'Tory desperation': Corbyn rejects “nonsense” claims that Russia is behind controversial UK-US NHS dossier leak, Foreign Secretary's privatization plans revealed
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has angrily dismissed suggestions that an unredacted report on UK-US trade discussions he obtained was leaked by Russian ‘hackers’ – claiming such accusations were a sign of Tory “desperation.”
In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, Corbyn was asked to comment on claims made by Graphika, a social media analytics firm, on Monday night, that the release of the uncensored 451-page document had links to Russia. The dossier was first made available on the discussion site Reddit in October.
“This is such nonsense. Such utter nonsense. This is desperation by the Conservative party… not even the government has claimed they’re false documents.”
Corbyn argued that the Tories had “challenged our analysis” of the official papers, but they hadn’t “challenged the honesty of those documents.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Labour’s Laura Pidcock told Sky News’ Kay Burley that the claims were a “massive distraction from the fundamental issue” – that the Tories can’t be trusted with the NHS.
In a dramatic news conference in late November, the Labour leader held aloft the report, and accused PM Boris Johnson of a “cover up.” Corbyn claimed details of UK-US post-Brexit trade talks contained within the documents, proved not only that there was a “plot against our NHS,” but a “plot against our country.”
He asserted that the documents related to six rounds of talks between US and UK officials and related to key issues such as drug pricing – which are often higher in the US.
One line in particular, which went viral on Twitter, was a section where the US talks about the opportunities in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit situation, insisting that in such a scenario “there would be all to play for.”
Dominic Raab struggled to affirm he had “never advocated for the privatization of the NHS” in a radio interview after he was confronted with a book he co-wrote which called for “private operators” to enter the healthcare system.
During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today show, the UK Foreign Secretary attempted to extinguish talk of a Tory government giving the green light to more private companies gaining a bigger foothold in the NHS, in the context of post-Brexit trade negotiations with the US.
“I can tell you categorically I’ve never advocated privatization of the NHS,” Raab claimed.
However, unfortunately for the foreign secretary, BBC presenter Nick Robinson had a copy of ‘After the Coalition,’ a 2011 book Raab co-authored with fellow Tories Kwasi Kwarteng, Chris Skidmore, Priti Patel, and Liz Truss.
The ‘health’ chapter of the book suggests that NHS reforms are necessary and that “the current monolith should be broken up.” It then goes on to insist that “private operators should be allowed into the service and, indeed, should compete on price.”
“The NHS should take advantage of the extra efficiencies private companies can provide.”
Raab, ostensibly ruffled by having the quotes read back to him, attempted to downplay the significance of the remarks, claiming that he and his Conservative colleagues were really referring to services such as coffee shops and florists that operate within the UK healthcare system.
Robinson fired back: “It talked about hospitals being run by private companies, it didn’t talk about coffee shops.”
The future of the NHS has become a huge issue in the UK general election campaign. The Labour party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, claim that a Tory Brexit risks US pharmaceutical companies coming into the UK market as part of any trade deals with President Donald Trump. PM Boris Johnson has dismissed the concerns as “scaremongering.”