Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham yesterday joined hero mums on their “incredible” 300-mile Jarrow crusade. Demonstrators were welcomed with a town centre rally and residents opened their homes to provide food and beds for the night.
The People’s March for the NHS was initiated by a group of mums from Darlington, north-east England, and is now on its 20th day. It will conclude on Saturday with a rally in London’s Trafalgar Square.
In an exclusive interview with the Morning Star, Mr Burnham compared the march with the celebration of the NHS at the 2012 Olympics.
“It’s an incredible thing they’re doing,” he said. “Alongside Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, it’s the greatest expression of what the NHS means to the country.
“They’re speaking for millions. Something needed to be done to get over the sense of outrage that our NHS is being sold off without our consent.”
Mr Burnham has surprised some with his willingness to take part in direct action. In 2011 Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to “share a platform” with late RMT leader Bob Crow at the Durham Miners’ Gala.
But Mr Burnham said: “How could the party that created the NHS not show appreciation of this commitment?
“This is not about factions, this is about celebrating the NHS, and if I wasn’t here it would be a poor show in the extreme.”
The previous night in Northampton saw the marchers welcomed into the town’s Asian Women’s Centre.
Icarus Wilkinson, a marcher from Rochdale, said: “They provided us with showers, home-cooked Asian food — it was incredible. We are so grateful.”
The marchers are following the route of the 1936 Jarrow Crusade against unemployment and are set to depart from Bedford today for Luton.