This is a guest post from Manzil, with additional info from George Hallam.
A week is a long time in politics – but people may remember, not seven days ago, news that the government was initiating the single largest privatisation of health services to date. A billion pounds’ worth of public money was to be shovelled into the waiting arms of greedy private firms, desperate to crack open this state-guaranteed income stream. Everyone from Virgin to Serco was said to be eying-up the profiteering possibilities implicit in the coalition government’s counter-reforms.
Observers could be forgiven for concluding that this latest assault merely confirmed, with scant regard for the clear majority who oppose meddling with the NHS, the seemingly unstoppable dismantling of our public services. There is no more poignant example of democracy’s hollowing out, nor the coalition government’s complete lack of a political as opposed to parliamentary majority, than the devastation being prepared for the ‘closest thing we have to a national religion’.
So it is extraordinarily good news – an unexpected gulp of fresh air for a country drowning in austerity these last three years – to learn that the High Court has ruled the on-going attempts by Jeremy Hunt (whatever appearances to the country, not rhyming slang) to impose severe cuts on Lewisham Hospital illegal.
The judgement not only demonstrates people’s potential to obstruct the combined assault by this government, and their cheerleaders waiting in the wings of the private sector, on the NHS. It is a fantastic example of how campaigns, like Save Lewisham Hospital, can be built in communities shut out from power by the profiteers and the politicos.
If the NHS, not to mention the whole idea of a social safety net, is to be saved from the ravages of austerity, then the rhetoric of government and popular helplessness, the closing down of political alternatives to managed decline, must be arrested. The political majority which exists in this country favours the defence of public services. It is not at all reflected within the mainstream discourse of the establishment. In such circumstances, alternative voices and alternative forms of organisation must compensate for this exclusion of the people. Perhaps Lewisham offers a way forward in this regard.
George Hallam, a regular poster on SU and one of the Lewisham campaigners, said
We’ve won a legal battle. This will slow down the government and their private-sector backers. To stop them we have to win the political battle. To lift the threat to Lewisham and other hospitals we have to force the government to annul NHS PFI debts. That means changing the whole agenda on the health service and government finances of ALL the political parties (including the Labour Party).
That’s the vital thing to remember. The government isn’t going to give up. They’ve said
“This judgment applies to one aspect of a package of changes which we believe are in the best long-term interests of patients and the public across south east London… So of course we are disappointed by this decision. We need to consider the judgment carefully, and have obtained permission to appeal.”
Here’s a video from outside the High Court during the legal case