Rishi should be cutting waiting lists not birthday cake - Ian Murray

Far too often we hear the refrain that all political parties are the same. It can be from disenchanted voters, or even from politicians who know better: a case in point being the nonsense nationalist claims there is nothing to separate Labour and the Tories – which even they know isn’t true.
Scottish Labour leader Anas SarwarScottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

I saw a graph recently in the Financial Times which proved this point. It showed how the size of the NHS waiting times list soared under the Tories until 1997, fell sharply in the period to 2010, and then rocketed once again as the Conservatives returned to power.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS, it’s an opportune moment to remember that Labour not only introduced the NHS, but we’re the only party that properly cares for and nurtures it. The NHS had its highest public approval ratings when we left government in 2010 – today they are at their lowest levels.

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Sadly, our NHS has never been in a worse state. A cancer diagnosis is more likely to be a death sentence than in most comparable countries, and around one-in-eight people are on a waiting list.

NHS staff deserve our gratitude for the extraordinary effort they put in, and this anniversary is a moment to thank them. What it certainly isn’t a moment for is Rishi Sunak – a man hopelessly out of touch – to cut a 75th birthday cake when he should be cutting waiting lists.

Former Westminster Health Secretary Sajid Javid is calling for changes to how the NHS is run, and the answer is simple: put Labour in charge. My colleague Wes Streeting will never allow the founding principles of the NHS to be surrendered and he has plans to deliver the best placed healthcare system in the world, taking advantage of changing technology and new medicines.

And in Holyrood, nobody understands the health service better than former NHS dentist Anas Sarwar, who has doggedly exposed the scandals in Scotland’s NHS and has repeatedly exposed the failings of Humza Yousaf and his predecessors.

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The NHS runs through the soul of the Labour Party. And while there is absolutely no complacency, the latest opinion polls give us hope that change is coming.

Support for the SNP is at its lowest level for years, and Labour is snapping at their heals – ready to gain seats in the General Election and then ask the people of Scotland to trust us in government.

The Tories and the SNP are terrified, of course. It’s hard to keep track of how many of their MPs are standing down rather than risk defeat. The latest this week was Mhairi Black, who complained of a “toxic” working environment.

That was on the same day that the SNP chief whip was accused of bullying by a fellow nationalist MP, which is symptomatic of the turmoil and distrust I see every day in the SNP group at Westminster.

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They can’t pretend to “stand up for Scotland” when they can’t stand each other.

Scottish Labour MPs will not only stand up for the people of Scotland and our cherished public services like the NHS, we will have the opportunity to do so in government – relegating the Tories to opposition – if the country votes for change.

That is what is at stake in the next General Election.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South