Health 'is Labour election weapon'

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The Independent Online
DAVID BLUNKETT, Labour's spokesman on health, yesterday said a survey commissioned by John Major showed the NHS could be a potent weapon for Labour at the next general election.

On the eve of a Shadow Cabinet strategy meeting in London, Mr Blunkett said the survey, identifying the NHS as one of the four key issues which had alienated voters from the Tories, showed the NHS was an issue which could swing votes to Labour. 'These results show that the NHS, far from being a neutral issue, can be a vote winner for us. They also show how wrong John Major was to leave Mrs Bottomley at Health in the reshuffle,' Mr Blunkett said.

The survey could force the two main parties to rethink their campaign strategies about the NHS. One Labour source said some in the Labour Party had discounted the importance of its lead over the Tories on the NHS. But Mr Blunkett believes Labour will have to take account of the Tory party survey.

The study showed that Tory voters were 'turned off' by the rhetoric of the market on the NHS. Some senior Tory figures believe Virginia Bottomley needs to concentrate more on the quality of care in her keynote speech to the party conference next month.

Dawn Primarolo, shadow health minister, said: 'The survey shows the Government has absolutely failed to convince anybody about the quality and equality of treatment on the NHS.'

Mr Blunkett may also use the research to answer any criticism of his own performance. He has told colleagues that since he took up the portfolio, Labour has increased its lead over the Tories on the NHS from 17 per cent at the 1992 general election to 55 per cent.