Public row between Wes Streeting and Diane Abbott over the use of the private sector

Shadow health secretary accuses MP of double standards after criticism of health plans

Jane Dalton
Friday 12 April 2024 22:25 BST
‘Outrage’ over Labour plans for private involvement in NHS misplaced, Wes Streeting says

A public row has erupted between a member of Labour’s front bench and ex-Labour MP Diane Abbott over the use of the private sector.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting suggested Ms Abbott was being hypocritical for saying there was no principled case for using private healthcare to cut NHS waiting lists – as he highlighted how she had sent her son to a private school.

Ms Abbott, who had the Labour whip withdrawn last April over claims of antisemitic comments, hit headlines in 2003 when it was revealed that she put her son in a £10,000-a-year school instead of a comprehensive as then prime minister Tony Blair aspired to improve education.

She and Mr Streeting became embroiled in a spat on social media when the Labour frontbencher referred to “the principled case for using the private sector to cut NHS waiting lists while we rebuild our NHS – and why the alternative is working class people waiting longer”.

Ms Abbott, a former shadow home secretary, contradicted him, adding the comment: “There is no principled case for using the private sector. Just as the “spare capacity” in private health Wes talks about does not exist. Only NHS doctors, nurses and the £million contracts Wes will give them.”

But Labour’s health spokesman hit back, quote-tweeting her, and adding: “But you used the private sector while a Labour government improved public services,” implying she was guilty of double standards.

He highlighted how she told The Mirror in 2012: “Since I made that decision, Labour built five new secondary schools in Hackney, one of them with some of the best GCSE results in the country. I wouldn’t have to make the same choice today.”

Ms Abbott has previously claimed Mr Streeting is not prepared to invest enough money in the NHS (PA Archive)

Mr Streeting this week warned that the NHS would get no extra funding from Labour without “major surgery” or reform, including more use of the private sector.

Last year, Ms Abbott, a long-time socialist who has railed against privilege, hit out at Labour plans for the NHS, saying proposals by Sir Keir and Mr Streeting were “designed to create a smokescreen of activity shielding the fact that Labour is just not prepared to put in the level of investment that the NHS needs”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said an investigation into whether to restore the whip to her is continuing after she suggested Jewish, Irish and traveller people experienced “prejudice” but “are not all their lives subject to racism”.

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