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BRITAIN’S NHS returned to its roots yesterday when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally alongside British and Welsh labour movement leaders in Aneurin Bevan’s birthplace Tredegar.
Mr Corbyn said it was fitting that, after addressing NHS rallies in Livingston on Friday and London on Saturday, he should come to one in the birthplace and constituency of the father of the NHS — “a man of ideas and principles.”
The Labour leader asked his audience to cast their minds back to the fear of illness that existed for working-class families before the NHS was established.
“None of us has a fear at the back of our mind now that the money won’t be there to care for us,” he declared.
Mr Corbyn took issue with neoliberals who believe that US-style competition, privatisation and private insurance would be more efficient that the NHS, pointing out that “the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the US is healthcare bills” since the US system costs twice as much as the NHS and covers only half the population.
He railed against real-terms cuts in spending by the Tories, governing alone or with the Liberal Democrats, pledging: “The next Labour government will reverse that trend.”
Mr Corbyn’s praise for the health policies of the Welsh Labour government in Cardiff won repeated roars of approval, and was reciprocated by warm backing from Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones — a previous Corbynsceptic — for a Corbyn-led government.
The Labour leader, Mr Jones said, would bring in a government based on “fairness, justice and a more equal society.”
Earlier, the people of the town had lined the streets, stood at their open doors and windows or joined in as the Tredegar Town Band led a march by trade unionists holding their flags and standards high, including historical gems such as the old Boilermakers Union flag, showing general secretary Ted Hill inset, and the National Union of Mineworkers Valley joint lodges banners.
The marchers passed by the 1911 building — now the HQ of a supported housing foundation — of the central surgery of the Tredegar Medical Aid and Sick Relief Fund, on which Nye Bevan modelled the NHS.
Shortly before turning into Bedwellty Park for the speeches and family festival, they were overshadowed by Aneurin Bevan House, formerly the Golden Lion Inn before it was taken over for community purposes. The building is currently leased by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, providing a credit union and other services.
Saturday’s demonstration in London saw thousands flock onto the streets to celebrate 70 years of the NHS and to tell privatisers Prime Minister Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to “keep their paws off” the health service.
Protesters carried placards and banners reading: “Health over wealth” from outside BBC HQ to Westminster — pausing outside Downing Street to boo — with slogans such as: “Shame on you Tories” and: “Hey, ho, Jeremy Hunt has got to go” echoing.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that when a Labour government led by Mr Corbyn comes to power, “privatisation of our NHS will come to an end” and that the party was working on a Bill to renationalise the service.
The demonstration, organised by the People’s Assembly, Health Campaigns Together and trade unions, highlighted the public’s belief that the government's recent announcement of a funding boost was not good enough.
Ms May announced last month that the NHS in England would receive an extra £20 billion a year by 2023 as a “birthday present.” This would be an average rise of 3.4 per cent a year on the £114 billion budget but still falls far short of the increase the service needs.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady hailed the NHS as “Britain’s best ever socialist achievement.”
Addressing the crowd, she said: “The only reason the NHS has kept going is because of our wonderful staff.
“Not just the doctors and the nurses, but the porters, the cleaners, the caterers.
“Don’t let any of those poisonous politicians who want to scapegoat migrant workers divide us. We are united.”
Ms O’Grady called on the government to “stop selling” the NHS.
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