Miliband addressed students, lecturers, and healthcare professionals yesterday, to announce Labour’s plans for the immediate rescue of the NHS from the threats of privatisation, fragmentation, and competition
Ed Miliband addressed a large audience of students yesterday at Manchester Metropolitan University, telling them how “the next Labour government will start by saving the NHS.”
In his opening address Ed Miliband said that with just two weeks to decide on the future of our country, “there is nowhere that the choice matters more than in our NHS.”
In his speech to a mix of students, lecturers and healthcare professionals, Miliband spoke of the importance of the NHS, saying: “I don’t need to tell you here that the NHS is the most precious institution in our country, and we all here have our own reasons why we love the NHS. It looks after us when we are born, it cares for us when we are sick, and so often cares for us in our final days of life. I say the NHS is the proudest achievement of our country and the envy of the world.”
Miliband promised the audience he would create an NHS based on “care, compassion and co-operation, not competition, fragmentation and privatisation”. He spoke of his pledge to repeal the Health and Social Care Act brought in by the present government in 2012, which allowed, among other things, NHS contracts to be open to the voluntary and private sectors.
He also highlighted that if Labour was in power come May the 8th he would, as part of his ‘immediate rescue plan’, employ 20000 more nurses, launch an emergency recruitment drive to get 1000 nurses into training, ensure a midwife for every mother, and integrate mental and physical health services by incorporating social policies with those of health. Miliband outlined that funding for such measures would come from other manifesto pledges such as a mansion tax, a duty on tobacco, and targeting tax avoidance.
Miliband repeatedly made clear the importance of the NHS to the Labour campaign, telling the audience: “The country needs Labour’s immediate rescue plan for the NHS.” In line with this plan he announced that “in our first 100 days… we’ll begin to bring in the funds from the mansion tax and the tobacco levy, and we will use that money to support the NHS with our immediate rescue plan”.
He continued by saying the Conservatives “want you to believe that they are going to spend more, with money they can’t identify, from a place they cannot name. These are false promises with an expiry date of May the 8th stamped on them.
“I believe the NHS is facing one of its gravest threats since its foundation; we know it’s been going backwards under this government, it’s got harder and harder to see a GP, there are more and more elderly people who can’t get care at home… for five years the NHS has gone backwards. For the next five years, if the Conservatives return to power, the NHS will be starved of funds and it will face a rising tide of privatisation, this is the truth. David Cameron is now a mortal danger to the NHS.”
Ed Miliband took questions from the audience, all centered on the topic of the NHS. Coby Tunnicliffe, a University of Manchester student, asked whether Miliband would protect the NHS from the threat of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Mancunion spoke with Coby after the speech, asking what he thought of Miliband’s reply: “I think it’s reassuring he acknowledged backdoor privatisation as a risk and something he said he would aim to prevent. However, by going against TTIP he would face massive pressures. It wouldn’t be easy and he didn’t give any impression that he had a way of getting around it.”
Miliband also took questions from the media, who moved away from the topic of the NHS, one asking Miliband whether the fear of John Major, who was speaking at the same time, of an SNP and Labour alliance were right. Miliband quickly responded with simply “no”. He however went on to say that he could not side with a party that wanted to divide Britain and he was therefore shocked at the support David Cameron was giving the party.
He was then asked to comment on the government’s response to the drowning of 950 people in the Mediterranean. Rescue missions were ended in October of last year as the government said that the possibility of being saved in the event of a disaster was a ‘pull-factor’ to migrants and encouraged people to make the journey.
Miliband said the government was “leaving people to drown”, and that “frankly, I think it is a stain on Europe to have these things happening on our shores and in our waters and so, what I would be saying at the European Council tomorrow is that we’ve got to act, we’ve got to act on search and rescue, and that is about basic humanity and I think that people all around the country will recognise this.” He told the audience that the “original decision was a mistake and should be reversed.”
In his closing address to the audience he talked once more of the importance of the NHS and urged people to hold him to account to everything he had promised: “I’m going to say something most politicians don’t usually say—politics is too important to be left to politicians. You’ve got to hold me to account for the promises I’ve made but you can really make the difference in the next election.”
Miliband stressed the importance of everyone’s efforts in the final run up to the general election, joking with the audience that even family weddings should be cancelled, and said that “together, I believe we can make change happen in our country by electing a Labour government.”