Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 45 Number 13, May 7, 2015 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE


Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :


It Is Possible to Challenge Incumbents - Interview with Dr Louise Irvine, NHA Party

May Day Rally and Celebration in South Tyneside

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Today, May 7, is a crucial day for the movements of the working class and people. The election palpably has the character of a battleground in which those who represent the austerity agenda, the wrecking of the public authority and the neo-liberal programme of privatisation of public services are pitted against all those who stand for the alternative, for the rights of all and for the public good and public services.

The incoherence and negativity of the Coalition parties is being combated by those candidates who are taking a stand against austerity and are pointing out that to invest in social programmes is indeed to work for a strong economy which serves the needs of the society. These candidates are challenging the dogma that eliminating the deficit is the priority of government, and are exposing this dogma as the fraud that it is.

The Coalition had calculated that with the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, after five years the electorate would be convinced that austerity was the only game in town. But the opposite has happened. The resistance against austerity has grown, the movements against austerity and for a pro-social alternative have grown, and the fight has grown against the imposition of the austerity agenda from above. The consciousness has also been strengthened that the funds which are being cut from the health service, education and all public services are instead being diverted to powerful private interests and to the enrichment of an elite.

Far from being an irrelevancy, this election represents a crucial opportunity to say no to the austerity agenda by defeating the Coalition. The people are in motion and many candidates are representing this motion. If elected, these candidates would represent the voice of the working class and people, and in turn the movements which are striving for a new direction for the economy and for society would hold the government to account.

Some of the attacks by and propaganda of the Coalition have reached absurd heights. This represents the panic of the rich ruling elite that things are not going their way, that their preparations for an electoral coup are being blocked and that the Westminster consensus is under threat. The totally extreme demonisation and lashing out at monsters of their own-making is risible rather than instilling fear into the electorate. In these circumstances, it becomes even more important that every vote is cast against the Coalition and for anti-austerity, anti-war, pro-social candidates. This will contribute to blocking the possibility of a further electoral coup which is being increasingly recognised as being on the agenda.

We salute all candidates who are taking a stand and organising the people to fight against austerity in this election. Up and down the country, across England, Scotland and Wales, there is tremendous work going on to take a stand in defence of the rights of all. Such candidates are at one with the aspirations of working people for a new start, and for these aspirations to find a voice in Westminster. They are at one with the need for democratic renewal of the political processes and institutions so that the working class and people have a decisive say in governance. The best of these candidates come out of the movements of the working class and people and are organisers, and as well many are women who are affirming that a human-centred society is the need of the times.

The tide is turning! Let everyone go all out to mobilise the vote against austerity. Now is the time to take the struggle for the alternative onto the electoral front and deliver a decisive blow against neo-liberalism, austerity and war, and in defence of the rights of all!

Say No to the Coalition!
Defeat the Austerity Agenda!
Vote for Candidates Who Oppose Austerity and Stand for the Rights of All!
Every Vote Is Crucial!

Article Index


General Election 2015

It Is Possible to Challenge Incumbents

Dr Louise Irvine is standing as a candidate for the National Health Action (NHA) Party for the constituency of South West Surrey. She is one of twelve candidates for the NHA Party standing in the general election i. South West Surrey is the constituency of the Conservative health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Workers' Weekly recently interviewed her.

WWIE: Could you explain why the NHA Party was formed and what you consider its significance to be?

Louise Irvine: The NHA was formed by doctors, nurses, other health professionals and ordinary people to defend the NHS by raising awareness of the threat to the NHS from privatisation and cuts and standing in elections to challenge the political parties who are promoting these policies. If we get even one or two MPs elected they would be strong champions for the NHS in Parliament, which would help the wider movement to defend the NHS. The NHA Party has a range of policies that impact on health and well-being from being anti-austerity to promoting decent well funded public services, education, housing and protecting the environment. We also stand for a new kind of politics which rejects the lobbying, sleaze and anti-democratic practices of many in parliament and seeks to have MPs who will genuinely represent their constituents with openness and transparency.

WWIE: Could you say a little about your own background?

Louise Irvine: I have been a GP for 26 years, in an inner city practice. I am chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign which successfully fought to save our hospital from closure. As part of that campaign we had a demonstration of 25,000 people in Lewisham and we also took the Government to court with a judicial review which was successful. In the early 1980s I helped to set up a charity to send medical aid to Nicaragua. I helped found the Artslift project so people with mental health problems could attend local authority arts classes. I led a successful campaign for a new secondary school in Lewisham and to improve admissions policies so they would be fairer. I'm on the Council of the British Medical Association. I am from Scotland and studied medicine in Aberdeen. I'm married to a paediatrician and have two children.

WWIE: Why did you choose to stand in the general election as the NHA Party candidate for South West Surrey?

Louise Irvine: I chose it because I wanted to challenge Jeremy Hunt who is Secretary of State for Health because of all the damage he and his government did to the NHS and to highlight the threat to the NHS if they get into power again. I wanted to give the people of SW Surrey two choices: to send a strong message of support for the NHS, and to vote for someone who would genuinely represent them on the issues they care about. I have mounted a serious campaign, not just on the NHS, but on a broad range of issues including the local issues that are of greatest concern to people there such as housing and the environment.

WWIE: In what way do you think that your method of work and outlook differs from the main Westminster parties?

Louise Irvine: My way of working is based on the principle of genuine representation. My track record of successful community campaigning shows I know how to connect with people, how to really listen and that change happens from the bottom up. The role of an MP is to represent people, to give voice to their aspirations, to challenge and hold to account those who are making decisions that impact on the people who elected you, and to support people in their own efforts to make positive change in their communities. Although a member of a party I would have no party whip so would be free to vote in the interests of my constituents.

WWIE: Now that the Lib Dem candidate has withdrawn, how does that change the complexion of the campaign? ii

Louise Irvine: It could be a tipping point in the campaign. I am already attracting votes from across the political spectrum and, now there is no official Lib Dem candidate, it is possible that many people who might otherwise have voted Lib Dem will vote for me, as they see me as the strongest contender to Jeremy Hunt.

WWIE: How has the response of the electorate in SW Surrey been and what do you think are the prospects for the future?

Louise Irvine: There has been a very positive response to me from people in South West Surrey (the main towns are Farnham, Haslemere and Godalming). Many people are very concerned about the NHS and public services, and about other issues that I have positive policies on such as housing and the environment, and the fact that I am an independent candidate with no party whip is very popular with people. Whatever the outcome of the election I believe I have already succeeded in helping make the NHS an election issue, raised wider issues that impact on health, and given people hope that it is possible to challenge incumbents, even in safe seats. The first past the post system makes it difficult to effect real change but I do think I have given people more choice and the chance to express their rejection of the policies of the dominant party.

WWIE: Thank you. We wish you every success in your campaign.

(For an interview with Dr Helen Salisbury, NHA candidate for Oxford West, see Workers' Weekly Internet Edition, [May 2, 2015])

(i) The NHA General Election candidates are:

Dave Ash - Sutton & Cheam
Roseanne Edwards - Banbury
Rik Evans - Truro & Falmouth
Rebecca Fox - Camberwell & Peckham
Dr Bob Gill - Old Bexley & Sidcup
Dr Paul Hobday - Maidstone & the Weald
Karen Howell - Stafford
Dr Louise Irvine - South West Surrey
Dr Clive Peedell - Witney
Dr Helen Salisbury - Oxford West & Abingdon
Dr Richard Taylor - Wyre Forest
Dr Carl Walker - East Worthing & Shoreham

(ii) Liberal Democrat candidate Patrick Haveron has been suspended by the Lib Dems, and is no longer being endorsed by them. This follows allegations that his nomination papers for the separate Waverley Borough Council local elections were falsified. However, electoral law means Mr Haveron will remain as a candidate for the party on election ballot papers. The treasurer of the Lib Dems in South West Surrey has said that he is now encouraging Lib Dem supporters to back Dr Louise Irvine, saying, “I would urge Lib Dem supporters to vote for Dr Louise Irvine of the National Health Action Party. She has the best chance of defeating the sitting MP, Jeremy Hunt. Given there is now no chance of a Lib Dem winning this seat, I’d want her as my MP.”

Article Index


May Day

May Day Rally and Celebration in South Tyneside

The South Tyneside May rally and celebration took place on the evening of Friday, May 1. Around fifty people took part in the event. Roger Nettleship chaired the rally on behalf of the May Day Committee and the South Tyneside Trade Union Council. In his opening remarks he pointed out that as we speak the South Tyneside Gazette and the A&P Group company had used May Day to announce 58 redundancies at the Hebburn ship repair and fabrication yard only a mile from where the May Day event was taking place. At the same time, he said the trade unions, communities and the whole working class movement is engaged in battle against austerity and an election battle against the Coalition government and for the alternative to this wrecking of the economy and public services. He continued that it is right that we take time out to celebrate May Day and on this day wish success to all candidates that want to defeat this austerity agenda and stand up for the rights of all the working class and people. He concluded that for our part we need to continue to build the workers' opposition and that whatever the outcome of the election, we will still need to hold the new government to account and fight for our alternative anti-austerity anti-war programme.

The first speaker, Icarus Williams, spoke from 999NHS. He said that he had lost his job in the cuts to the health service when he was working as a psychiatric advocate in a hospital. He said he was also one of twelve people who walked every day over three weeks in the People's March for the NHS from Jarrow to London. He said the election campaigns of Tory health ministers were funded by private health companies and that this was corruption in any language. It led in record time to the Health and Social Care Act which was rushed through to make it law that health services had to be put out to the market. He said as a mental health worker he saw the suicide rate rise among patients as services were cut back and closed down, or privatised. He called on everyone to fight for the NHS.

The second speaker, Marion Langley, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside Health, spoke very warmly about her recollections of May Day and her growing involvement in the trade union movement when she was young. She in particular highlighted the need to fight collectively in trade unions and become fully involved in the movement and especially the need to recruit the young people to become active. She pinpointed the worry about the health service and the direction it is going and the amount of private companies that the NHS logo is attached to nowadays. She said this is unprecedented and that private companies are making huge profits from people's illnesses.

Marion Langley revealed that behind the problems at the district hospital with the A&E unit and other departments at the South Tyneside Health Care Trust (STHCT) was the constant “cost improvements” imposed by government which have created reduction in beds and staff shortages. She exposed the fact that the government has refused to admit that it is these “cost improvements” that have caused the back up in the A&E services. She said that not only in South Tyneside but in every hospital throughout the country these cuts have been imposed annually, with STHCT having to save a massive £20 million this year. She warned that the direction of the NHS must be changed in order that the future is not be more of the same. She said that we all have to bring about change and that a change in government is only part of it. She concluded her remarks by saying that these are our hospitals, these are our workplaces and this is our NHS! Let us carry on the fight!

The final speaker, Shirley Ford, who is South Tyneside Unison Branch Equalities Officer, spoke on behalf of the South Tyneside Public Services Alliance (PSA). Reflecting on the previous five years she said that it was clear that a most savage attack was coming on the public sector. The public service unions then recognised that they had to join forces to stand any chance in resisting this. So across the North East and Cumbria the Northern Public Service Alliance was formed to defend the public services on which people all rely. She said that it is crucial that the inside information which the trade unions possess in health, local government, schools, colleges, post
office, fire, probation, benefit and prison services is exchanged so that all have the chance to organise against the impending threats. She said the PSA had information on cuts, re-organisations, mergers, and so on. She spoke about how the local public services alliances mounted defences and supported industrial actions and holding media events like marking the 65th anniversary of the NHS. She pointed out that this had the effect of letting people know about the resistance that was going on to the vicious austerity programme of the government and how the local PSAs also made links in the communities with people using the services, the unemployed, and groups running food banks and so on.

At the same time, the speaker said that the PSA made the case for the alternative and highlighted how the cuts disproportionately impacted on the poorest communities and in particular on women. She highlighted in this fight there have also been some victories. Giving examples, she spoke about the campaign to turn back the anarchy of the privatised bus services across the North East with a public campaign to get councils to implement proper bus regulation so that the councils control fares, routes and timetables. She also spoke about the campaign of mobilising parents, staff and governors to stop two comprehensive schools from being turned into Academies at Boldon and more recently Harton. She said that we are still fighting the campaign to save the Jarrow Walk-in Centre. Although an earlier campaign to save the children's ward for longer term care did not succeed, there is now a huge groundswell of support for the Walk-in Centre.

Shirley Ford concluded her contribution by speaking about the Northern PSA manifesto for the election that calls on “people to use their vote to protect public services and support those candidates that have pledged to an alternative to austerity”.

Following the speeches the evening concluded with people engaging in discussion late into the night with refreshments and a buffet meal and accompanied by the the music of Ged Cuskin and the Shamrocks.

Article Index


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