It's a long walk from Jarrow to London, but then the dissolution of the National Health Service inspires deep-seated protest. Day 22 of the People's March For The NHS took the marchers from Edmonton to Trafalgar Square, with a final run-in along the Strand. Joined now by thousands more protestors, they waved their placards, handed out leaflets and chanted in unison. "Whose NHS?" "My NHS!" "Whose NHS?" "Our NHS!" The strength of feeling against cuts and creeping privatisation came across loud and clear. Those who'd been sightseeing or shopping turned to stare, many getting out their cameras, others chucking coins into buckets to support those who'd walked all the way. A bulky bloke in a swish car tooted his horn in support, garnering great cheers and inspiring others further back in the queued traffic to join in.
Into Trafalgar Square they poured, the nurses and health workers and Trade Union members and the odd Socialist Worker with a slightly different agenda. Some stood around the edge of the square with their banners, others paraded unflattering effigies of the Prime Minister above the heads of the crowd. Up on the wheeled-in stage a series of speakers addressed the gathered throng. I missed Billy Bragg, but a doctor from Ealing gave a passionate indictment of the route services in northwest London are going, and the masses roared their disapproval. Someone attempted to lead the crowd in a singalong rewritten to the tune of the Hokey Cokey, but they'd changed too many of the lyrics to polemic, and the rendition never quite caught fire. And as I wandered off, a team of paramedics passed in the opposite direction heading for someone taken ill in the audience. You never do know when you're going to need the NHS, nor is certain it'll always be there, in its current form at least.