Parties clash over NHS in BBC Election debate

By Ronan Barnard
November 29 2019, 21.25

The NHS loomed large in today’s debate between the seven major parties, as every party on stage pledged more NHS investment and more staff.

Conservative Rishi Sunak, the chief secretary to the Treasury, shifted the debate to his party’s slogan saying the UK can support the NHS by getting Brexit done.

However, when pressed Mr Sunak denied allegations his government was privatising the NHS by stealth, angrily telling his fellow debaters to withdraw the charge.

Mr Sunak said: “The NHS is not for sale. Never has been, and never will be.”

However, the Green, SNP, and the Labour representatives all pointed to trade negotiation documents released by Labour this week as evidence the government will privatise the NHS.

The documents detail trade negotiations with the US over drug patents and drug pricing. UK negotiators also stated in the documents they were waiting for clearance to take significant further steps on health policy.

SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “When Boris Johnson says that the NHS is not on the table, I simply do not trust him.”

Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary viewed as a potential successor to Jeremy Corbyn, said: “This government has been in place for 10 years now and we don’t trust a word they say on the NHS.”

Ms Long-Bailey raised increasing NHS waiting times under the Conservative government, and said her own husband’s operation was cancelled the day before the debate.

When pressed on their NHS policy, Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson pulled the debate towards her party’s policy of cancelling Britain’s exit from the EU.

“The best way to protect the NHS from a US trade deal is to not have to beg the US for a trade deal in the first place by remaining in the EU,” she said.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price pointed to Welsh scandals under Labour’s leadership as evidence of the party’s weakness on the NHS.

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