Why I will be supporting and helping to organise the Save Withybush march and fun day on June 16th whilst leaving my politics at the door.

Let’s face it, the situation regarding the proposed downgrade of Withybush hospital is nothing but political. So much so in fact that until now that very fact has hampered the campaign to save the hospital at every turn. Why? Because those who want to save the hospital fall naturally into two camps; the first is the camp who blame the Labour run Welsh Assembly Government and Hywel Dda solely for the downgrades, and the second camp are those who believe that Conservative led austerity policies which have resulted in year-on-year cuts to the Welsh budget are to blame. Actually both of these stances are valid and this has meant that the campaign has been unable to identify clear targets for us to campaign against until now, not only that, but the political squabbling this has caused on social media and elsewhere has actually done nothing but damage the campaign so far.

I am very involved in politics myself, I write this as Co-chair of Pembrokeshire Green Party and also Convener of Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly against Austerity so I am no stranger to the issues which surround this debate, in fact I have made a point of asking every single Welsh political figure, politician and campaigner I have spoken to over the past few years for their opinion on the Withybush situation, to be fair they all say the same thing which is; “if there is not enough money coming from Westminster overall then it is impossible for any Welsh Government to provide an effective health Service in Wales” As an anti-austerity campaigner myself, obviously this view resonates with me, but there is more to the story and if we are to save our hospital we all need to learn as much as we can about who and what we are fighting so we know where we need to take the battle to!

As I said, both camps in this debate have a valid point, Blair pulled the Labour Party very much to the right, this all started under Blair’s Labour, Welsh Labour under Carwyn Jones became very right wing too. Closures to Withybush became ‘collateral damage’ to an underfunded Welsh Government who were hell bent on a flawed centralization program and who were unwilling to stand up to Westminster cuts and austerity budgets. Blair’s Government was also responsible for PFI contracts which have debilitated NHS hospitals and Trusts in England. You only have to look at what the Conservative Minister for Health and Social care; Jeremy Hunt is doing to the English NHS now though to see how much worse things would be for our hospital if the Welsh NHS was run by the Tories too.

What I think many people have lost sight of here in all this is the very reason the NHS was founded in the first place. The NHS was founded by a post war socialist Labour Party in order to deliver a universal, free and high quality health system care for everyone, and that meant everyone! Over in England people have to pay for prescriptions whereas here in Wales the Welsh Labour Government abolished prescription charges, Welsh Labour have also invested far more in Social care which actually eases the burden on the Welsh NHS so it’s not surprising that Labour members have defended the Welsh Government up to now. One of the reasons I feel that I can finally get involved with save Withybush campaign now though is because it has finally become a genuinely cross party effort which means that everyone concerned is forced to work together towards the greater goal. Local Labour activists have been out protesting the downgrade every week up at the hospital even if that means they are effectively protesting against the right wing elements within their own Party! Why are they doing this? It’s because they are genuine people and activists with genuine passion and drive to save our hospital just like everyone else who has been involved with the campaign so far. They are also slowly forcing Welsh Labour to move to the Left and towards Corbyn’s view which can only be a good thing for our NHS. Fair play to them for taking the fight directly to Hywel Dda and their own Party, surely we must respect them and support them for that! In fact, I’d like to see far more, the local Unions need to be getting active on this and be seen to be getting active on this too, surely it’s their job to be reminding the Labour Party what it’s actually there for!

My point is, Let’s put to one side for a moment how we got here, let’s put to one side all the different areas to blame. Let’s focus for a moment on identifying our enemy and where our campaign efforts should lay if we are to have any hope of saving our Hospital. For many different historical reasons, the British narrative has been dragged to the right over many years, The Tories have used the neoliberal political landscape they found themselves in ion 2010 as a ‘perfect storm’ to decimate public services across the board all over Britain and yet at the same time also still bash Welsh labour with a stick over how they spend the reduced budget they are handed. Win-win for the Tories!

Our job as campaigners and activists and as Pembrokeshire residents right now is to concentrate on why the NHS was founded in the first place. It was set up during post war austerity with one thing at the centre; the people of Britain. With a spirit of post war solidarity ‘everyone should be looked after’ the money was a secondary concern, the people and their health came first as it should be with all public services which is why we should also never privatise them. In order to save our hospital here in Pembrokeshire we must; finally, all band together and reject ‘all and any cuts’ to our NHS and reject cuts at every level we see them, that is the whole point of our NHS. Hywel Dda must be campaigned against to demand adequate money to provide full NHS services in Pembrokeshire, Welsh Government must be campaigned against to find the money to provide adequate services across Wales and the Westminster Government must be campaigned against to provide enough money for Wales and all public services. They’re our taxes after all and if they chose to tax the super wealthy tax evaders and avoiders which we all know rob us of £billions each year then there would be plenty enough money to honour the founding principles of our NHS and indeed all of our valued and essential public services everywhere.

They say; “know thine enemy”. Well I say; let’s not fight amongst ourselves here, let’s take it to them, this is an ideological battle and we must win it! That is why I am working alongside people with differing political views than my own to help organise the big Withybush march and Family fun day on June 16th in Haverfordwest and that is why I hope everyone who can do, will come out and support this vital campaign to save our hospital and fight for adequate hospital services. Save our Hospital here and save our public services everywhere!

Jim Scott, Goodwick.

Co-Chair - Pembrokeshire Green Party

Convener - Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly Against Austerity.