At the Socialist Health Association conference in Manchester on Saturday 5 March, the Labour Party’s shadow public health minister Andrew Gwynne said that Labour is “moving towards backing the [NHS] Bill”.
The SHA is the official, Labour Party-affiliated “society” dealing with NHS and health matters. Its conference voted to back and campaign for Labour to back the NHS Bill by 30 votes to 1.
Andrew Gwynne was asked a wide variety of questions, including whether he would be joining a junior doctors’ picket line on 9 or 10 March (he said he would).
When he was asked about the NHS Bill, he revealed that talks are going on between the Bill’s proposer Caroline Lucas, Heidi Alexander and Jeremy Corbyn. He said that Labour (by which we assume he means Heidi Alexander) has concerns about “another top down reorganisation” of the NHS.
In fact, as speaker after speaker in the SHA conference’s debate on the NHS Bill made clear, arguments such about “top down reorganisation” are wrong. The NHS is constantly being “reorganised” as part of the Tories’ assault on it. To save it from privatisation and dismembering, and reinstate it as a real public service, the health service needs thoroughgoing reorganisation, both top down and bottom up.
In any case, Gwynne said that, as a result of these talks, “we are moving towards backing the Bill”. He added that “the shadow health team will be at Parliament next Friday” (when the Bill may be heard).
That is welcome news. However, this is information the whole NHS movement, labour movement and wider public need to know! It should not be a matter of private tips to select audiences. The secrecy involved here suggests that Labour is still equivocating.
The party should be publicly campaigning in support of the NHS Bill, and fighting hard to make sure it is actually heard and voted on next Friday. So rather than breathing a sigh of relief and thinking we have Labour’s position sorted, or anything like that, we need to redouble the pressure! Any shift in Labour’s positions reflects massive grassroots support for the NHS Bill, and only pressure will shift things further. Please spread the word.
What you can do to help
• If you are a Labour member or affiliated trade unionist, sign the statement calling for a strong stance from Labour.
• Write to your MP asking them to attend and vote for the Bill, via 38 Degrees.