Posts Tagged ‘PFI’

Nakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

NakNakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils – Saturday 18th May 2013 was another busy day for protests in London and I covered a number of demonstrations.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when the state of Israel was created, Palestinians and their supporters protested outside parliament calling for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

There had been protests in Jerusalem earlier in the week on Nabka Day against the continuing sanctions against Palestinians that have crowded them into an ever-decreasing area of land, diminishing almost daily as new Israeli settlements are created and new restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinians. Many of those protesting in London from Jewish or Palestinian backgrounds and as usual these included a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who had walked down from North London; they see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism.

The speeches were continuing when I left to cover another event. More at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

On the opposite side of the River Thames thousands were gathering by the Royal Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, alarmed at the attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

Nine years later we are seeing the effect of these policies with ambulance services unable to cope with demand, lengthy delays in treating people in A&E, delays in diagnosing cancers leading to increased deaths and more. And although it was only a matter of time before we had a pandemic like Covid, and exercises had shown what needed to be done to prepare for this, the NHS had not been given the resources to prepare for this, leading to much higher death rates than some comparable countries.

Part of the problems of the NHS come from disastrous PFI agreements pushed through under the Labour government, landing NHS trusts with huge debts that will continue for many years. This forced NHS trusts into disastrous hospital closure plans, some of which were defeated by huge public campaigns. Many of those marching were those involved in these campaigns at Lewisham, Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Middlesex, Whittington and other hospitals around London.

I left the march as it entered Whitehall for a rally there. More at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Other protesters outside the US Embassy included Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when they held him and was now being tortured by the Iraqis and also was on hunger strike. She has protested with her daughter Zeinab outside the US Embassy for a number of weekends and on this occasion was joined by a small group of Muslims who had come to protest against Guantanamo, appalled by the actions of the US waging a war against Islam and Muslims.

Shawki Ahmed Omar is still held in Iraq; before he died in 2021 former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark recorded a video calling for his release which was posted to YouTube in with the comment by another US lawyer “This case is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent United States history. It is a case where the US government essentially lied to the US Supreme Court to cover up torture and to be able to turn an American citizen over to people who they knew would torture him.”

A few yards away, kept separate by police, a group of supporters of the Syrian regime, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was also holding a protest in favour of the Assad regime and against western intervention in Syria.

More at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

I met thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK as they marched through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre, many dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. Many wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Although it was a large protest, with perhaps around 5,000 marchers I think it received absolutely no coverage in UK media, and I seemed to be the only non-Tamil photographer present. Tamils were rightly disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax.

The march had started from Hyde Park, and I caught up with it on Piccadilly and went with it taking photographs to Waterloo Place where there was to be a rally. But it had been a long day for me and I left just before this started.

More at Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


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A Threatened Hospital, Riverside Walk, Syria & Mali

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

A Threatened Hospital, Riverside Walk, Syria & Mali – pictures from nine years ago on February 15th 2013.

Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues

My work began at a lunchtime rally opposite Lewisham Hospital where the whole local community is fighting to save their hospital with both a legal challenge and further mass demonstrations including a ‘Born in Lewisham Hospital’ protest a few weeks later. Parts of the hospital across the main road are in the picture.

People were appalled by then Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s decision to accept the proposals for closure, and to ignore the mass protests by local residents. Not only are the proposals medically unsound and will lead to patient deaths, but they also represent short-term thinking that will result in a huge waste of public funds.

Lewisham was a sucessful and financially sound hospital and had received sensible public investment to provide up to date services, and the services to be cut will have to be set up again at other hospitals. Closing Lewisham would not only incur high costs, but would waste the previous investment in its facilities.

Closure was only considered because of huge debts inherited when it was merged into a group which had earlier made a disastrous PFI (private finance initiative) agreement to build a new hospital a few miles away. Both the hospital group and Jeremy Hunt had been shown to be telling lies about the scope and cost of the replacement A&E and maternity facilities which would be needed if Lewisham were closed.

The well-attended protest was organised by the Save the Lewisham Hospital campaign which was raising funds for a legal challenge as well as a new poster and leaflet campaign and the forthcoming mass demonstration. But this was not just a campaign for Lewisham, but one that is vital for the whole of the NHS. Behind the speakers was a banner for the South-East London ‘Save Our Local NHS Hospitals’ campaign quoting Nye Bevan: ‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.‘ They certainly had the faith in Lewisham.

Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues


Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open

Here’s what I wrote back in 2013:

I had some time to spare between protests and it was a nice day, around 10 degrees warmer than we’d been having and sunny, so I decided to take a bus to North Greenwich and walk along the Thames Path, having heard that parts of it had re-opened. The weather changed a little and there were some dramatic skies.

There is still a section of the walk that is closed, a giant building site where Delta Wharf once was up to Drawdock Road, but on each side of this the walk is open. although the council sign on the footpath leading from Tunnel Avenue still indicates it is closed. At the river the path north is blocked, but you can walk south to Greenwich.

A panorama – the same path in opposite directions at both sides

At first the walk goes alongside a giant manmade landscape of sand and gravel, like some alien planet – and behind the conical hills the Dome and the gas holder, with occasional lighting towers and cranes add to the scene. Most of this is behind tall fences, but fortunately these have gaps between the posts allowing you to see and photograph. Years ago the path here went through a working container dock, the Victoria Deep Water Terminal, with yellow lines marking the route, though occasionally it was blocked by crane operations, and we waited rather than have heavy containers overhead. There are a couple of my pictures of this and others from the riverside path in the 1980s on my London’s Industrial Heritage site.

Beyond there the riverside path seems rather empty, with many structures having dissappeared, including the huge concrete silo I photographed. But something new has appeared, ‘guerilla knitting’ on some of the trees and posts along the path.

Many more pictures at Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open on My London Dairy


Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali

It was the 10th anniversary of the march by 2 million against the Iraq war, Stop the War organised a small protest at Downing St calling for a stop to Western intervention in Mali and Syria and against the possible attack on Iran.

Many on the left feel that the failure of that huge protest to actually prevent the UK taking part in the invasion of Iraq showed a failure in the leadership of Stop The War to make any quick and efffective action to follow it up. Stop The War have also failed to convince the public at large with their more recent campaigns against intervention in Libya and now against the support being given to the Free Syrians and the Mali government. As the upper picture shows there were some supporters of the Assad regime, from a small left group, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), taking part in the protest. Almost certainly the great majority of supporters of Stop The War while against UK military intervention would like to see more support being given in other ways to the Syrian rebels.

Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali


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Doctors and Blood Diamonds – 2016

Sunday, February 6th, 2022

Doctors and Blood Diamonds – 2016

There is no real connection I’m aware of between doctors and blood diamonds other than the fact I photographed both protests on 6th February 2016 – and I thought it made a nice headline.

Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest

My working day started on Old Bond Street in Mayfair, an area of London I generally try to avoid, packed with businesses which represent the true scum on the capitalist system and their customers largely representing those most successful at exploiting the system and the great majority of the population. While the City of London is still the world capital of dodgy financial management, Mayfair is where much of the more commercial aspects of our current system ply their trade.

There are no diamonds mined in Israel, but diamonds are Israel, largest manufacturing export – then at around $10 billion a year and contributing around $1 billion a year to Israeli military and security industries. In a direct connection the Steinmetz Diamonds Group which supplies companies including De Beers and Tiffany supports the Israeli Givati Brigade through the Steinmetz Foundation. One banner was a message from the Samouni family, 29 of whom were killed by the Givati Brigade in 2008 in cold blood.

A week before St Valentines Day, protesters stood outside diamond sellers including De Beers and Tiffanys with banners urging people not to buy engagement rings these shops that sell rings using diamonds from Israel’s Steinmetz Diamonds Group.


Junior Doctors Rally & March

I left for the short walk to Waterloo Place, where Junior Doctors and supporters were gathering for a rally against against the imposition of new contracts they say will destroy the NHS and make it unsafe for patients. Supporting them were many other medical professionals – consultants, GPs, nurses and others – who all saw the contract as a part of an attack on the NHS to move towards a privatised medical system.

Speaker after speaker – including Dame Vivienne Westwood, her son Ben, and Vanessa Redgrave as well as many medical professionals – stressed how Health Minister Jeremy Hunt Hunt was misleading the media and public about the need for changes in the contract, carefully selecting evidence that supports his case while ignoring the much wider evidence against it.

Dame Vivienne Westwood and Vanessa Redgrave at the rally

Among the many placards were those naming doctors who had already left the NHS to work abroad, with the message ‘You’ve driven me out Jeremy… Stop bleeding the NHS dry’. Others named junior doctors supporting of the protest who were unable to attend the protest because they were working in what is already a 24 hour 7 day profession.

The protesters marched to Downing St where they sat down blocking the road wearing surgical masks while a deputation went into Downing St to deliver a message to the prime minister; they emerged a few minutes later to announce that the people inside No 10 had refused to accept any message from them.

We have seen in the current pandemic how this and other changes made in recent years have put the NHS under severe strain. As I wrote in 2016:

Of course it isn’t just junior doctors; new income rules for immigrant workers are likely to lead to up to 30,000 nurses being deported, and the cutting of bursaries for nurses and now proposed for all other medical courses will have disastrous effects. Add to this the effects of PFI which is bankrupting hospitals leading to privatisations and its hard not to see the end of the NHS as we have known it as inevitable.

It’s almost certainly too late to save the NHS in its current incarnation. The only solution is the kind of radical change that happened before under Nye Bevan and others to create a new NHS. But for that we would need a new revitalised Labour party in power – or a people’s revolution. Don’t hold your breath – and don’t get old or ill.


More on both protests on My London Diary
Junior Doctors Rally & March
Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest


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NHS Victory Parade in Lewisham: 2013

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Among years of gloom for the NHS, under various reorganisations which have furthered the Tory project for privatisation a few bright spots have stood out, mainly where local people have stood up and fought to retain NHS hospitals and their services. One of these was celebrated on 14th September 2013, when the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign held a community march through Lewisham past the hospital to a free celebration in Ladywell Fields of their High Court victory which overturned the government closure plans.

The government had planned to close most of Lewisham Hospital, a hospital serving a large area of South London simply to allow the NHS to continue to make massive PFI repayments due from the building of other London hospitals at Woolwich and Orpington through contracts that were badly negotiated under a Labour government when interest rates were high; these contracts had already by 2013 delivered huge profits to the banks with payments of over £60m a year.

The popular campaign was also backed by the London Borough of Lewisham and both the council and the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign went separately to the High Court for judicial review of the decision by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – and both were successful.

A new Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust was established in October 2013 as it states “following a period of intense controversy” and after early problems claims to have made considerable progress in maintaining a good service at the two hospitals in Lewisham and Woolwich including 24/7 emergency services at both as well as some other services in the area.

There had been previous large protests against the closure plans – which I photographed in November 2012 and January 2013 along with a couple of smaller events. But rather fewer came for the victory celebrations, which were led by a council dustcart with large posters on it. Behind the marchers were a couple of nurses in uniforms that they wore to take part in the Olympic opening ceremony, along with a small street band.

The parade ended in Ladywell Fields behind the hosptial, with live music, dancing and a children’s dance competition, although it and the parade were a little dampened by the continual light rain. But it was a good day for the people of Lewisham and for those of us who support an NHS free at the point of service, for “everyone – rich, or poor, man, woman or child” to “relieve your money worries in times of illness”.

Although they were celebrating victory, Jeremy Hunt had then yet to concede defeat, announcing the government would appeal against the decision. I think his advisers probably told him there seemed no chance an appeal would succeed and any appeal would simply waste public money. Eventually the policy was dropped.


Lewisham Hospital Victory Parade

See also:

Save A&E at Lewisham Hospital – Nov 2012
Save Lewisham Hospital – Jan 2013


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Blair lied, Millions Died – 6th July 2016

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Labour scraped in at Batley and Spen by a few hundred votes, which was enough to take the pressure of calls for a replacement for Keir Starmer off the boil for at least a few months. And for the media to call upon some of the more grisly figures from the Labour past to come on and repeat their vilification of Jeremy Corbyn, and call for a return to those policies which had made Labour – New Labour – unelectable.

It had started with a great burst of support and enthusiasm in May 1997, when we really believed that ‘Things Can Only Get Better‘, but soon the disillusion set in. One of the major early problems came with PFI, launched by John Major in 1992, but taken up and expanded greatly under New Labour. Private companies were contracted to build and manage major public projects, enabling some very flashy announcements but failing to say we would be paying through the nose for them for many, many years – and in many cases for another 20 years or more from now.

‘Blair’ and ‘Bush’s’ bloody hands – and the cash.

It essentially privatised many public projects, with often poor negotiating skills by civil servants unschooled in such matters resulting in excessive profits for the companies involved. There were many critics of PFI at the time, and in 2011 a critical Treasury report. In 2018 then Chancellor Philip Hammond stopped any new PFI projects.

PFI has been particularly disastrous for the NHS, causing huge financial problems and leading to the cutting down an closures of hospitals. The 127 PFI schemes had a total repayment cost (according to Wikipedia) of £2.1m in 2017 and continuing to rise until 2029. In 2012 seven NHS Trusts had to be given emergency financial support as even with cuts they were unable to meet their PFI repayments.

But, as the recent death of Donald Rumsfield reminded us, the most clear public failure of New Labour was to support what was largely his personal vendetta in the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Richard Wolffe, writing in he Guardian headlined his article ‘Rumsfeld’s much-vaunted ‘courage’ was a smokescreen for lies, crime and death‘ – and Blair colluded whole-heartedly in the deception, with the ‘dodgy dossier’ and various other statements and decisions. His was a special relationship with Bush most politely described as brown-nosing.

This of course is Britain, so instead of taking action we eventually had an inquiry, with Chilcot taking over seven years to allow the long grass to grow. Set up by Gordon Brown in 2009, six years after the invasion, it produced its report on 6 July 2016, when the protest here took place. Wikipedia quotes Richard Norton-Taylor of The Guardian as describing it as “an unprecedented, devastating indictment of how a prime minister was allowed to make decisions by discarding all pretence at cabinet government, subverting the intelligence agencies, and making exaggerated claims about threats to Britain’s national security”.

A banner uderestimates Blairs crime – there were millions who died

Clearly Blair was a war criminal. But of course no legal action followed – and that war criminal and proven liar continues to be invited to give his opinions in the media – and there are even those who suggest he should be brought back to lead the Labour Party. Financially he has done well out of his time as Prime Minister – and probably even better from his property investments, with an estimated net worth according to some of £100m. But as the placards say, ‘Blair lied, Millions Died’ and if there was any justice he should have gone to jail.

More at Blair lied, Millions Died – Chilcot


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Grenfell 4 Years On – Still No Justice

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Like many I woke up on the morning of 14th June 2017 to the news of a terrible fire that had engulfed a tower block in North Kensington with horrific stories of the death of so many trapped in the building, particularly on its upper floors. It had begun early in the morning after I had gone to bed and switched off my computer and phone, so I hadn’t got the text from an agency asking if I could go there. Clearly by the time I woke up to the morning news the area was swamped by the media and I decided not to add to the pressure on the survivors and the local residents who were traumatised by what they had seen and heard.

I was shocked by the news, but not surprised. It came after years when the government – particularly the coalition, but others too – had been attacking health and safety measures as ‘red tape’ and making cuts to the fire service, particularly in London, that I’d reported on. And after years of attacks by local and national governments on social housing. Though I was shocked to find that the London Fire Service, thanks to cuts made by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, now longer had an appliance to deal with fires in such high-rise buildings and had to call on the neighbouring suburban Surrey Fire Services for one.

I then knew enough about the design of such towers to understand that this fire should not have been possible. If design and building regulations had been followed it should have been confined to the flat were it started and quickly burned out. Instead the videos clearly showed its rapid spread up the outside of the buildings.

It took only a few weeks for the basic facts behind the fire to be discovered, with Architects for Social Housing in particular producing a straightforward account of the many faults, The Truth about Grenfell Tower on July 21st. Their report not only identified the various faults in the type of cladding and in particular its incorrect installation, but also of the lack of proper oversight in large schemes such as this and the culpability of local councillors and officers.

An unnamed senior architect stated at the end of a lengthy comment to ASH,

‘Since PFI was introduced by Thatcher we have a legacy of hundreds, if not thousands, of sub-standard buildings – schools, hospitals, police stations, etc – that the taxpayer is still paying extortionate rents for under the terms of the 30-year lease-back deal that is PFI. This is her legacy of cosy relationships between local authorities, quangos and their chummy contractors. It is a culture of de-regulation, of private profit before public good. Thomas Dan Smith, the Leader of Newcastle City Council from 1960 to 1965, went to gaol in 1974 for dodgy dealings with local authorities in property development, albeit from a different motivation; but what the public must demand and get now over the Grenfell Tower fire are criminal convictions, and soon.’

https://architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk/2017/07/21/the-truth-about-grenfell-tower-a-report-by-architects-for-social-housing/

What should have followed in the next few months was the criminal trial of those responsible, after which there could perhaps have been a public inquiry in particular looking at the lessons to be learnt and the changes in laws required. Instead we got the usual empty rhetoric from politicians and and public inquiry that was set up in September 2017 but only began taking evidence in June 2018. Much of its first phase was concerned with trying to transfer responsibility from the faults of the building and those responsible for it onto the London Fire Brigade, who had acted heroically on the night and managed to rescue many, and in particular to demonises LFB’s Dany Cotton, who shortly afterwards took early retirement.

This report by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, selected by Theresa May to lead the enquiry should and hopefully will be seen as an incredible indictment of our public inquiry system, which seems to exist to push issues into the very long grass and allow the guilty to escape any real judgement allowing them to spend millions on barristers to muddy the waters and save their skins. The firefighters and the survivors don’t have that protection.

The enquiry continues with some startling testimonies from those responsible for the defective refurbishment and councillors and officers as well as from residents. So far these broadly repeat and support the conclusions of the July 2017 ASH report – but it has taken almost 4 years longer. It’s hard to read some of the testimonies and not think that person should be in jail. But the chances of any justice for Grenfell still seem remote.

In the days after the fire I went on several protests and four days later made my way to see for myself and, like others pay my respects to the dead. The pictures with this article are from that visit. Since I’ve returned for some of the monthly silent walks and other protests in the area, though these have been suspended for Covid.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.