By Tim Hardy
The NHS should be with us from cradle to grave. This Saturday, the day before Mothering Sunday, why not bring your mother along to a highly visible, public demonstration against the Health and Social Care Bill outside the Department of Health.
The heart-warming but ultimately ineffective rally behind closed doors last week was ignored by the state media. It might as well not have happened.
Conservative lobbyists may have recently paid the homage of setting up an amateurish, right-wing, astroturfing clone of 38 Degrees called “Right Angle” but with Lansley ready to dismiss opposition to the bill as spam it’s important to recognise that purely online campaigns are of limited impact.
Effective campaigns do more than just tweet and email template letters that are easy to send and easy to ignore. Really effective campaigns get people onto the streets. Take a look at the tactics enabled by the internet being used against Putin. Of particular interest are the one-person protests. Those unable to make Parliament Square next Sunday might consider the value of smaller protests in different places around the country at the same time.
The police have shown a disturbing willingness to clamp down on legal protest and prevent it from being heard, deploying portable steel barricades and rolling kettles to contain and channel marchers and treating peaceful protesters as terrorists. (Now silent Liberal Democrats were once concerned about this.) But total policing does not scale. They do not have the resources to silence non-violent direct action occurring in hundreds of places at the same time.
As we have seen this weekend, the Liberal Democrats are not for turning.
There should be no doubt that this weekend’s failure to back the bill will be spun as a claim that “conference opposes the Bill” but that it will make no difference to the way MPs vote. Clegg is now insisting that the Health and Social Care Bill is “not a Liberal Democrat health bill” but he’ll still vote for it and whip his MPs to do the same.
These are the saving lies by which Liberal Democrats appease their consciences at the same time as doing harm. A few trending hashtags are not going to change their minds.
Social Investigations have shown daily how much private healthcare money is bankrolling the ministers pushing through these changes. This should be front-page news. People are now debating ways to #BlockTheBillBuilders and directly protest outside the offices of the vultures seeking to profit from the reforms. Perhaps that will make it so.
Ask yourself what you can do to help if you cannot make it whether that’s taking action locally or bombarding the media with phone calls demanding that they give the protests the cover they deserve or helping coordinate and collate reports of actions on the ground.
Electoral politics is not the only way to achieve change in society. When a government shows as much contempt for the electorate as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are doing then we should not put too much faith in our ability to change their minds with polite letters.
This is our NHS. Are we happy to let it go quietly – or are we going to stand up and demand politicians listen to the concerns of the people they were elected to represent.
First paragraph originally stated: “What better way to celebrate Mothering Sunday next weekend than to bring your mother along to a highly visible, public demonstration against the Health and Social Care Bill?”
The demonstration is now on Saturday and the facebook event page link has changed.
Added link to Block the Bill Builders website. ]