Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Conservatives sink to new low

Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, Sarah Newton, has plummed the depths with her latest trick. She has attempted to avoid a protest and petition hand-in at her surgery by cancelling or moving the surgery and pretending she doesn't have an appointment with the secretary of the protest group.

Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance have been running a campaign against the Health and Social Care Bill and £20 billion 'efficiency savings' for the last few weeks. It began with a protest in Truro on Saturday 14 May (see here and here) at which around 60 people marched from the Royal Cornwall Hospital to Lemon Quay in Truro for a protest and mass petitioning. Following on from this plans have been made to hand the petition in to many of the MPs around Cornwall.

The first march and lobby toook place last Friday. Around 40 campaigners and members of the public marched from West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance, through the town, to the surgery of local Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George. George claims to be against the bill and as such 'welcomed' the protest. However he was clearly concerned at the numbers and relative militancy of the protestors (see here and here).

The second march and lobby is planned for this coming Saturday 28 May. The march is assembling at 12pm outside Wetherspoons on Lemon Quay in Truro. The appointment has been booked for a month. However, Sarah Newton, the MP to be lobbied, has apparently realised that this could look bad for her. If protestors gave Andrew George a hard time, she must be thinking, what on earth will she face, and what effect will the publicity have on local opinion?

To that effect she has released a press release making ridiculous and spurious allegations (read it here). She claims that the group are "target[ing] Truro Library" and that the protest will "severely disrupt library staff and library users". Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance never had any intention of disrupting the library. The reason for marching there was that Newton's office said that is were her surgery would be when the appointment was made. She goes on to say "no-one from the Anti-Cuts Alliance thought to contact my office to arrange a time and place for the petition to be handed to me", which is, frankly, a rather pathetic lie.

Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance have responded with their own press release (read it here), describing Newton's comments as "outlandish and deeply misleading". It goes on
"Chris Gibson, Cornwall Anti-Cuts secretary, said “Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance made an appointment through Sarah Newton’s secretary a month ago, which was to meet with at her surgery in the Medium Room at Truro Library at 1.30pm on Saturday 28th May. Sarah Newton was clearly informed of the purpose of the meeting – the deep concern at the current health bill which will result in the scrapping of Primary Care Trusts, as well as intense local anger regarding the savage cuts taking place in front line services at Treliske Hospital. As the Secretary of the Cornwall Anti Cuts Alliance, formed to protect the ordinary people of Cornwall from the harshest cuts in over 80 years imposed by the Coalition government, which Sarah Newton explicitly supports, Sarah Newton’s denial of such an appointment is deeply contemptuous of the legitimate concerns of her constituents."
"Josiah Mortimer, a Cornwall Anti-Cuts campaigner and Youth Representative on Truro Community Library Board, said “Sarah Newton’s refusal to meet with pro-NHS constituents this weekend seems like pure scrutiny-dodging when nearly 400,000 people have signed a petition against the NHS reforms, including over 5000 in Cornwall. Truro Library is by no means being targeted, as she claims, by Saturday’s planned peaceful march and petition-hand in which had arranged to meet her there. In fact, Cornwall Anti Cuts Alliance campaigns to save the very library services her coalition government is demolishing through savage local government cuts.”

"Chris Gibson also said “We would ask that Sarah Newton corrects her press release which stated that campaigners planned to ‘target Truro Library’. Her coalition government is pushing through cuts which will see hundreds of libraries closed – it is her who is targeting libraries and ordinary people like us who use and rely on them.”

Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance will continue their campaign against the government’s deeply unpopular NHS changes."
It remains to be seen how this will be resolved but there are many who feel the protest should go ahead. The pressure on Sarah Newton should be increased to make sure she does not get away with avoiding difficult questions from constituents rightly angry that her party in government are destroying the services upon which they rely. To try and turn it around to make it look as though the protestors are threatening services is pathetic and she must be exposed as the deciever she undoubtedly is.

The next protest is scheduled for 4 June in Camborne. There will be a march and lobby of Conservative MP George Eustice. Assemble at Tesco car-park at 1:15pm.

See also Campaigners continue the fight to save the NHS.

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