Mark McGowan a.k.a The Artist Taxi Driver spent today on his hands and knees, pushing a toy pig four miles to Downing Street, with his nose. He made his art protest as our House of Lords full of private health investors, voted through their own pay rises by approving new competition rules.
What’s All the Fuss About?
The new ‘Competition Regulations’ force the NHS to put all but a minority of services out for competitive tender. The majority of services currently run by the NHS will shortly and swiftly be turned over to profit making private healthcare providers. This is privatisation by the back door.
To make matters worse, the MPs and Lords drafting and voting upon this piece of legislation, have a personal financial interest in the outcome. Social Investigations produced an excellent piece of investigative journalism revealing:
- 206 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections
- 142 Lords have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 124 Peers benefit from the financial services sector
- 1 in 4 Conservative Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 1 in 6 Labour Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 1 in 6 Crossbench Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 1 in 10 Liberal Democrat Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 64 MPs have recent or present financial links to companies involved in private healthcare
- 79% of these are Conservative
This is our parliament in action, where there is no such thing as a conflict of interest. What kind of democracy allows people with a financial interest in the outcome to approve its legislation? Our democracy.
The Artist Taxi Driver and His Toy Pig
Like many of us, Mark McGowan has been outraged by the almost complete media blackout this issue of such enormous social and political importance. So he decided to raise awareness in his own inimitable way. From 8am this morning he has been pushing a toy pig four miles from Kings College Hospital (where he receives treatment for bowel cancer) to Downing Street, using only his nose. He is aiming to draw attention to the pigs at the trough of the NHS and will be rolling the toy pig up Downing Street to the door of Number 10, where he will present a letter of complaint signed by his children.
Mark has already garnered widespread attention, with the hash tag for the event #wheresdaddyspig trending on twitter this morning. Hundreds of people are following him through the streets of London with their own toy pigs, intermittently squeezing them and creating an orchestral ‘oink oink’. People in the streets are asking what’s going on, and finding out about the new regulations. It is really something to see.
The day will conclude with a gathering of peaceful protest on College Green opposite parliament from 3.45pm as the Lords debate the regulations.
At times like these, there will always be those cynical do-nothings who put forward the rhetorical ‘yes but what will it change?’ argument to rain on the parade.
The answer to those people is this: Minds, it changes minds. Without first changing people’s minds nothing else will change. This is heavy work, against a backdrop or such misinformation about the real impact of the government’s austerity agenda.
Mark is showing us all that we do not have to remain silent and resigned in the face of rank corruption. All it takes is a little imagination and a twitter account, and you can do your bit.
So join in with the #WheresDaddysPig protest in whatever way you can today. Track it on twitter, share it through your social media networks, if you are a journalist then cover it. But also take a moment to think about what you could do to make a difference.
A Happy Ending
Mark arrived at Downing Street in the early evening and was granted access. He walked up to No. 10, knocked, and handed over his petition. Go to his youtube channel to watch the results!
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