasher because they are locked into maintenance contracts. Changing a light bulb can cost a couple of hundred pounds.

Lewisham Hospital wasn’t directly affected by PFI, but it was in 2009 put into the South London Hospitals Trust, which had two hospitals at Orpington and Woolwich whose PFI contracts saddled the trust with debts of over £60 million a year until 2032.

Lewisham Hospital was successful both medically and financially, but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appointed a special administrator to the trust with a remit to drastically cut the trusts costs. And Matthew Kershaw decided to do so by closing the highly successful and much needed A&E and maternity departments at Lewisham.

It was a decision that made no sense. There wasn’t the spare capacity at other hospitals to cope with those no longer able to get treatment at Lewisham – the system was actually working in the other direction, with these other hospitals having to send patients to Lewisham.

Financially it made no sense – the patients would still require treatment and this would cost more elsewhere. The small annual savings the closure would give would be more than offset by increases in costs elsewhere – though some of these might be in other trusts.

The proposal generated an incredible amount of local opposition, with the campaign to save the hospital supported by all local MPs and policitician both in the area and across south London. Community groups and organisations all came together to save the hospital – Millwall football club even changed their weekend fixture to Friday night so the team and supporters could join the march.

As I wrote back in 2013, “The fight to save Lewisham Hospital isn’t just a local issue, but very much a national one, with the provision of medical services that form the bedrock of the NHS under attack. If the government can close down services at Lewisham, no other successful hospital in the UK is safe in their hands.”

Nurses and ambulance workers are now striking not just for a better deal for themselves, but for the future of the NHS, which the Tories have deliberately run down with drastic underfunding and a deliberate failure to train and recruit staff. Perhaps their most obvious action was the removal of the bursary for nurse training, but as well there has been the continuing decrease in real salaries with below inflation wage rises over the years. Together with the failure to keep European staff in this country after Brexit and the impact of Covid the results have been disastrous – except for those private companies providing agency nurses and doctors, often at horrific cost to the NHS.

If the NHS is to be saved it will need the kind of public mobilisation that saved Lewisham Hospital, with the people as a whole getting behind the nurses and doctors and others who are fighting to save it. We need to fight the policies and greed of the Tories and of Labour and of the billionaire press to preserve the NHS as a national service free at the point of use and organised for the national good rather than for profit.

More pictures at Save Lewisham Hospital

Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

Monday, October 17th, 2022

I photographed three quite different protests in London on Saturday 17th October 2015

End the killing in Palestine – Israeli Embassy

Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

October 2015 saw the start of a wave of uncoordinated knife attacks on Jews in Jerusalem, mainly be individuals acting alone, probably enraged by increasing restrictions on Palestinian access to the holy area called by Muslims al-Haram al-Sharif and by Jews the Temple Mount, while at the same time Jewish activists were given greater access.

An Israeli intelligence service report blamed the Palestinian “feelings of national, economic and personal deprivation” while others suggested that Palestinians were responding to what seemed to them and human rights organisations as summary executions being carried out by Israeli forces against Palestinians involved in incidents.

According to Wikipedia, in October 2015 Israeli security forces killed 51 Palestinians in the West Bank and 18 in the Gaza strip. While the killing of Israelis makes the BBC news headlines, the deaths of Palestinians at the hand of Israeli security forces, illegal settlers and other Jewish extremists is seldom mentioned.

More pictures at End the killing in Palestine

Junior Doctors protest to save the NHS – Waterloo Place & Whitehall

Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

Junior doctors met for a rally in Waterloo Place to protest the changes to NHS contracts that will mean working more unsocial hours at standard rates, remove safeguards that stop hospitals overworking doctors, and penalise those volunteer for charities, have families or carry out research.

The new contracts are aimed at making the NHS more profitable for private companies to take over NHS activities and many mainly Tory MPs have interests in private healtcare companies. But overwhelming doctors who work in the NHS want to see it kept as a serrvice dedicated to the public good rather than working to make profits for shareholders at the expense of both healthcare workers and the treatment given to patients.

A banner covered in names of doctors who were on duty so couldn’t attend

After a number of speeches in Waterloo Place, thousands of junior doctors and their supporters marched to sit down briefly outside Downing St before continuing to a final rally in Parliament Square.

Graffiti artist Stik (Centre) stands under two of the placards he designed against privatisation of the NHS

More pictures at Junior Doctors protest to save the NHS.

Cleaners protest in Barbican – Barbican Centre

Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

I met the cleaners outside the main entrance to the Barbican in Silk Street, where thee United Voices of the World held a noisy rally with a few speeches. They were here after the Barbican management had ignored requests to talk with the UVW union over failing to pay the living wage until 6 months late, contractual sick pay, and cleaners were being victimised for their for trade union activities. They were also protesting the use of unpaid ‘Workfare’ in the centre.

After a while a small group from the UVW , led by UVW General Secretary Petros Elia, ran inside past security staff and made their way to the middle of the arts centre to protest there. The Barbican was holding an event called ‘Battle of Ideas’ which had a large banner ‘Free Speech Allowed’ but Barbican security were not happy with free speech from Petros, despite which he was able to finish the protest, receiving a round of applause from Barbican customers.

Soon police arrived and there was a fairly friendly discuss in which the UVW agreed to leave the building in a few minutes without any trouble. They did so, and continued the protest outside the entrance in Silk Street. I took a few photographs and then left for home as it had been a long day and I wanted to get back and have my dinner.

Cleaners protest in Barbican

Iran, Palestine, Hong Kong, UK Strikers & City Views

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Solidarity protests on Friday 10th October 2014 and some extreme wide angle views in the City of London.

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers – Care UK, Southwark

Iran, Palestine, Hong Kong, UK Strikers & City Views
Protesters outside the offices in Great Guildford St

The protest by members from the National Shops Stewards Network, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Southwark Unison was one of many around the country in a nation-wide day of solidarity with Doncaster Care UK workers who had been on strike for 81 days after huge cuts in pay and services were made by a private equity company who have taken over this part of the NHS.

Iran, Palestine, Hong Kong, UK Strikers & City Views

Care UK is now owned by Bridgepoint, which also owns businesses including Fat Face and Pret a Manger. The workers are on strike not just over cuts in their own wages, but also against the changes in how Care UK is allowed to operate by the new bosses. What was formerly a values-based health service able to address the needs of those with learning disorders in their own community has been radically altered to providing minimum standards of service at the lowest possible cost to get the greatest profits for Bridgepoint, and for the company they will be sold on to once the private equity company has slimmed services and pay to the bone.

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

Iran, Palestine, Hong Kong, UK Strikers & City Views

The current unrest in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police’ for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly, so that some of her hair was visible is unprecedented, but women there have been oppressed by religious police since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

An Iranian woman who cannot go back to Iran

In 2014 former SOAS Law student Ghoncheh Ghavami was arrested and detained with other women for going to try to watch a volleyball match in Tehran. At the time of the protest outside SOAS University of London she had been held for 104 days and had been on hunger strike for 10 days. The protesters included a number of Iranian students one of whom told the protest she could not return to Iran as the TV coverage of a volleyball game in Rome had shown her reacting to a score.

The rally was supported by staff and the SOAS staff unions UCU and Unison, as well as by the SOAS Student Union, and some students took part in a day’s hunger strike in solidarity and there was a candlelight vigil. Ghavami was released on bail on 23 November 2014 and later sentenced to a year in jail and a two-year travel ban for “propaganda against the regime”.

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

City Panoramas

I had an hour or two to spare before the next protest I was to cover and spent some of this walking around the city and making some extreme wide-angle photographs.

Although these pictures have a normal aspect ratio, they have a horizontal angle of view of over 145 degrees and a vertical angle of around 90 degrees, only possible by using a lens which does not give the more normal ‘rectilinear’ perspective but represents the scene with some curvature.

City Panoramas

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard – Wood St

The Palestinian Prisoners Campaign continued their campaign against Hewlett-Packard, which boasts of ‘a massive presence’ in Israel and are the IT backbone for the Israeli war machine with a picket outside their London offices.

Police watched the protest across the street from HP’s offices carefully and umbrellas in the colours of the Palestinian flag and large banners made the protest very visible. Speeches and posters taped on the pavement gave details of HP’s involvement in the oppression and imprisonment of Palestinians which were also stated on the leaflets the protesters handed out.

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution – Chinese Embassy

Umbrellas were also on display at the protest around the doorway of the Chinese Embassy on Portland Place organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts in solidarity with the ‘umbrella revolution’ of the students and workers of Hong Kong in their fight for democracy.

Most of the umbrellas were on posters and placards, though some protesters carried small yellow paper umbrellas and there were just a few full-size ones too.

Police tried to move the protesters to the other side of the road, but they refused to move. They called for the immediate release of all the arrested, an end to the suppression of peaceful assembly, replacing the “fake universal suffrage” formula with the genuine political reform workers have been demanding, and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying.

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution

People’s March For The NHS And More – 2014

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

On Saturday 6th September I was in London mainly to cover the final stage of the People’s March for the NHS which had begun in mid August in Jarrow, but also photographed Mourning Mothers of Iran, people on a Rolling Picket against Israeli violence and a protest against children being taken for families by social workers and family courts.

People’s March from Jarrow for NHS

When the NHS was founded back in 1948 it was an integral part of the welfare state, a social welfare policy to provide free and universal benefits. It was opposed at its start by the Conservative Party, and met with opposition from some doctors and other medical professionals worried that it would cut their earnings from private practice.

Particularly because of the opposition from doctors, the initial scheme had to be fairly drastically changed, with compromises being made by Minister for Health Aneurin Bevan. And dentistry was never really properly and fully brought withing the system.

Since 1948 much has changed. We’ve seen a huge growth in private hospitals, partly driven by many employers providing private healthcare schemes as a perk for their better paid employees, but also by public funding being used to pay for NHS services provided by the private sector.

We’ve also seen the introduction of charges for NHS prescriptions and more recently the NHS has decided on a fairly wide range of common conditions for which it will no longer provide treatment or prescriptions, sending people to the chemist for both advice and over the counter medicines.

There have been huge advances in medical science too, and more of us are living to a greater age than ever before, making more demands on the NHS. Our NHS is costing more, though still the total spending on health in the UK is significantly less than in many other countries as an OECD chart on Wikipedia shows – less than Japan, Ireland, Australia, France, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Switzerland – and well under half of that in the USA.

Yet for some years many leading Conservatives have advocated the UK moving to a system based on the US model. It would not make our health any better, but would make it much more expensive. And lead to huge profits for healthcare companies – many of them US-based – which are already beginning to take large bites of our own NHS spending. Involving private companies in providing NHS services has not generally led to better services – and in some cases has certainly made them worse, unsurprisingly as it diverts money to shareholders rather than using it for patients. Some services have become more difficult to access.

GP surgeries have always been private businesses, but when these were run by the doctors they provided more personal services than those run by some private companies where patients are unlikely to see a ‘family doctor’ and far more likely to see a locum – if they can still get an appointment. The NHS also spends over £6bn a year on agency and bank staff which would be unnecessary if we were training enough staff.

The need to put services out to tender is time-consuming and wastes NHS resources, one of several things which has produced a top-heavy management. And accepting low tenders often leads to poorly performing services such as cleaning, as I found when I was in my local hospital and found staff simply were not allowed time to do the job properly.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was the most extensive reorganisation of the NHS to that date and Lansley has been widely seen as getting things wrong, and it replaced the duty on the NHS to provide services with one to promote them, with delivery possibly by others, opening up the entire health service to privatisation.

I walked with the marchers from a rally in Red Lion Square to Trafalgar Square where there was a final rally with speakers including Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham and London Mayor Sadiq Kahn. In 1936 the Jarrow Crusade marchers in 1936 – who were shunned by the Labour Party but captured the hears of the British population – had been given a pound, along with a train ticket back to Jarrow, but failed to get any significant action from the government and Jarrow was left without jobs. Those marchers who had walked the whole 300 miles from Jarrow were presented with medals incorporating a pound coin.

People’s March from Jarrow for NHS

Mourning Mothers of Iran – Trafalgar Square

On the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square I found a group of mainly Iranian women standing in a silent vigil to support the Mourning Mothers of Iran.

Now renamed The Mothers of Laleh Park, these are women who hold vigils in the park in the centre of Tehran after their children were killed or imprisoned following a crackdown on members of the opposition after the 2009 Iranian election, and call for the release of political prisoners. Many of the women in Iran have been arrested for protesting and for talking to foreign journalists.

Mourning Mothers of Iran

Rolling Picket against Israeli violence – Downing St

At Downing Street I photographed a group protesting against Israeli violence towards Palestinians and clalling for a boycott of Israeli good.

After a brief protest at Downing St they marched up Whitehall and protested outside McDonalds before going for another short protest outside the Tesco facing Trafalgar Square. Police intervened to move them away when they tried to block the doorway there. I left them on their way to make further protests outside shops supporting Israel on their way to Tony Blair’s house off the Edgware Rd.

Rolling Picket against Israeli violence

Stolen Children of the UK – Parliament Square

This group say that many children in the UK are removed from families by social workers and family courts for no good reason. They allege that there is systematic, systemic institutional abuse of around a thousand children a month being removed in this way and then abused by paedophile rings. Although there may be children wrongly taken from families there appears to be no firm evidence for such abuse.

These conspiracy theories are a world-wide phenomenon and in 2017 became the core belief of QAnon, the US extreme right wing conspiracy theory political movement.

Stolen Children of the UK

NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014

Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday – Whitechapel

The National Health Service came into operation in the UK on 5th July 1948, established by a Labour government despite considerable opposition from the Conservative Party and some doctors’ organisations. In most recent years there have been protests marking the anniversary against the increasing privatisation of the system, large parts of which have now moved away from being provided by the NHS itself to being provided by private companies, motivated by profits rather than public service.

The opposition to Aneurin Bevan’s plans in the 1940s led to a number of compromises, but the NHS was launched with three basic principles – to meet the needs of everyone, to be free at the point of delivery, and to be based on clinical need rather than the ability to pay. Although those principles remain, there are some respects in which they are not entirely met.

Prescription charges – currently £9.35 per item – were introduced in England in 1952, removed from 1965-8 but then re-introduced, remaining free for under-16s and over 60s, with some other exceptions. And we pay too for NHS dentistry, and many people find it impossible to get dental treatment under the NHS as no practice in their area will take them on.

Access to GPs and other services at surgeries around the country is also much more difficult for many, and it can be difficult or impossible to get an appointment in a timely fashion. Many services dealing with relatively minor medical issues are no longer available, and people have either to pay for them or continue to suffer. Some of these problems have been exacerbated by the take-over of many surgeries by healthcare companies as a part of the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

Twenty years ago, when I had a hospital stay of several weeks, hospitals have been forced to put some essential services – such as cleaning – out to tender, resulting in two of the three hospitals I was in being in filthy conditions.

In 2014, cuts in funding were threatening the closure of surgeries in Tower Hamlets as they failed to pay for the extra needs faced in inner-city areas. Local hospitals were also threatened, particularly because of the huge debts from PFI contracts for the building an management of new hospitals. The deals with the private sector made under New Labour have left the NHS with impossible levels of debt – and the companies involved with high profits, continuing in some cases for another 20 or 30 years.

After a short rally with speakers including the local mayor and MP as well as health campaigners including local GPs, there was a march by several hundreds to a larger rally in Hackney. But I left the marchers shortly after it passed Whitechapel Station.

Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday

Focus E15 March for Decent Housing – East Ham

Earlier I had been to photograph a march through East Ham and Upton Park in a protest over the terrible state of housing in England, and in London in particular. The event had been organised by Focus E15 Mums with the support of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, but included many other protest groups from Hackney, from Brent and from South London on the march as well as groups including BARAC, TUSC and others.

They included a number of groups who had stood up and fought for their own housing against councils lacking in principles and compassion who had suggested they might move to privately rented accommodation in Birmingham, Hastings, Wales or further afield, but who had stood their ground and made some progress like the Focus E15 Mothers.

Many London councils are still involved with developers in demolishing social housing and replacing it with houses and flats mainly for high market rents or sale, with some “affordable” properties at rates few can afford, and with much lower numbers than before at social rents. Many former residents are forced to move to outer areas of London in what campaigners call ‘social cleansing’.

Families that councils are under a statutory duty to find homes for are often housed in single rooms or flats, sometimes infected by insects or with terrible damp, often far from their jobs or schools. Councils are under huge pressure and funding cuts sometimes make it impossible for them to find suitable properties, though often there are empty properties which could be used, particularly on estates such as the Caarpenters Estate in Stratford which Newham had been emptying since around 2004 in the hope of redeveloping.

Government policies and subsidies for housing have largely been a way of subsiding private landlords, and we need national and local governments – as I worte ” determined to act for the benefit of ordinary people, making a real attempt to build much more social housing, removing the huge subsidies currently given to private landlords through housing benefit, legislating to provide fair contracts for private tenants and give them decent security – and criminalising unfair evictions.” Housing really is a national emergency and needs emergency measaures.

Much of what is currently being built in London is sold to overseas buyers as investments and often left empty as its owners profit from the rapid rises in property values in London. We need to make this either illegal or to impose heavy duties on overseas owners including increased council taxes on empty properties.

The march attracted considerable attention on the streets of East London, and as I note several motorists stopped to put money in the collection buckets – something I’ve never seen happen before. I left the march as it reached East Ham Station to go to the NHS event.

Focus E15 March for Decent Housing