Junior doctors' picket outside UCLH. Photo: Yannis Gourtsoyannis Junior doctors' picket outside UCLH. Photo: Yannis Gourtsoyannis

Support surges for the junior doctors as they strike, in another bad day for Jeremy Hunt

Midway through the junior doctors’ historic two-day strike, a defiant march and rally took place, moving off from St Thomas’ hospital, across Westminster bridge to the Department of Health.

With the government emphatically rejecting even the notion of negotiation, the stakes have never been higher – but with a number of strikes, and a plethora of protests behind us, the movement to save our NHS is in fighting spirit.

Public support for the junior doctors is high, but it really is make or break from now. Either we capitulate and give in, or we escalate. Judging from the energy and feeling from the protesters from both within and outside the health-service, my money is on us fighting to win.

The march itself was large and excitable. There was a real feeling of this becoming more than a bunch of protests and strikes. The people on the streets, as well as those tweeting and facebooking support from across the country are very conscious of themselves as a movement. There is an understanding from both junior doctors and the supporting public that we are fighting for the very fabric of our society. As Yannis Gourtsoyannis so eloquently put it, this dispute highlights the very failings of the austerity programme and exposes the intent of those implementing it.

The rally was a joint effort between teachers and health workers. This strike is eminently political now, and we all have a common enemy in Jeremy Hunt. But as Mark Serwotka pointed out, it’s Cameron and Osborne who are the real architects and who have the most to lose.

Emphatic and resolute speeches were in abundance, as Lauren Gavaghan confirmed that we will not give in until we have won, and Jolyon Rubenstein pointed to the health-workers and teachers who make up the very fabric of our society, and declared that it is they who we will defend till the last.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell called Hunt out for being unwilling to negotiate, and they were unafraid to point out the real motives behind the declared imposition of the contract. Corbyn condemned the “selling off of assets to private companies”. McDonnell declared that they would be with them in the streets, in parliament and beyond, and that when they came for the teachers, that they would be with them too. The spirited crowd enjoyed Corbyn’s remark that “not all Jeremys are bad”… Don’t we know.

This dispute marks the fault-line in British politics, and has the potential – if we stay in the streets and build support in every community and workplace, gaining solidarity across the unions – to bring this government to its knees.

Cameron Panting

Cameron Panting was formerly National Organiser for Counterfire. He is active within the People's Assembly and Stop The War.