David Blackburn

Burnham’s exocet misfires

Burnham's exocet misfires
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The sword of truth is working overtime this afternoon. First, Andy Burnham writes a letter to David Cameron demanding answers about a £21,000 donation from John Nash, chairman of CareUK, to the office of, oh dear, Andrew Lansley. As Paul Waugh notes, a conflict of interest scandal looms here because CareUK is a private firm that makes £400m running GP surgeries and so forth for the NHS.

But the truth will out as they say. It turns out that the Chairman of BUPA, Lord Leitch, wasted £5,000 on Gordon Brown’s unopposed leadership campaign. BUPA also does rather well out of the NHS. The indefatigable Waugh has dug up this gem from a speech Leitch made to the Lords:

'When we debate healthcare in the UK, all too often the focus is on the NHS alone. Yet the independent sector is more important than ever, providing services directly to patients, residents, insurers, and to the NHS itself. Going forward, all of us must think in terms of partnership, not rivalry…I hope that this legislation will help consign to the dustbin of history the false dichotomies between public and private, and also between healthcare and social care.’

I trust Burnham the tireless scribe is drafting a second letter?

These are storms in a couple of teacups: Nash and Leitch have considerable interests independent of healthcare. However, Lansley’s office was foolish to accept a donation from a health supremo; it invites trouble because, as with #welovethenhs, Burnham is desperate to pick any fight with the Tories over the NHS, the issue that defines Cameron and the postwar Labour party.

UPDATE: The plot thickens. Not given to missing the bus, the Liberal Democrats have now joined in the frenzied moralising. Norman Baker has made the following statement:

“This is a staggering conflict of interest which completely undermines the Tories claim that the NHS would be safe in their hands. Many people will question Andrew Lansley’s judgement and the impact that these donations have on Conservative health policy. With Labour in the pockets of the unions and the Tories taking money from private health firms, only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to run our NHS.”

Indeed, but the sword of truth looks a little blunt in the hands of a party that has received £445,000 from Alpha Healthcare. Perhaps the party political donation system requires reform.