THERE was an understandable clip of deja vu today, so similar was the second great Whittington Hospital march today to the first great Whittington Hospital march three years ago. The weather plip-plopped with rain at almost the same part of the Highbury to Highgate course. The New Journal bus headed the walking train of protesters with a curious ragtime band on board. The speeches at the rally for some of the speakers might have been tape recordings of what they said last time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, the sentiment of protecting ‘this area’s greatest single resource’ remains the same. David Lammy is still offering to cuff himself to the front door if auctioneers get the call to sell.
While the accident and emergency department isn’t on the line this time and the reasons to march are perhaps more nuanced albeit broader, it just remains clear that the people’s army of north London have a special attachment to this hospital. You get the impression it would march every Saturday if they had to. Maybe the numbers were a little smaller than last time, (the BBC was a bit unkind to post it at just 1,000), but the commitment to the Whittington remains spectacularly undimmed.
As the march rolled up the Holloway Road, people unfurled banners in solidarity from the flats above the shops. There were salutes for the marchers from shoppers. There is a universal appreciation for the work of the Defend Whittington Coalition. The blogged piece on these pages on the evening of the first Whittington march said: “It didn’t matter whether you came from Camden, Islington or Haringey, what local newspaper you read, or what personal reason you might have for holding the Whit in high affection.”
The same applied today.
And so the vow, the promise, remains in tact: If you try and make significant changes to that hospital without proper public consultation, politicians, the local press, the unions and most importantly its users will come a marching.