Jeremy Corbyn pledged to “defend our NHS” during a speech in Oxford on Saturday morning, ahead of a 200-strong “funeral procession” for the NHS in Oxfordshire.
The Labour leader addressed a crowd at St Mary and St John church in East Oxford as part of the NHS action day, led by the Labour Party and campaign groups across the country.
Following Corbyn’s talk approximately 200 people took part in a procession, which was led by Keep Our NHS Public and Hands Off Our NHS.
Corbyn himself did not participate in the march, which started in Manzil Way at midday. Campaigners carried cardboard NHS coffins and wore Jeremy Hunt masks.
During his speech, Corbyn pledged to “put social care back in the public hands”, as well as addressing attitudes towards mental health.
He said, “We’ve got millions of people who support us. We can change attitudes by our own approach and our own attitude. No more jokes about people going through depression. No more jokes about people going through a crisis. Support them. Just as much as you would support someone who had a physical illness or an injury.”
Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) Secretary Thomas Zagoria told Cherwell, “Corbyn echoed Nye Bevan in forcefully calling for folk to fight for our NHS. Afterwards he mingled with us – the overwhelming impression he gives off when you meet him is kindliness.
“Having lived in the US, I know how important the NHS is. That the NHS is underfunded and understaffed is something everyone on the left, and most people across the political spectrum, can agree on. Corbyn has done a brilliant job in articulating that sentiment, in my opinion.”
A spokesperson for OULC told Cherwell , “We were delighted to see many labour members, including those in our club, get out and back the NHS. We know that only Labour will run the NHS we all need.”
In a post on Facebook, Labour Councillor Dan Iley-Williamson, who is also a student at Queen’s, wrote, “Today Labour held a national campaign day on the NHS, and here in Oxford we were lucky enough to be joined by Jeremy Corbyn.
“The crisis the NHS is facing is of the Tory’s making. They are defunding it and driving it to ruin. This is, I think, part of a strategy of undermining the NHS, creating a serious crisis within it, only then to offer “reform” (i.e. privatisation) as the solution.
“This must be fought with the utmost intensity. This is not only because free at the point of use healthcare is so important, but also because of the ideal the NHS represents – that access to services should be determined by need, not ability to pay. This ideal underpins the sort of society Labour is fighting for, and which together we can build.”
Merton finalist Harry Gosling told Cherwell, “Whilst this march was reasonably small, supporting the Health Service is certainly a worthy cause. Though the protesters, and people more generally, should recognise that the NHS’s problems extend far beyond shortfalls in funding.”
As part the NHS action day, campaigners also manned stalls around Oxford and Labour members went door-to door, spreading concerns about cuts to healthcare services.