Herald Express (Torbay, Brixham & South Hams Edition)



LABOUR’S shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has made something of a career of saying what would once have been unthinkabl­e for a senior socialist politician. So his pledge on Monday, via an article in The Sun, to utilise spare capacity in the private medical sector to tackle backlogs for NHS patients, runs true to form. And his jibe that he won’t be listening to what he called “middle class lefties who cry ‘betrayal’” underlines his worthy commitment not to be tied to political dogma when it comes to tackling Britain’s health care crisis.

Of course going private on the NHS is nothing new. Patients have long been treated in private hospitals or clinics to avoid an unbearably long wait for a NHS bed. And many surgeons and consultant­s with their own private practices, also work in the NHS. The lines are already blurred.

If Mr Streeting is promising to use taxpayer’s money to invest in the private healthcare sector for the good of patients, then he will earn plaudits from patients – and Labour will win votes at the next election. While there are some lefties, as Mr Streeting calls them, who will argue that shoring up the private care system with public money ultimately weakens the NHS, people with medical needs simply want treatment. If the infrastruc­ture already exists, let’s use it to bring down waiting lists and worry about the principles that might be at stake later.

Mr Streeting might need to brace himself for a battle with those ‘middle-class lefties,’ however. Because if the polls are to be believed, the scale of Labour’s election victory, when it eventually comes latest this year, could put a good number of them into the House of Commons.

Pollsters Survation put Sir Keir Starmer on course for a 286 majority with around 450 MPs. And while some will be straight out of the Keir Starmer, steadyas-she-goes and keep-it-moderate stable, many – it is a fair bet – will not. Already speculatio­n is mounting about how much those on the left, who would once have been loyal supporters of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, might want by way of influence in a Keir Starmer government.

Labour – with a potential majority even bigger than Margaret Thatcher’s or Tony Blair’s – would be likely made up of MPs with a wide range of views, from the ultra cautious centrists to the out-and-out ex-Momentum members who were such a force under Jeremy Corbyn. What might they do when they find their party in Government, under a leader they believe is failing to go far enough, fast enough to achieve their aims, from greater public ownership of essential services to access in the countrysid­e and a crackdown on country sports?

But if, as some polls now predict, the election of 2024 creates an all-powerful Labour Party it is hard to imagine that substantia­l elements of that more radical wing of the party won’t want to make their presence felt, especially if – restricted by the economic reality – Sir Keir cannot bring about swift and positive changes. As one commentato­r wrote last week, no matter how loyal a candidate is to the party that helps them win their seat, once they’re in Westminste­r they start to believe the voters put them there because of their unique qualities and vision. They will want to put that vision into practice - and bring pressure to bear on the leadership.

Most PMs start the job looking across the chamber at the opposition and seeing them as the enemy. It doesn’t take long – as many have found in the past – to realise there are just as many honourable members behind you, ready to stab you in the back.

 ?? ?? » Philip Bowern is a former editor of the Western
Morning News
» Philip Bowern is a former editor of the Western Morning News

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