… Or so it seems to This Writer.
“I believe in a 100 per cent publicly-owned NHS, free at the point of use,” he has said – which is exactly the same language used by Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron – and likely to be used by Theresa May as soon as she gets the chance.
That hasn’t stopped private companies from picking up billions of pounds worth of NHS contracts after the Tories opened it up to competitive tendering.
His comment is entirely consistent with the comment he made in a press release for Pfizer in 2005, that “choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda”.
While he says he would prevent greater private-sector involvement in the NHS, he says nothing about rolling it back, which is what the majority of Labour Party members want.
And private-sector involvement in the NHS is already well advanced.
So it seems Mr Smith is in favour of privatisation in the health service, in exactly the same way as the Conservatives, despite the fact that he has said concentration on a 2005 Pfizer press release saying as much, by The Times, was a “hatchet job”.
He continued: “It is a gross exaggeration and extrapolation of one comment in a press release about a report commissioned by Pfizer before I worked there, at a period in which the last Labour government was using the word choice to describe getting private providers to do hip and knee and cataract operations.”
But the date the report was commissioned is not important. Mr Smith was the representative quoted in the press release. Those were his words.
Here’s another thing: Pfizer donated more than £40,500 to Labour’s right-wing pressure group Progress between 2003 and 2005. And Mr Smith still wants us to think he belongs to Labour’s left?
And it is irrelevant that the Labour Party was using the word “choice” at the time. He was working for a private company – not Labour – and Labour’s policy should have had no influence on the opinions he was putting forward which – as a representative of Pfizer – were his own.
So it is insulting that he should try to say Labour was at fault for its use of the word.
It seems his comments on this subject are a ‘blind’ – an attempt to deflect criticism with words that attempt to mask the facts.
Oh, and his voting record is no indication of his personal beliefs. He supported Labour policy to oppose Conservative changes to the NHS – because he was whipped to do so.
Still, having private providers available for elective operations might be useful.
Mr Smith might consider asking one of them to sew up his forked tongue.
Smith also insisted he was fully committed to a publicly owned NHS and claimed that his call for greater choice in the health service while a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry did not mean he advocated privatisation.
But he conceded that Labour made a mistake while in power for the way it communicated the use of private providers in the NHS.
The Pontypridd MP became the sole challenger to Jeremy Corbyn when it became clear he had more backing among MPs and MEPs than Angela Eagle, who pulled out of the race on Tuesday.
While at Pfizer in 2005 Smith endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering NHS patients easier access to private-sector healthcare. The Times revealed that he said: “We believe that choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda.”
Challenged about the remarks on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Smith said it was a gross exaggeration to suggest that he wanted Pfizer to take over parts of the NHS.
He added: “I believe in a 100% publicly owned NHS free at the point of use.”
Smith pointed out that he did not commission the Pfizer report and that his remarks were taken from a press release. “I have never advocated privatisation of the NHS. It has been one of Labour’s proudest achievements. I grew up swaddled in stories of the Labour party creating the NHS out of south Wales.”
Smith said he would prevent greater private sector involvement in the NHS and conceded that it had been a mistake for Labour to advocate greater choice about providers.
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