I seem to have spent my life protesting about something. Being a Midlander, grumbling is just part of normal conversation – we’ve got high standards and don’t suffer fools gladly – but doing something about it is rarer.
My very first demo was when Oswald Mosley and his blackshirts came to Birmingham in 1968, where I was a student. We thought the world had been saved from Fascism 20 years before. We were in the optimistic, more affluent 60s, studying on a grant and feeling complacent about our future prosperity. The best parties at that time were in the Catholic chaplaincy and the West Indian houses near where I lived and usually involved black people of one sort or another.
Along comes Enoch Powell and we all know what he said, and then Mosely thinks he can march through Birmingham and revive some ideas of racial purity. I went along out of curiosity. My best friend was a Polish refugee so I knew about fleeing a Europe full of ideas like his. But what surprised me was how before long I was joining in the anti-Mosely chants: “Black and white, unite and fight”.
I hated what he stood for and it was impossible to just be a bystander.
In the 70s I went to Grunwicks to support workers trade union rights. I was terrified when the police charged on us with shields and batons and I hid behind a hedge. Cowardice – but one of the few successes I took part in – not down to me!
Ever since I’ve reluctantly taken to the streets to show how I feel about things I hate. But I’ve failed a lot! Me and two million other people marched through London to stop the Iraq war. We failed.
More recently I stood in Trafalgar Square with several hundred thousand others – sweating into our placards in our desperately hot summer – to show Trump we didn’t want him here. More failure!
Last Saturday I stood outside our hospital to make a last ditch attempt to change the minds of our powers that be in the NHS and persuade them to not send our stroke services to Ashford. We were “consulted”, and we told them it was an hour to get to Ashford while our brains died in an ambulance. But when the results of the consultation came out we were told we didn’t matter!
North Kent will get a better chance of surviving a stroke and that’s where the fancy new equipment and experts will go. Our excellent QEQM stroke unit will close.
Even Craig Mackinlay, our seldom seen MP, has changed his mind and is now supporting the stroke unit staying at QEQM, so now he has to persuade his government to put money where his mouth is!
This time I really don’t want to fail. It’s too important! We’ve had our first response to the consultation and the next is a public meeting on October 17 at The Red Hall, 11 Grosvenor Rd, Broadstairs at 6pm.