OVER 100 bereaved relatives whose loved ones have been killed in the illegal war and occupation of Iraq were joined by MPs, peace campaigners and ex-servicemen in a march on Downing Street yesterday.
Led by a piper in full regalia, tearful relatives marched from Parliament Square to the Cenotaph to lay wreaths for their loved ones, after a meeting with MPs in the House of Commons.
At the front of the protest, organised by Military Families Against the War, was Rose Gentle. Among those accompanying her were MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Adam Price and ex-MPs Tony Benn and Martin Bell.
She asked everyone to pause for a minute’s silence, before heading to the gates of Downing Street to hand in a letter to Prime Minister Blair.
Rose Gentle wept for her son Gordon, who was killed in Iraq, before wiping away the tears to tell everyone: ‘If we stop, Tony Blair and his government have won. So we can’t stop.’
Mr and Mrs Craw, – who lost their son in Iraq – spoke to News Line outside parliament.
James Craw said: ‘I’m here on behalf of my son. He got killed on a firing range in Iraq on January 7, 2004.
‘I’m here to ask for justice for my son.’
His wife Ray Craw said: ‘We’ve still not had an inquest yet. It’s been two years and three months.
‘We want to see the troops withdrawn from Iraq. I think it’s about time.
‘I don’t think it’s benefiting anybody, neither the soldiers nor the Iraqis.’
They said they blamed Blair for their son’s death.
George Solomou also took part in the protest.
He told News Line: ‘I was a soldier for five years.
‘I’m part of Military Families Against The War and we’re lending support to those against the war and supporting families that have lost sons and daughters in the war in Iraq.
‘We have got in the region of 60 families represented here today.’
• Second news story
HEWITT JEERED AT RCN CONFERENCE!
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt was booed, jeered, and slowed hand-clapped by nurses yesterday, with delegates shouting ‘time’ during her address to the Royal College of Nursing annual conference in Bournemouth.
A huge banner stating ‘No More Job Losses’ hung from the balcony, and at the end of the Labour health secretary’s speech and question and answer session, instead of customary applause, the conference rose to display posters saying ‘Keep nurses working, Keep patients safe’.
Hewitt began her speech by acknowledging ‘you are angry about redundancies facing some staff’.
She tried to lay the blame on a ‘minority’ of trusts and was jeered when she claimed ‘the majority of hospitals are not in deficit’.
But she ploughed on saying ‘overspending hospitals do have to put their house in order’, adding that the NHS does ‘not have a blank cheque’.
She was slow hand-clapped when she claimed ‘most redundancies are agency staff not permanent staff’ and that hospitals were ‘reorganising rotas to make better use of permanent staff’.
This brought her speech to a halt and she was obliged to say ‘you can listen to me or not’.
Hewitt was heckled again when she tried to play down the 1,000 redundancies announced in Stoke on Trent.
During the question and answer session Cathy Delty asked Hewitt to explain how the NHS ‘has had its best year ever’.
Delty said: ‘We’re the ones that have to deal with patients’ anger.
‘You set targets, and keep changing resources.
‘We’ve spent years trying to comply but enough is enough’.
Hewitt was booed when she claimed patients said of their NHS experience ‘it’s very good and it’s getting better.’
She complained: ‘If I say staff in the NHS deserve credit you shout at me, if I say they don’t you shout at me.’
In her concluding remarks she tried to set nurses against doctors over pay, saying ‘the RCN should negotiate with the BMA’.