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Labour and Tories both offering more austerity for the NHS, finds Nuffield Trust

BOTH Labour and Tories are offering new austerity for the National Health Service if they win the general election — only worse, research shows.

Independent health think tank Nuffield Trust has scrutinised both parties’ pledges on the NHS.

It believes both parties, because of their rigid fiscal plans, will leave the NHS in crisis with lower increases in spending than those imposed by the Tories and Liberal Democrats at the height of austerity.

The trust says this will mean a squeeze on staff costs and make it impossible to meet pay increases planned for junior doctors and others.

It estimates that over the next parliament, the Tories will increase health spending by 0.9 per cent a year, and Labour by just 1.1 per cent.

These parsimonious plans, the trust argues, “would make the next few years the tightest period of funding in NHS history” whoever wins on July 4 and render “the dramatic recovery all are promising” inconceivable.

The revelation came as shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called on junior doctors to call off planned strikes and pledged he would start resolving the dispute on his first day in office.

He said he was “beyond furious” that the dispute was continuing although he also conceded that he would have liked a “more ambitious” social care policy in Labour’s manifesto, an indication of the tensions roiling even the party’s right over its paper-thin prospectus.

Mr Streeting called on voters not to give “matches back to the arsonist to finish the job,” as he suggested a Conservative election victory would be a “nightmare on Downing Street.”

It is a nightmare that the country looks unlikely to sign up for since Tory Party support is now at its lowest-ever level in opinion polling history.

Indeed, it is now in a fight to maintain itself in second place as the Reform Party has gained ground since the announcement that Nigel Farage had reappointed himself leader.

Top pundit John Curtice said that “every poll has reported a fall in Conservative support and nearly all the narrowing of the Conservative lead over Reform.

“So, what last week was an average eight point Conservative lead over Reform has now halved to just four points — and standing at just 20 per cent, Conservative support is now at its lowest ever in British polling history,” he added.

Backing for Labour is also drifting downwards, as some voters move towards the Greens and others may be attracted by Reform, particularly in the fabled “red wall” ex-industrial seats.

Reform chairman Richard Tice took aim at such voters today, claiming that “Reform is the real party of the workers, who have been abandoned by ‘café latte’ Labour.”

His proprietor, Mr Farage, worked the Conservative side of the field, saying right-wing Tories “are just in the wrong party” and predicting that turmoil within the Conservatives would only get worse with the hard right rebelling.

Trying to counter the Farage surge, former Tory minister and hard right leadership aspirant Robert Jenrick claimed that while he “sympathised with the frustrations” of voters attracted to Reform, failing to vote Tory could lead to an “elective dictatorship” by Labour.

Labour maintains a 17-point lead over the Conservatives in the latest poll, on 40 per cent to the Tories’ 23, with Reform up to 14 per cent.

Other surveys have put Reform level with or even ahead of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s party, although it is unlikely to win nearly as many seats. 

But the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said Reform’s “influence could yet prove dramatic and deadly for the Tories.”

Mr Curtice, with studied understatement, said that Mr Sunak “must be beginning to doubt his decision to call the election early.”

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