Updated: May 10
On the march for Lewisham Hospital, what I picked up on was the sheer depth of support from the local community, and the fact that so much of the driving force of the campaign is coming from the grass roots. There were signs of more established political organisations there, but the bulk of the placards and banners were from local councils of action, community groups, youth centres and the myriad of practical anti-cuts initiatives that have sprouted. Lewisham People Before Profit, a very active and practical group affiliated to a wider national network but firmly community-based, was in evidence too.
The local Labour MPs have been very good in supporting the campaign and moving it on. They are in a difficult position as the flawed PFI process that has, in part, led to the current situation was another product of their party’s ill-advised embrace of neo-liberalism.
But, it should be stressed, the plan to close Lewisham comes direct from the Coalition – even though it contravenes pledges made in the Conservative’s manifesto. The more traditional parties of the left are also in evidence, and good luck to them for backing the campaign, but I go into this detail to challenge the view being put forward by those who seek to undermine the campaign that “it’s all the SWP”.
As the photos I’m posting here show, this is a genuine community campaign, rooted in a genuine anger at the potential damage the closure could wreak. I suspect I’m like many people in London who doesn’t spend enough time in their local community. I live in a suburb, I work in the centre, I don’t get home until late during the week. Consequently, I don’t play as much of a role in the community as I think I should, and I’ve sometimes doubted whether my ‘local community’ really exists in the way we’ve traditionally understood the definition. This campaign has showed me it does. The area is covered in campaign posters, and on the march on Saturday the staff in the shops along the route were coming out onto the street to show their support.
I’ve been proud to be on the marches and to do what I can to back the campaign. There’s an announcement due on Friday from the government. We’ll see what that brings, but few expect the fight to end there. There’s talk of legal challenge to a special administrator who seems to have exceeded his powers. There’s talk too of an occupation and work-in if it comes to it. With the hospital staff at the forefront of the campaign, that’s not just militant talk. But the first victory has already been achieved – a community rising, coming together, and seeking to shape its future. You can keep up with the campaign at the campaign website.