Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, has accused Nigel Farage of an “opportunistic attempt to cover up” previous suggestions that his party would support NHS privatisation.
Labour and Ukip have been embroiled in a war of words since footage emerged of Mr Farage appearing to tell a 2012 meeting that he would feel more “comfortable” if the UK’s healthcare was opened up to the “marketplace”.
“I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare,” he said.
Labour claimed the footage proved that it was “plain for all to see that a vote for Ukip is a vote for the privatisation of the NHS” but Mr Farage hit back in a column for The Independent, saying Ukip has an “unshakeable commitment to a healthcare system that is free at the point of use for the British people”.
Mr Burnham picked the claim apart in an open letter released today with a list of questions over previous Ukip statements, including an article by “Ukip health spokesman” Jonathan Stanley proposing a flat fee for GP appointments.
“Yesterday you claimed ‘Ukip will keep the NHS free at the point of use’,” he wrote.
“Why should anyone believe this is anything but an opportunistic attempt to cover up your and your party’s longstanding conviction that the NHS should be privatised?”
Mr Farage had attacked Labour the previous day, saying the party “thinks it owns the NHS” despite being “responsible for the privatisation of vast chunks of it” by introducing Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs).
“I don’t want to hand faceless private sector companies control of our health service,” he wrote.
The Ukip leader said his party opposed plans for GP appointment fees, would stop PFIs and require private medical insurance for tourists and migrants who have lived in the UK for less than five years.Reuse content