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Jarrow March for NHS: Thousands see heroes off in their 300-mile trek to Parliament

Supporters follow marchers for 10 miles to Chester-le-Street

Thousands of people gathered to see off the modern day Jarrow marchers on Saturday who set off on their marathon 300-mile trek to London.

The epic trek in protest against the privatisation and destruction of the NHS was inspired by the famous march of 1936, which was sparked by poverty and unemployment.

The marchers who will walk the full 300-miles to Parliament were given a rousing send-off, with supporters accompanying them on part of the first leg of the march to Chester-Le-Street.

Before they set off there were speeches from a platform set up on the spot from which the original marchers took their first steps — including a speech from the great-granddaughter of one of the 1936 marchers.

GMB national health officer Rehana Azam remembered how the original marchers set out to save Jarrow from poverty and destitution.

“Today we follow in their footsteps to save the NHS from self-serving politicians and their paymasters,” she said.

The march moved off led by a drum and samba band and around 2,000 supporters followed for the first stretch, a sea of colour of red Unite flags, union and campaign banners and home-made placards.

It will pass through 23 towns and cities on its way to London, and she said every MP who voted for destruction and privatisation of the NHS whose constituency is on the route will be targeted.

Jarrow Labour MP Stephen Hepburn said the first action on the first day of a Labour government if elected in May should be to take privatised sections of the NHS back into public control and back into the NHS.

He said the women who organised the march and were heading for London were “inspirational.”

Mr Hepburn said: “We are going to take back what is ours and we are going to kick these privateer bloodsuckers out of the NHS,” he said to cheers.

Lizzie Gray’s great-grandfather was on the original march in 1936.

“The vultures are no longer circling the NHS. They are tearing it apart,” she said. “Protesting is not enough. We need a general strike.”

One of the “Darlomums” — pro-NHS marching mums — Joanna Adams said: “We are going to march to the doors of Parliament where people are making decisions that affect all our lives, your lives, my children’s lives. We are going to make our voices heard.”

The speeches were delivered from the same spot where MP Ellen Wilkinson addressed the original marchers in 1936.

A pub next to the site is proudly named Jarrow Crusaders.

And two blocks of council-built flats overlooking the spot are named Ellen Court and Wilkinson Court after the fiery Labour MP who led the march in 1936.


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