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People’s March for the NHS departs Bedford

NHS activists defiant as London looms, write Peter Lazenby and Conrad Landin

Demonstrators protesting against the dismantling of Britain’s health service squared up to Vince Cable (pictured) yesterday — as the People’s March for the NHS trekked 20 miles from Bedford to Luton.

Activists from NHS Direct Action unfurled a banner on Westminster Bridge in solidarity with the 50 volunteers — mainly women — who have marched the 300-mile route of the 1936 Jarrow crusade.

They leafleted the passing Lib Dem Business Secretary, who presided over the privatisation of the Royal Mail.

NHS Direct Action spokeswoman Clare Smith said: “Aneurin Bevan’s famous edict that the NHS will only stand while there are those who will fight for it has never been more relevant than it is today.

“We challenge all who believe that healthcare should be a right not a privilege to stand up and fight. The NHS has been there for all of us in our times of need. It is time we were there for it.”

The historic procession has been welcomed with rallies in more than 20 towns and cities and will finish in central London on Saturday.

Following an address from Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham on Tuesday evening and a “Luton Loves The NHS” rally last night, the marchers will today walk from Luton to St Albans.

The Darlington march organisers have been dubbed the “Darlomums” — as they have 13 kids between them.

Unite London health officer Sarah Cook called for Londoners to join the last leg of the march on Saturday.

She said: “For three weeks these men and women have been marching to highlight the government’s systematic attack on our country’s greatest social achievement — the NHS.

“Nowhere has this attack been more keenly felt than in London, where entire A&E departments have been shut in Ealing, Charing Cross and Hammersmith and mental health trusts have been hit by large-scale funding cuts.”

The march will continue to North London tomorrow. On Saturday, the march will set off from north-east London’s Edmonton Green and head to Parliament. It will pause for lunch at Stoke Newington’s Clissold Park and a 2pm rally in Red Lion Square.

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