On Saturday 15 June a group of Unite members and health service campaigners travelled from London to the wilds of Farnham in south west Surrey, in search of local MP and secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt. The search was necessitated by Hunt's inability to visit a NHS hospital as health secretary. An invitation to meet Unite and local people in Farnham was ignored, with not even a polite declining of our invite.
Four coaches from various parts of London met up at Fleet services and journeyed in convoy to Farnham, where they met local people wishing to defend the NHS. The mood was lively and positive, and wasn't diminished by the heavens opening up with a torrent of rain just as we arrived.
Activists quickly dispersed to assigned tasks, varying from leafleting and petitioning in the town centre, to canvassing door to door on the outskirts. What quickly became apparent was that the local people of Farnham were equally concerned about the future of the NHS in their MP's hands. In two hours of petitioning over 1,000 local people signed the petition. Local people were just as mystified by Jeremy Hunt's disappearance, with a familiar refrain of “we never see him around here until election time” being heard.
Following the gathering of signatures a march through the town centre took place, marching past the Conservative party headquarters. This was a lively, noisy and friendly march accompanied by supportive hooting of horns. The highlight was the joining of the march by for local kids, who excitedly waved Unite flags and chanted “Whose NHS? Our NHS!” along with the hardened activists.
Following a quick rally at the end we all set off, tired but satisfied, to where we came from, enlightened with the view that even the tory voters in south east Surrey are worried about the government’s plans.
And no, we never did find Jeremy Hunt. Perhaps we should have tried Pimlico.