Thursday 5 October 2017

The Conservative Party Conference Protest March

It’s become a bit of family tradition to protest the Conservative Party Conference when it comes to Manchester. I still don’t really understand why they hold it here, it’s not exactly a tory-friendly city. It feels almost ceremonial. They come to flaunt their austerity and then we turn out with pun-ridden signs telling them to sod off.

We wanted to march with the NHS this year, I think that’s the issue that feels the most important to me at the moment. We found a group of nurses and doctors who had travelled up from London to attend the demo, so we situated ourselves just behind them. Laurie got talking to one of the nurses who told him how dire the situation was at his hospital. Apparently, the trust had run out of money and, in an attempt to reduce costs, had downgraded all of the nurses by one band (this doesn’t mean much to me, but apparently there are different bands of nurses and they get paid accordingly). Because of this, lots of nurses quit and the hospital was now understaffed and unable to hire new nurses (because of the lack of money). He said, quite simply, people were dying because there simply weren’t enough nurses to look after them.

When I was in hospital during the world’s longest pregnancy, I got talking to one of the staff. I don’t remember if she was a nurse or something else, but she was very lovely. She was telling me that they simply didn’t have the resources to help new mothers learn how to breastfeed. They were understaffed and overworked, most of the time she only had a few minutes available with each mum so would end up just putting the baby on the breast for the mum rather than teaching her how to do it herself.

The NHS is crippling, staff shortages are causing more stress to the already undervalued, overworked and underpaid staff and this is then leading to even more staff leaving the NHS. The NHS is such an amazing thing, and I worry that the government are starving it of money so that it can be dismantled, but I fear that, if this happens, it cannot be undone easily.

So, we found an NHS group to march with. Ebony had made some signs. One said “We are keeping an eye on you, people” which was quite creepy. And an even more sinister one that said: “Don’t hurt animals if you don’t hurt people, too” which I feel like could be easily misinterpreted. Ember wore her new “I am the future” jumper because she isn’t old enough to make signs and, honestly, had no idea what we were doing anyway. But she really enjoyed the drumming, the whistles and the general noise of the march. We didn’t manage the full march because Ember kept marching in the wrong direction, but we managed to do most of the most march.

I think it’s important to take kids to protests because it teaches them the importance of speaking out against injustice. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss social issues with them, so we spent the journey there talking about the importance of the NHS and why we wanted to march in support of it. My parents always took me to protests when I was younger and I love carrying on that tradition of standing up for what you believe in.

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