Posts Tagged ‘privatisation’

Peoples March Against NHS Privatisation 2014

Monday, September 6th, 2021

Almost all of my life has been lived under the NHS, although the free orange juice and cod liver oil from our local clinic just predated it. But it’s been there through my life when I needed it whether for minor complaints or more serious including a heart attack and diabetes.

When it began, everything was free – except for dental treatment which never became fully a part of the system, though I still get NHS dental treatment, but for many years there have been large areas of the country where it is almost impossible to do so. It was a Labour government that made the introduction of prescription charges possible – something that led Aneurin Bevan to resign from government, but they were actually introduced by the Conservatives in 1952.

Currently those not exempt pay £9.35 for each item on a prescription, and surveys show that around a third of those who have to pay have failed to collect items because of the cost. I’ve been exempt since my diagnosis of diabetes – and would have been so a few years later when I reached the age of 60, just as well as last week I collected 8 items from my local chemist that otherwise would have cost me around £75, though for those who can afford it would be cheaper to pay for a season ticket (PPC) at £108.10 for 12 months.

Increasingly parts of our NHS are being provided not by the NHS itself but by commercial providers. Some of these are the simpler treatments for patients – such as the annual photograph of my eyes or routine surgery. This leaves the more difficult (and expensive) work being carried out by the NHS – who also take over from private hospitals when more difficult or intensive procedures are required.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 opened up the entire NHS to this backdoor privatisation, and it is now estimated by the Kings Fune that approximately a quarter of NHS spending goes on the private sector, though probably Covid has led to an increase.

There have been some spectacular failures in this privatisation, notably Hinchingbrooke Hospital, franchised to private company Circle under New Labour in 2019. After they were put into special measures as a result of significant failures in care – and were failing to make sufficient profits – they walked away in 2015, leaving the NHS to clear up the mess.

The People’s March for the NHS was set up to oppose the continuing privatisation of the NHS, and was inspired by the 1936 Jarrow Crusade when 200 men marched to London in protest against unemployment and poverty. Rather fewer made the whole distance in 2014, but they were met by supporters who marched with them for parts of the way, and by several thousands when they arrived in London on the last section of their route on Saturday 6th September 2014.

Their message was simple:
The NHS is ours.
We built it, we own it, we use it.
It’s under attack and if we don’t fight for it, we’ll lose it.

The current proposals for NHS reform leaked in February 2021 recognise some of the failures of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act but leave its core elements in place, while giving central government greater powers to meddle. As the authors of the NHS Reinstatement Bill commented:

These proposals are incoherent, de-regulatory, off-target, and badly timed. They will do next to nothing to remedy the serious shortcomings highlighted by the pandemic: a depleted NHS, a privatised social care system, with over-centralised, fragmented and part-privatised communicable disease control and public health systems. Joined-up legislation is needed to revitalise local authorities and to rebuild public services.


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.


A Busy Saturday – August 15th 2015

Sunday, August 15th, 2021


I began my working day rather later than the pickets outside the National Gallery, who held a short rally after picketing since the early morning on the 61st day of their strike against plans to outsource the jobs of 400 gallery assistants and the sacking of PCS union rep Candy Udwin for her union activities.
More at: National Gallery 61st day of Strike

A related protest against the privatisation of visitor assistants was taking place a little later outside Tate Modern on Bankside, with workers giving out leaflets calling for equal pay and conditions for outsourced and in-house workers at both Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London. Privatised staff doing the exactly the same job have zero hours contracts with no guarantee of regular work, get £3 an hour less, and do not get the decent pensions, sick pay and holidays enjoyed by their colleagues.
More at: Equalitate at Tate Modern

Back over the river to Aldwych and the Indian High Commission, where two protests were taking place on Indian Independence Day. Sikhs were supporting the call by hunger striker Bapu Surat Singh, now on hunger strike for over 200 days, calling for the release of Sikh political prisoners and other prisoners of all religions who have completed their jail terms but are still in prison.

Many of the Sikhs held posters of Gajinder Singh, a founding member Dal Khalsa which calls for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan, and they called for a referendum to be held in the Punjab and among the Sikh diaspora around the world on the setting up such as state.
More at: Sikhs call for release of political prisoners

Also protesting outside the Indian High Commission were a crowd of Kashmiris calling for freedom. Kashmir is a disputed territory with parts occupied by India, Pakistan and China, and since 1987 the Indian occupation has turned their area into one of the most militarised places in the world, with around one Indian soldier for every 14 Kashmiris.

Over 100,0000 Kashmiris have been killed since the current uprising against Indian occupation began in 1987, and torture is used as a mean to get confessions and terrorise the civilians including women and children. In Kashmir Indian Independence day is observed as ‘Black Day’.
More at: Kashimiris Independence Day call for freedom

Back in Trafalgar Square Iranian Kurds from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) remembered its fighters killed in the fight against Iran and ISIS for self-determination. Like the PKK, PJAK owes allegiance to Abdullah Öcalan and the ideals of the Rojava revolution.
More at: Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs

A few yards away, Koreans were holding their monthly silent protest for the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy, mainly school children who obeyed the order to ‘Stay Put’ on the lower decks as the ship went down. They continue to demand that the Korean government raise the Sewol ferry for a thorough inquiry and punish those responsible as well as bringing in special anti-disaster regulations.
More at: 16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest

Finally I made my way to Oxford Circus to meet members of the United Voices of the World and supporters including those from SOAS Unison, the National Gallery strikers, Class War and others who were marching to protest outside Sotheby’s in Old Bond St. The UVW werecampaigning for proper sick pay, paid holidays and pensions for the cleaners who work there, and so far Sotheby’s response had been to sack two of the union members, Barbara and Percy.

Police harassed the protesters as they arrived outside Sotheby’s, trying to move them off the road they were marching along and onto the pavement, and they responded by sitting down on the road and refusing the police orders to move. After some minutes they got up and marched around the block, past the rear entrance to Sotheby’s, with two union officials going into some of the shops on the way to hand out leaflets explaining the action. Police tried to stop these two going into the shops and some arguments developed.


The marchers returned to the street in front of Sotheby’s and held a short rally, again ignoring police who tried to move them off the road. Police then tried to stop them marching around the block again, holding some while others surged around and the marchers made another circuit, returning to Sotheby’s for a short final rally before marching back towards Oxford Circus.
More at: United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2.

My day wasn’t quite over, and I moved to Grosvenor Square, where two young women, one black and one white, had organised a Black Lives Matter protest close to the US embassy in solidarity with events across the US against the collective and systemic unlawful arrests and killings of black people in America. The protest around the statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was supported by groups including BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts) and the Nation of Islam.

More at: BlackoutLDN solidarity with Black US victims.

In all the travelling around central London on foot or by bus, I had time to take a few pictures between protests.
More at: London Views.


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.


Save St Helier Hospital – 7 July 2018

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The battle by local campaigners against the closure of acute facilities at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals in south London has been hard fought and illustrates many of the problems faced by the NHS as the government has called for huge savings from hospital trusts, many made paupers by PFI repayments.

The situation continues to develop after the march which I photographed on Saturday 7th July 2018, and in July 2020 plans were approved to build a new smaller Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Sutton which will bring together six acute services, A&E, critical care, acute medicine, emergency surgery, inpatient paediatrics and maternity services.

The trust say in the documentation for the first phase of public consultation which closed on 30th June 2021 that “85% of current services will stay at Epsom Hospital and St Helier Hospital. There will be urgent treatment centres open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at both of these hospitals.”

But health service unions and campaigners are worried by the proposals, which they say will strip acute services including two fully functioning A&E departments. The proposed urgent treatment centres will not have the capacity to treat life threatening illness. They say the downgrading of the two major hospitals will endanger the lives of people living in the area.

The new unit is one of 40 across the country which have been announced several times as a part of the governments increased investment in the NHS. Many see this and other similar schemes as being designed to increase privatisation and make involvement in the health service more attractive to healthcare companies.

July 7th was a sweltering hot day in London, and the walk from a park in the centre of Sutton to the St Helier Open Space in front of the hospital went through Sutton High St, fairly crowded with shoppers and then along hot, dusty streets with few people around. Walking was tiring, and taking photographs even more so. It was a difficult event to photograph, where I found relatively little to work with. But I was pleased to be there, supporting the campaign to keep the hospitals open and serving the community, part of a National Health Service that was celebrating 70 years of being brought into existence by a Labour Government.

It took a huge and deterimined fight by Nye Bevan to get the National Health Service Act passed, with Tories denouncing it as bringing National Socialism to the country and opposing it in parliament at every opportunity. But on 5th July 1948 we got the NHS, although almost ever since the Conservative party when in power has been looking for and finding ways to convert it from a universal public health care system to a service run for private profit.

NHS at 70 – Save St Helier Hospital

NHS Birthday March – July 5th 2011

Monday, July 5th, 2021

The UK’s National Health Service began on 5 July 1948, 73 years ago today. Earlier in 1946 doctors had voted 10:1 against, but compromises were made to bring more of them on side. It had taken the Labour government a fierce battle to get the proposals through parliament, with the Conservative Party under Winston Churchill voting against its formation 21 times when the bill was being passed.

Churchill followed the example of a former chair of the British Medical Association and compared its formation to Nazism, calling it the “first step to turn Britain into a National Socialist economy.”

It was their often unprincipled opposition that lead Aneurin Bevan to make a famous speech two days before the NHS began that included the following:
That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”

In recent years various Tory MPs have claimed that the Conservative Party should be credited for setting up the NHS, when in fact the party fought tooth and nail against it. They also claim that the NHS is ‘safe in their hands’ while increasingly selling off parts of it, largely to US based healthcare companies. Many MPs have financial interests in healthcare and their votes reflect this, in what seems a clear conflict of interest.

One of the compromises needed to get the bill through was that GP surgeries would remain private businesses that could be bought and sold. Doctors in general practice were to remain independent, with the NHS giving them contracts to provide healthcare. What is now happening is that GP surgeries are increasingly becoming owned by large healthcare companies who organise how they are run and employ doctors.

At the moment we still get to see the doctor for free, though it has become more and more difficult for many to do so, in part because of the systems set up by these healthcare companies. But we have now and then heard proposals for charges to be introduced. We do currently have to pay to see a dentist, and even with these charges it has become difficult for many to get dental treatment under the NHS. Many cannot afford the higher charges for private treatment and even the lower rates under the NHS are a huge problem for those on low pay who are not entitled to exemptions.

This year there were protests around the country last Saturday, a few days before the NHS’s 73rd anniversary. Ten years ago around a thousand people marched through central London on the actual 63rd anniversary of the foundation of the NHS in a protest to defend the NHS against cuts and privatisation, ending with a rally outside the Houses of Parliament. The changes then being debated under Andrew Lansley’s bill made radical changes which brought in private companies to take over the straightforward and highly profitable areas of NHS services. Now a new bill is under consideration which will make for further back door privatisation of the NHS.

More at NHS 63rd Birthday.


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.


Defend All Migrants

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

Five years ago on the day after the Brexit vote, Friday 24 Jun 2016, socialists and anarchists marched in London in support of migrant rights and against racism and against the attacks and scapegoating of immigrants not only by right wing extremists but by mainstream parties and media over many years. The pictures in this post are from that march. The most recent of these attacks has come from a Tory peer who has proved herself a serial failure over the years and seems likely to be rewarded for this by being put in charge of the NHS.

One of the most disturbing trends during the last eleven years of Coalition and Tory governments has been the increasing politicisation of public appointments, with jobs in charge of public bodies increasingly being awarded to people on the basis of their political views rather than any relevant experience or competence.

Of course there are many other things to be worried about, not least the many dodgy contracts awarded to family, friends and party donors, particularly those lucrative Covid-related contracts. One major benefactor has been Conservative peer Baroness Dido Harding, married to the Tory MP and United Kingdom Anti-Corruption Champion at the Cabinet Office since 2017. No, you really couldn’t make it up.

In 2015, when Harding was the much criticised CEO of TalkTalk, following a cyber-attack in which the personal and banking details of up to four million customers, many not encrypted, were though to have been stolen, Marketing Magazine ran a story under the headline “TalkTalk boss Dido Harding’s utter ignorance is a lesson to us all”. The Information Commissioner agreed, though the fine of £400,000 seems far too low for a company which she said failed “to implement the most basic cyber security measures.” Harding, who had been made a Tory Life Peer the previous year, stood down from TalkTalk in 2017 to concentrate on her public activities, following the party line on all her Lords votes and joining the board of the Jockey Club.

Her appointment as Chair of NHS Improvement in 2017 was a clearly political one, and Harding rejected the recommendation of Parliament’s Health Select Committee that she should resign as a Conservative peer and become a cross-bencher.

Her appointment to run the track, trace and test programme in 2020 (later misleadingly named NHS Test and Trace) was highly controversial. It had little or no connection with the NHS, simply outsourcing work to private contractors including Serco, Mitie, G4S, Boots and Sodexo and paying several thousand consultants from Deloitte and elsewhere on average £1,100 a day each.

Harding is now expected to be appointed as Chief Executive of the National Health Service (NHS) and has pledged to make the NHS less reliant on foreign doctors and nurses. At the moment about 1 in 7 NHS staff are not British, including many Indian, Filipino and Irish. There are many others too who while themselves British are the sons and daughters of migrants to this country, some of whom came here as health workers.

We currently have over 40,000 nursing vacancies and are heavily reliant on the contribution of foreign healthcare professionals who have made great sacrifices during the Covid pandemic. They already suffer from having to pay an immigration health surcharge fee of £470 per person per year for themselves and their families.

Nursing Notes quotes Andrew Johnson of the grassroots campaign Nurses United UK as saying:

“Dido Harding remains as incompetent as ever as she panders to her political party.”

“The UK has always benefitted from international staff. Whether it was Indian, Pakistani or Caribbean nurses like my grandma in the 50s and 60s, or our colleagues from Europe and the Philippines in more recent times, we needed them to keep our loved ones safe.”

“The NHS would not exist without international staff and if Dido wants to grow homegrown staff, we would need greater investment in our schools, a living bursary, a substantial restorative pay rise and an end to the privatisation she has been a part of.”

Nursing Notes

There are good reasons for the UK to train more doctors, nurses and other medical specialists. We are a wealthy nation and as well as caring for the health of our own population should be sending trained staff to other countries around the world, particularly those less able to train them. But as well as sending people abroad there is also much to be gained from having migrants coming to work here and foreign medical staff should be welcomed, not denigrated.

More about the 24th June 2016 Defend All Migrants rally and march.

Six years ago: 30 May 2015

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

May 30th, 2015 was one of those days where I travelled around London stopping off for various reasons en-route. As always on such occasions I give thanks to the GLC for their efforts which resulted in the London-wide travel card before they were sadly eliminated by Mrs Thatcher, leaving the city largely rudderless for a crucial 15 years when it fell behind other cities in the world – except of course for the financial City of London which further cemented its reputation as the corruption capital of the world.

London is very much a world city, and my first event, outside the Daily Mail offices in Kensington reflected this, with protest by Filipino health workers over their coverage of the case of Victorino Chua, a nurse found guilty of murdering two patients and injuring others. The newspaper used the case to insult Filipino NHS workers who have for years formed a vital part of the NHS. When I came round in intensive care in 2003 it was to see a Filipino nurse who greatly impressed me with his care and attentiveness over the next few days.

It had taken around an hour for me to get to Kensington, and the journey across London to Peckham Rye was around another 50 minutes. I was there not for a protest but for the proposed Peckham Coal Line, an elevated linear urban park whose proponents compared in extremely misleading publicity to New York’s ‘High Line’ walk. And while the public were invited to walk the Coal Line, we were largely unable to do so as it is still an active part of the railway network – and one I took a train along after following around its length and back on existing local roads and paths.

Despite that it was an interesting walk, including a visit to the roof of the multi-storey car park and the Derek Jarman memorial garden. Part of the proposed walk is already open to the public as a small nature reserve, cleared beside the railway line for a massive inner-ring road – part of the proposed London Ringways motorway scheme which was fortunately abandoned after the terrible impact of building its earliest sections including the A40(M) Westway in Notting Hill became clear.

A train from Peckham Rye station took me along the route of the Coal Line to Queen’s Road Peckham and then on to London Bridge, and the Underground to Waterloo where I met with UK Uncut who were to go to an undisclosed location for some direct action. This turned out to be Westminster Bridge, where the protesters blocked the road.

The then unrolled a large yellow banner and began to fill in the slogan that had been marked out on it with black paint. After some parading around on the bridge with it, they then lowered it over the upstream side of the bridge and lit a couple of smoke flares. I’d run down across the bridge and a little along the embankment in front of St Thomas’s Hospital to take pictures of the banner drop.

The banner drop was really on the wrong side of the bridge for photographs and it seemed something of an anti-climax. It was hard to read the banner and its message ‘£12 bn more cuts £120 bn tax dodged – Austerity is a lie’ ” was perhaps a little understated. I think may of those present had expected something rather more direct, both in message and action. I went on with many of them to join another protest in Parliament Square which was just coming to an end, against government plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act.

It was then a short walk to Trafalgar Square, where on the anniversary of the 1967 declaration of Biafran independence, Biafrans were calling on the UK government for support in getting back the country which they claim was taken away from them by the Berlin Conference in 1884 and incorporated into Southern Nigeria. They say Biafra was successor of the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people, which lasted from the 10th century to 1911 and was one of Africa’s great civilisations before the European colonisation. As well as backing the call for independence the protest also remembered those who died in the Nigerian-Biafran War.

In the main body of the square, striking National Gallery staff and supporters were holding a rally after PCS rep Candy Udwin was sacked for her trade union activities against the plans to privatise gallery staff.

At the end of the rally, people moved towards the Sainsbury Wing, where security is already run by a private company and exhibitions guarded by outsourced staff. Police blocked the doors to stop them entering, and they sat down to hold a further rally blocking the gallery.

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers
Biafrans demand independence
UK Uncut Art Protest
Walking the Coal Line
Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail apologise

7 Days to save the NHS

Friday, April 30th, 2021

‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ on Westminster Bridge, 30th April 2015

Any remaining doubts about the Tory party’s intentions to privatise the NHS should have been eliminated by the recent appointment of Samantha Jones, the outgoing chief executive of Operose Health, as an “expert adviser for NHS transformation and social care“.

Openrose is the British subsidiary of giant US private healthcare firm Centene, and recently bought AT Medics, a GP led company that was ran many of London’s GP surgeries and other primary care services. Openrose was already running around 20 GP surgeries as well as various opthalmology services, a dermatology clinic in Kent and an urgent treatment centre in Birmingham.

Despite health secretary Matt Hancock’s claims that his proposed changes to the NHS would put an end to 30 years of NHS privatisation, the process is currently being accelerated, with these and other changes making it easier for US and other companies to take control of parts of the NHS.

The launch of the ‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ Campaign’ on April 30th, 2015 came a week before the 2015 General Election, and urged people to use their vote on May 7th to save the NHS. It was one of many protests against the creeping privatisation of our health service that I’ve photographed, along with more protests over hospital closures and other attacks on the service which left it in a poor state at the start of the Covid pandemic.

Fortunately – and largely thanks to the dedicated work of NHS staff – it more or less coped, but at the price of far too many deaths in hospitals and care homes, with high levels of hospital-acquired infection due to a lack of proper protection – and we saw photographs of staff having to improvise with bin bags.

But although some of us could have used our vote to try to save the NHS, for many their was no such credible alternative. Both of our major parties have been guilty of privatising the NHS, with New Labour responsible for much of the present crisis in our healthcare system, particularly for saddling hospital trusts with crippling long-term debts through insanely thought out and poorly negotiated private finance initiative hospital building projects – which have forced programmes of hospital closures. The https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/355999/Who-now-owns-the-NHS-and-can-they-cure-it Daily Express described these in 2012 as “a Klondike gold strike for investment firms” which will result in the taxpayer paying £301billion to receive facilities worth £57.4 billion.

And many MPs – mainly but not entirely Tory – are very much in on the gravy train that NHS privatisation is already providing, and very much rubbing their hands in anticipation of more. In 2015 the https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/former-private-health-firm-chief-23838725 Daily Mirror published what they called a full list of MPs with links to private healthcare firms. Among the 70 on that list were the then prime minister David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, described as ‘Former Health Secretary & architect of privatisation’, former Home Secretary David Davis, and most of the leading Tories – including current secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock MP.

NHS banner on Westminster Bridge
‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ Campaign launch


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.


Saturday 16th April 2016

Friday, April 16th, 2021

There was a lot happening in London on Saturday 16th April 2016, and I managed to catch some of it. The largest march was organised by the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity. It demanded an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education.

It was a large march and by the time I arrived people were fairly tightly packed on around 500 metres of Gower St waiting for the march to start, and it took me some time to make my way through to the gazebo where speeches were being made before the start of the the march – though I found plenty to photograph as I moved through the crowd.

Finally I made my way to the front of the march and photographed some of the main banners lined up there, but police held up the start of the march and I had to leave before it moved off.

I was disappointed in Whitehall as there was no sign of an event I had been expecting to take place there – or perhaps I was too late. But in Parliament Square I met Ahwazi Arabs from the Ahwazi Arab People’s Democratic Popular Front and the Democratic Solidarity Party of Alahwaz who have demonstrated London in solidarity with anti-government protests in Iran every April since 2005, on the anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada in which many were killed and hundreds arrested by the Iranian regime.

The Ahwaz region, an autonomous Arab state, was occupied by Iran in 1925 iand they incorporated it into the country in 1935 largely to allow the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP since 1954) to exploit its rich oil reserves. Since then Iran has pursued a campaign to eliminate Ahwazi culture and change the ethnic makeup of the region by encouraging Persian settlers. BP dominated Iranian oil until Iran nationalised it in 1951, and again became an important force there after the CIA (and MI6) engineered coup in 1953 and the company is still the major partner supplied by the National Iranian Oil Company.

I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, by which time the Peoples Assembly marchers were arriving for a rally.

Things were visually rather more interesting on the North Terrace, where people were dancing to the ‘dig it sound system’, which carried a message from Tom Paine: “The World is my country – All people are my brethren – To do good is my religion”.

And in one corner the Palestine Prisoners Parade were attracting attention with juggling, hula hoops and speeches to the often arbitrary detention without proper trial suffered by many Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Many of them are on rolling detention orders, released and immediately re-arrested and put back in prison.

As the rally came to an end the United Voices of the World trade union began a protest a short distance away on the Strand, supported by Class War and others, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour for all those working at Topshop. The UVW say Brittania is systematically victimising, bullying and threatening cleaners and Topshop refuse to intervene.

The fairly small crowd held a noisy protest outside the shop entrance, with was blocked by security men, and a large group of police arrived and began to try to move the protesters, and began pushing them around. The protesters didn’t retaliate but simply moved back; some holding up placards in front of the police cameraman who was filming the event were threatened with arrest.

Eventually the protesters marched away, walking back along the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square where they picked up a few more supporters and then on to Top Shop at Oxford Circus for another protest and stand-off with the police.

After a fairly short protest there the protesters marched on to John Lewis, where the UVW have a long-standing dispute calling for the cleaners to be treated equally with others who work there. As they approached the store some police became more violent and one woman was thrown bodily to the ground several yards away.

Other police and protesters went to help her and the protesters called for – and eventually got – an apology for the inappropriate use of force. Things calmed down and the protest continued, but as it moved off after several speeches with many leaving for home the police picked on two individuals and began searching them and threatening arrest and the situation became more tense, with police threatening both protesters and press.

More on My London Diary
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education

April Fools Day

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The idea of a day – or rather a morning – for largely harmless pranks to be played on others on April 1st seems to have been fairly widespread around many countries, but the seems to be no real explanation of its origin, but it seems to date back as least into the middle ages. The choice of date is suggested by some to have marked the end of the week of celebrations for the New Year, which was traditionally celebrated across Europe on March 25 until the sixteenth century.

There have been some celebrated hoaxes over the years – and those of us who were around in 1957 still remember the spaghetti harvest on the BBC with its narration by Richard Dimbleby, which fooled much of the nation and amused the rest of us. But so many of today’s news stories and government pronouncements throughout the year now seem so bizarre and unbelievable that I now am disappointed when no-one comes on afterwards to shout ‘April Fool!’

On several occasions in recent years I’ve found myself covering protests outside our Atomic Weapons factory at Aldermaston on April 1st and it’s long seemed to me that our government’s policy on nuclear deterrence is at best a complete hoax – but so far no government has stood up to admit this.

But I wrote about Aldermaston a few days ago, so today I’ll look elsewhere and to April 1st 2014, where I photographed three events in central London, one of which was by probation officers, naming then Justice Minister Chris Grayling whose birthday it was an ‘April Fool’, a judgement adequately confirmed by the failure of his reforms of probation and legal aid, and by his performance in later Government Ministries. Who can forget his no-deal Brexit ferry fiasco which resulted in us taxpayers forking out an extra £50 million on termination bonuses including to the firm with no ferries? ‘Failing Grayling’ is a truly well earned epithet.

But the first event on that day was a picket by disablement activists at the Department of Work and Pensions HQ in Westminster, then run by Iain Duncan Smith, another Tory with a rather too consistent record of failure. Among the groups protesting were the Mental Health Resistance Network who successfully took the DWP to court over the discrimination against people with mental health conditions built in to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The DWP lost their appeal against the judgement but had defied the court in failing to address the issue.

Along with the MHRN were campaigners from DPAC and Winvisible and the picket was one of a number around the country demanding that assessments of work capability and personal independence payments be carried out by local GPs rather than the discredited tests by IT companies such as ATOS, which are inadequate by design and deliberately administered to disadvantage claimants, with trick questions and falsification of responses to meet targets set by the companies for the largely unsuitably qualified staff who administer them.

From the DWP in Caxton St it was a short walk to Parliament Square, where Kurds and Alevi were protesting against the attacks on the Kurdish areas in Northern Syria by forces supported by Turkey.

Kurds want justice and autonomy for northern Syria, where the area known as Rojava has a constitution that supports the rights of women and of all its population groups based on widespread community involvement. Many at the protest had flags for the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) which, like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) calls for the release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, held in a Turkish jail since 1999. The PKK was made a proscribed organisation in the UK in 2001 probably at the request of the Turkey, one of our NATO allies, who have a long record of discrimination and attempts to eliminate Kurdish culture and invaded and occupied Kurdish areas of Syria in 2016, implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

The largest of the protests on 1st April 2014 was by probation officers and lawyers from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and other supporters of the Justice Alliance against the moves to privatise probation and cut legal aid.

Among the speakers at the event were two shadow ministers of justice and other MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, trade unionists, and solicitors as well as several probabtion officers.

Following the rally in Parliament Square, the campaigners marched the short distance to the Ministry of Justice, where Tom Robinson led the singing of “the alternative ‘Happy Birthday’ and unwrapped a couple of presents for InJustice Minister Chris Grayling, a packet of Skittles (as bought by Travon Martin) and a copy of ‘The Book Thief’. Grayling had just announced that he was to stop books being sent to prisoners in UK jails.” A small group then delivered a birthday cake with a tombstone with the message ‘RIP Justice’ to the ministry.

More at:
Probation Officers Strike for Justice
Kurds protest at Rojava attacks
DWP & Atos Work Assessments

The Spice of Life

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Perhaps the hardest thing I’ve found about the last eleven months has been the lack of variety. I’ve been fortunate to probably avoid the virus – I was quite ill early in March 2020 but my symptoms didn’t match those then thought to typify Covid-19, though they did match some of those being reported by Covid sufferers – and none of my family or close friends have died from it.

But days mainly spent at home in front of a computer screen have followed days mainly spent at home in front of a computer screen relentlessly, though I have tried to get out for walks or bike rides most days. As someone of an age and medical condition that makes me vulnerable I decided not to travel up to London on public transport, although as a journalist I count as a key worker and could have done so. Apart from usually solitary exercise (occasionally a walk with my wife on Sundays) I’ve made a couple of trips out for pub meals with family or friends when these were allowed, and a few short journeys for medical and dental appointments – including most recently my first Covid vaccination.

There’s Zoom of course, and I hate it, though taking part in a few regular events. It’s a little better on my desktop computer which hasn’t got a camera, but on the notebook or tablet I find it disconcerting to see myself in close-up (and sometimes move out of frame and sit in a more comfortable chair watching the screen from a distance.) It’s perhaps more seeing the others, mainly in head and shoulders close-up that makes me uncomfortable with Zoom; in real life we would be sitting around at a sensible distance, seeing each other at full length and as a part of the overall scene, looking away when we want to at other things. Not those relentless talking or muted full-face heads.

Tuesday 24th February 2009 wasn’t a typical day, and that’s really the point. Few days then were typical. I caught the train to Waterloo and took a bus across to Aldwych, a short journey but faster than walking. A short walk then took me to the Royal Courts of Justice where protesters were supporting the application for judicial review by Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq challenging the government’s failure to fulfil its obligations with respect to Israel’s activities in Palestine.

It was Shrove Tuesday, and from the Royal Courts another bus took me on one of my favourite central London bus journey, up Fleet St and Ludgate Hill to Bank, from where I hurried to Guildhall Yard to the Worshipful Company of Poulters Pancake Races. It perhaps wasn’t one of my better attempts to photograph the event, perhaps because I tried too hard to show the actual running and tossing of pancakes.

I couldn’t stay for the finals of the pancake race but hurried down to Mansion House for the District and Circle Line to Westminster to meet postal workers as they came out of a rally at Methodist Central Hall to protest at government plans to part-privatise the postal service and then proceeded to a short protest in front of Parliament.

There was nothing in my diary for the next few hours, so I took the opportunity to jump onto the Jubilee Line to Stratford and then walk towards the Olympic site for one of my occasional reports on what was happening in the area – which I had been photographing since the 1980s.

I made my way through the Bow Back Rivers, photographing the new lock gates at City Mill Lock. The Olympic site was sealed off to the public by the ‘blue fence’ but I was able to walk along the elevated path on the Northern Outfall Sewer to take a panoramic view of the stadium under construction. It was rather a dull day and not ideal for such wide views with such a large expanse of grey sky.

I took the Central Line back to Oxford Circus for the March of the Corporate Undead, advertised as a “Zombie Shopping Spree” along Oxford Street from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch, complete with coffins, a dead ‘banker’, posters, various members of the undead and a rather good band.

I left the zombies at Marble Arch where they were hanging an effigy of a banker and hurried to my final appointment, a London Bloggers Meetup. The evening’s meeting was being sponsored by Bacardi who were supplying free drinks, including blue and green Breezers which I thought would have been rather suitable for the zombies, but fortunately there was also free beer. I probably took a few pictures, but haven’t published them.

All just a little more interesting than staring at a screen, though there was rather a lot of that to do when I finally got home.

March of the Corporate Undead
Olympic Site Report
London Olympic site pans
Keep the Post Public
Poulters Pancake Race
Al-Haq Sue UK Government


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.