Jeremy Corbyn strongly attacked Theresa May at Prime Minster’s Questions today (8th Feb 2017) over the ongoing NHS crisis — and hit her with leaked text messages exposing government favoritism over NHS funding for wealthy Tory areas — May then accused him of using “alternative facts”.
Much to May’s (and the houses) surprise, Corbyn revealed leaked Tory text messages which strongly indicate a “sweetheart deal” between the Conservatives and Surrey Council to call off a potentially embarrassing upcoming referendum on a 15% council tax rise. The rise would be used to plug the current gap in funding for adult social care that the Tories have created since 2010 — estimated to be £4.6bn in England.
This new evidence points to the obvious fact that the Tories are looking after their constituents — while many others suffer — Tory MPs who represent Surrey include top members of the cabinet: Jeremy Hunt, Phillip Hammond, Michael Gove and Chris Grayling.
Corbyn also pressed her about the ongoing funding crisis in the NHS, which lead to the recent resignation of a much respected adult social care director in Liverpool who warned that:
Frankly I can’t see social services surviving after two years. That’s the absolute maximum.If we don’t do something within the next six months, I believe social services will not exist by 2018-19.
This isn’t scaremongering, this isn’t me asking you to feel sad for me – whoever is making decisions out there has looked at social care as the Cinderella of the service, which means more and more people are staying at home with high needs because of the removal of the prevention agenda.
People are struggling, people are suffering, and we’re really only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
And a damning investigation by the BBC which showed patients waiting for nearly 14 hours to be treated in A and E.
Questioning May about the ongoing funding crisis in the NHS — Corbyn asked her about Surrey’s surprise decision:
The crisis is so bad that until yesterday David Hodge, the Conservative leader of Surrey County Council, planned to hold a referendum for a 15% increase in council tax. At the last minute, it was called off. Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether or not a special deal was done for Surrey?
The decision as to whether or not to hold a referendum in Surrey is entirely a matter for the local authority in Surrey—Surrey County Council.
May then went to give us the usual nonsense about finding “a long-term, sustainable solution for social care in this country” and saying that “Over the next two years, £900 million more will be available for social care.” She then pivoted back to blaming Corbyn for this crisis saying “the Labour party ducked” the issue of long-term social care for “far too long.”
Corbyn continued to press May about the Surrey referendum — and dropped a bombshell:
My question was whether there had been a special deal done for Surrey. The leader said that they had had many conversations with the Government. We know they have, because I have been leaked copies of texts sent by the Tory leader, David Hodge, intended for somebody called “Nick” who works for Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government. One of the texts reads:
“I am advised that DCLG officials have been working on a solution and you will be contacting me to agree a memorandum of understanding.”
Will the Government now publish this memorandum of understanding, and while they are about it, will all councils be offered the same deal?
May — flustered by this — failed to answer the question again:
As I say, all councils have the opportunity to raise the 3% precept, to put that funding into the provision of social care.
At this point, the house erupted in even more noise than usual, and former bigot and current speaker John Bercow tried to bring calm to the house.
May continued to blame Labour saying:
Gentleman that if we look at social care provision across the entire country, we will see that the last thing that social care providers need is another one of Labour’s bouncing cheques.
Corbyn continued the attack on May — making the “wild” claim that the Tories have special interests in Surrey:
I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that the Chancellor and the Health Secretary both represent Surrey constituencies.
There was a second text from the Surrey County Council leader to “Nick”. It says:
“The numbers you indicated are the numbers I understand are acceptable for me to accept and call off the R”.
I have been reading a bit of John le Carré and apparently “R” means “referendum”—it is very subtle, all this. He goes on to say in his text to “Nick”:
“If it is possible for that info to be sent to myself I can then revert back soonest, really want to kill this off”.
So, how much did the Government offer Surrey to “kill this off”, and is the same sweetheart deal on offer to every council facing the social care crisis created by this Government?
The house erupted again, and Bercow had to shout to get others to stop shouting so that May could finally clarify the situation.
She responded with her usual spirit of transparency and honesty:
The right hon. Gentleman comes to the Dispatch Box making all sorts of claims. Yet again, what we get from Labour is alternative facts; what it really needs is an alternative leader.
Once again failing to answer the question — this time using a phrase that was famously coined by the Trump administration’s strategist and counselor, Kellyanne Conway: “alternative facts”, apparently this has something to do with Corbyn’s question? And apparently, this also means Labour needs an “alternative leader”? This was most likely a line rehearsed by May and her team to be used in times of crisis — when no other deflections are to hand — sad.
The line will most likely be the thing that makes it into the press tomorrow — and they will ignore the reasons she said it. It’s kind of shocking that should accuse Corbyn of using “alternative facts” when she can’t get basic facts right herself: such as her lie about the UK having the highest growth rate of any economy in the world a few months ago. Or the fact that she claims to stand up for human rights, democracy, etc — whilst supporting Trump avidly, and selling billions of pounds of arms to the Islamic terror state of Saudi Arabia — a country where they have public beheadings for crimes such as adultery and witchcraft, and are currently slaughtering and injuring thousands of innocent people in Yemen using the arms we’ve sold them. Talk about alternative facts Mrs May — please do.
Corbyn then used his final question to hammer May over the NHS funding crisis — realising, no doubt, that after multiple attempts to get answers — May is unable to deliver an ACTUAL ANSWER:
My question was, what deal was offered to Surrey that got it to call off a referendum, and will the same deal be offered to every other council going through a social care crisis?
Hospital wards are overcrowded, a million people are not getting the care they need, and family members, mostly women, are having to give up work to care for loved ones. Every day that the Prime Minister fails to act, this crisis gets worse. Will she finally come clean and provide local authorities with the funding they need to fund social care properly, so that our often elderly and vulnerable people can be treated with the support and dignity that they deserve in a civilised society?
May, of course, has no interest in a civilized society, once again she pivoted back to Labour:
As ever, he stands up and consistently asks for more spending, more money, more funding. What he always fails to recognise is that you can spend money on social care and the national health service only if you have a strong economy to deliver the wealth that you need. There is a fundamental difference between us. When I talk about half a trillion pounds, it is about the money we will be spending on the NHS this Parliament. When Labour Members talk about half a trillion pounds, it is about the money they want to borrow: Conservatives investing in the NHS; Labour bankrupting Britain.
No answers as usual, and no understanding of basic economics as usual from May. After 6 years of Tory rule, and austerity we have seen wages decline by 10% across the board (except at the very top) — the only countries to perform worse than us are: Hungary, the Czech Republic and Greece. The deficit has been added to consistently — growth has been pathetic. It is pretty much considered to be the mainstream economic opinion that the government needs to invest more to get the economy going again. Then again, since when did the Tories give a fuck about what economists say? The mainstream economic opinion, including the IMF, is that austerity is a terrible idea, and hurts the economy, and therefore the people who suffer at the hands of it.
May as usual failed to answer any questions and used some corny line as a way of deflecting. And as usual the mainstream media probably won’t care at all about the Surrey referendum — Hunt and Gove’s involvement in it — the social care crisis — or the NHS crisis.
May is right about one thing though, we do need an “alternative leader” just not on the Labour side, perhaps, even, dare I say: a democratically elected one this time?