Whittington march: MPs David Lammy, Frank Dobson and Jeremy Corbyn lead passionate speeches but Lynne Featherstone absent from stage

The Whittington board can be in no doubt of the community’s feeling after thousands of people met at a rally outside the hospital to call for a stop to the planned sell-off.

Speakers from Camden, Haringey and Islington – as well as wider London – spoke passionately about saving the hospital which had served so many for so long.

But there were notable absences from the stage: Tottenham’s David Lammy questioned where his fellow Haringey MP Lynne Featherstone was.

She had been on the earlier march, but is believed to have left before the rally.

“She should be speaking,” he said afterwards. “It is a local issue for her constituents - it serves more of her’s than it does mine, but it is nevertheless important to us all.”

He had told the rally: “I said back in 2010, I would chain myself to the doors of this hospital if they closed it - and that still stands.”

Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson also referred back to previous, successful campaigns.

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“I seem to have been campaigning on behalf of the people who work at the Whittington for about a thousand years,” he said, adding it “beggars belief” the board wants to bring the number of nurses down to the national average.

“The Whittington is one of the safest hospitals in the whole country. It has more nurses than the national average. Now, I think there may be some connection between the fact the few more nurses and the way they have a bit more time for patients.”

Journalist and commentator Owen Jones said: “There is one thing I have learned again today: they have messed with the wrong community.

“I am in absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the resolve of this community to defend our NHS.”

He added: “We have got to learn from the words of Nye Bevan [NHS founder]: ‘The NHS will last as long as there are still folk with the faith to fight for it.”

But it was perhaps Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn who summed up the feeling best when he said: “It is not ours to give up, it is not ours to give away.

“As [107-year-old campaigner and Highgate resident] Hetty Bower said, they fought for the NHS - it is up to us to defend it.”