The last PMQs before the general election offered a teaser for what to expect over the next six weeks. With Boris Johnson keen to fight the incoming election on a promise to get Brexit done so the UK can focus on domestic issues, it’s clear Jeremy Corbyn plans to respond by suggesting the Prime Minister’s Brexit would be damaging to public services. Top of that list is the NHS.
The Labour leader used the final session to lead on the NHS – suggesting the Prime Minister’s ‘sell-out deal’ with Donald Trump would mean NHS money going into private profit. Corbyn pointed to a recent Channel 4 Dispatches investigation to claim the government had been discussing the health service with US officials. He suggested that despite the government’s repeated declarations the NHS would not be up for discussion in trade discussions it clearly is. Johnson disputed the allegations and said the NHS – as he, Liz Truss and Matt Hancock had previously suggested – would not be part of any trade deal. Corbyn refused to back down in what became a bad tempered exchange.
As I say in today’s i paper, the Conservatives are braced for the NHS to be a key attack line during the campaign. They expect Labour to conduct a campaign accusing them of secretly planning to sell off the National Health Service in pursuit of a US/UK trade deal, something that government ministers have repeatedly denied. There’s worry the claims could spread easily on social media.
Today Johnson’s reply was to say it was rubbish and talk about the way the government funds the NHS – something he argues wouldn’t happen under Labour.
However if Jeremy Corbyn persists in a sustained campaign centred around the Tories lowering living standards as a result of Brexit, the Conservatives will need to do more than just say it’s rubbish in response – they will need to explain to voters why.