Flash mob outside Virgin Mobile

Protestors outside Virgin Media
Protestors outside Virgin Media

A flash mob outside the Virgin Mobile store on Brixton High Street today were protesting against Sir Richard Branson’s alleged plans to privatise the NHS.

Members of Lambeth group, ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ and ‘Flash Mob for the NHS’ chanted: “Branson pays no taxes but he wants to get rich off our taxes.”

Virgin Care Limited already provides over 270 health services in the UK and is part-owned by Sir Branson’s Virgin Group. Campaigners argue firms running the NHS are funded with taxpayers money, but don’t even pay tax in the UK.

The government contracts several companies to run care services as part of reforms introduced by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Gay Lee, 64, a protestor who has worked in health services for over 30 years, said the demonstration aimed to inform the public privatisation is happening.

She said: “There’s got to be a conflict of interest if a GP is caring for a patient at the same time as representing Virgin.”

She added: “We need to tell Virgin there is a problem and they should stick to what they are good at and not interfere with something else.”

Protestors arrived at 2pm to sing ‘We Will Defend our NHS’ and hand out leaflets to pedestrians. Virgin Media staff at the Brixton High Road store looked on as custom slowed to a trickle.

One sales assistant said: “It’s nothing to do with us. Richard Branson doesn’t run Virgin Media anymore.”

Mrs Lee said the “ridiculous” row of mobile phone shops on Brixton High Road was another indicator of pervasive privatisation in our society, pushing out independent retailers. Campaigners hope their demonstration will be rolled out across the country.

The protest was organised by The People’s Assembly; an activist group planning to burn effigies of conservative ministers at a ‘Bonfire of Austerity’ in Barnet next Tuesday.

by Louisa Clarence-Smith, @louisaclarence


  1. Burning effigies is never a good way to get any message across it’s just intimidating and oafish. Find a more peaceable way of sharing your message and maybe people will be persuaded!

  2. PS… Your signs are in such small letters that they can’t be seen from a distance. No one is going to get close enough to read your demands if you are burning effigies. This group almost looks like shills hired by Sir Richard to make his opposition look like loons and as such give credibility to his plan. Flash mobs are great but if you have an agenda for goodness sake have legible signs and some organization. If you seek to instill fear and disdain in the public fine, if you want folks to join you, respect your audience…

  3. OK, this will be unpopular, however, if you want to be seen as folks with ideas that should be heard and given their due… Take a taking shower and quit acting like a group of animals. Burning things in effigy? Stupid! You lose all credibility when you act like bullies. Why give the gendarme a reason to beat and jail you before you can even express your ideas? 14 bullies standing in front of by passers burning and potentially harming shoppers, will be seen as a group of thugs, rather than intelligent citizens that care about their fellows. Act like animals and be treated as such, , respect your audience and some may listen and even join you.

  4. Ok -fair enough – the author of the report was probably technically incorrect to call them ‘Richard Branson’s alleged plans to privatise the NHS’. They may not be HIS plans but he is certainly part of THEIR plans (this government and global financial institutions) to destroy the NHS.

    The Brixton Hill person above does acknowledge that market mechanisms are not ‘suitable’ at least, but this is EXACTLY what is happening and the end result in a few years time will be a system modelled on the US one. This is not paranoia – see this excellent video for the full story http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkTnCtg_Omk

    The problem is that most people don’t understand what is happening so the government can get away with it under our very noses. Hence our ‘swivel-eyed idiocy’ – at least it got us a bit of publicity which is the point of doing it – in an eye-catching and hopefully fun way.

    And yes of course we have mobile phones – the point of singing right in front of 5 of them is that people can choose to boycott Virgin as a provider and walk into the shop next door – I know I have!

    There were actually many more than 14 of us but we wish there had been more. We are desperate to inform people in the best way we know how – why don’t you join us and help us do it even better!

  5. Well done the protesters! In Lewisham we’ve just beaten off one attempt to sell off our hospital. If there’s no conflict of interest between Branson and our health then he won’t mind paying his taxes now will he?

  6. What is this misconception about people who work for private enterprises? I have worked for private firms all my life and have worked extremely hard, delivered well and been happily successful. I have never worked those late nights and weekends for the share holders. I have done it because of an ethic that tells me to do the best at whatever I do. There was no conflict of interest, for me, for my boss, for the ultimate boss, shareholders nor the customer. Why cannot a service move into private hands without such a conflict of interest/ The answer is it can. Then, and often only then in fact is it accountable.
    It is the work ethic that counts, not whether the organization is private or public.

  7. I count 14 people in that photo.

    There is a real point to be made here about the suitability of applying market mechanisms to the NHS. But “Richard Branson’s alleged plans to privatise the NHS” is really just beyond parody. Burning effigies is outright swivel-eyed idiocy—this is Brixton not the Wicker Man.

    As for the row of mobile phone shops, I wonder how many of the people in the photo own a mobile telephone. And how many readers of this site. I just wonder.

Comments are closed.