Andy Burnham today challenged David Cameron on the NHS. In a letter, he said:
On Friday you claimed that the Conservatives are the party of the NHS. I found that surprising. It goes without saying that every single MP, MEP and member of the Labour Party endorses the NHS. The same cannot be said of your party.
I understand why you want to make this claim to show your party has changed – but people will still have doubts. Therefore, to put some substance behind your claims, will you take formal action against those who do not endorse your views on the NHS?
Today I am challenging you to take three steps which could reassure people that the Conservatives have truly changed when it comes to the NHS.
1. Will you rescind your Party Conference invitation to those members of the Atlantic Bridge who have rubbished our NHS? Liam Fox is reportedly holding a drinks reception at your conference for a group called the ‘Atlantic Bridge’. But its American board members include vehement opponents of health reform - and one of them has praised Dan Hannan for rubbishing our NHS. Will you rescind this invitation from any of the group’s members who have misrepresented the NHS?
2. Will you withdraw the whip from Dan Hannan for his attacks on the NHS? It is not just that Mr Hannan doesn’t endorse the NHS. He went out of his way to talk it down and misrepresent it publicly. Therefore will you withdraw the whip – as you did from one of your other MEPs after he opposed the controversial Michal Kaminksi as head of your new European grouping?
3. Will you demand that your Shadow Ministers resign from the Cornerstone Group? The right-wing Cornerstone Group counts many Shadow Ministers among its members, including your Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson. Yet it has published a report describing the NHS as “Stalinist” and calling for it to be replaced. Will you order your Shadow Ministers to resign from the Cornerstone Group?
I know that you have enough trouble worrying about your hardline European allies without having to worry about your American allies and your own MPs as well. However, by taking these steps you could begin to reassure the British people that your colleagues’ commitment to the NHS is not just skin deep.
With best wishes,