Yesterday afternoon I went with Fat Sister, King Russell and Poppy to a UK Uncut demonstration against the proposed Health and Social Care Bill. The Bill is due in the House of Lords later this week, and if it were passed it would lead to the break up and privatisation of the NHS. I was nervous about going but like many people feel very strongly that the proposed changes would lead to a much weaker and less fair healthcare system.
The protest took place on Westminster Bridge with the twin aims of blocking the bridge and symbolically blocking the Bill. The bridge is book-ended by the Houses of Parliament and by St. Thomas’s Hospital, which is one of the many NHS services from which I’ve had amazing care.
Fat Sister isn’t a regular protestor but she is a doctor and like the British Medical Association believes the bill should be withdrawn. UK Uncut organise diverse, creative demonstrations and direct actions, and yesterday was no exception. The blocked bridge was full of people dressed as medics or as patients. As Big Ben struck 1pm everyone lay down and played dead.
This was not an official police-authorised protest and we were unsure how the police would respond. King Russell took the job of being my chief mobility aid/minder very seriously. When we arrived he was handed a booklet by one of the stewards who said, “Take this for when your friend is arrested later.” At this point King Russell started to look a little nervous. He dutifully read the booklet:
King Russell: That was interesting but leads me to the conclusion that if there’s a problem with the police you’re definitely screwed.
King Russell: The booklet is called “No comment” and the whole thing is dedicated to the importance of remaining silent if arrested. I can’t see that strategy working well for you.
Fortunately on this occasion he needn’t have worried – the protest was vibrant but peaceful, and my tics didn’t get me into trouble.
“Guy Fawkes now? Bang!”