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Dear Labour MPs, Where Were You?

15/03/2016 15:41 | Updated 15 March 2016

Where were you on March 11, when the NHS Reinstatement Bill was scheduled for a second reading? Where were you during the last junior doctors' strike? Where will you be, next time? Please tell your members and the larger public, so we know where you stand on these issues.

Only a small number of Labour MPs attended the second reading of the Bill. Not only did this remove Labour from this most urgent debate, but it very likely insured its successful filibuster by the Tories. In the event, this hugely important Bill was discussed for about 15 minutes (thanks to the perseverance of Caroline Lucas) and there was no vote. For thousands of NHS staff and patients campaigning hard to defend the NHS against Conservative health care policy and the ravages of austerity, it was a bitter blow.

Although individual Labour MPs support the Bill, that support has not taken the form of a coherent Labour Party position. Is this why most of you played truant at the second reading, leaving your members and supporters so baffled and frustrated? It meant that you failed to show your commitment to the NHS in principle, and in this particular instance, you lost the opportunity to speak to the bill - whether to back it, propose changes, or speak against it. Surely, with the Tory onslaught against the NHS proceeding apace, the voters deserved to hear from you on that day, as never before.

There is no doubt that the grassroots membership actively supports the Reinstatement Bill, seeing it as our best, and possibly last chance to save the NHS. In addition, it is backed by a majority of NHS campaign groups and by professional organizations and unions. Many NHS campaigners have joined Labour in the belief that the Party will work to protect our public services. The current destruction of the NHS, together with the treatment of junior doctors, is now an urgent campaign issue.

Please know that you have an active membership that will continue to support junior doctors and continue to fight for the Bill. We ask you to join us, work with us, and speak for us in Parliament. Not turning up for such important debates should never be an option. We count on you to be there. So again, please tell us how you plan to handle these two issues going forward. And please tell us what we, as ordinary members and voters, can do to improve Labour policy and actions on the NHS.

Time is running short for what many feel to be the UK's greatest postwar achievement. We hope you will stand with us, and help us to stand with you.

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