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Labour welcomes ex-health minister who wrecked the NHS crossing the floor

LABOUR faced criticisim today for welcoming with open arms a golf-playing former Conservative health minister who oversaw the most damaging “reform” of the NHS in history.

Sir Keir Starmer said it was “fantastic to welcome Dr Dan Poulter to today’s changed Labour Party.”

The working medic defected from the Conservatives in a blow to PM Rishi Sunak five days before Thursday’s local elections, saying “the health service has ceased to be an area of priority for the Conservative Party, and that is now showing in the strain on the front line and the deterioration of care for patients.”

He said he would take the Labour whip and advise the party on its mental health policies until the general election but will not be running again as the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.

Dr Poulter praised Labour’s “track record of delivering for patients, transforming services, getting on top of waiting lists, investing in community health care” and said: “I found it increasingly difficult to look my NHS colleagues in the eye and my patients in the eye and my constituents in the eye with good conscience.”

NHS, disability and left-wing campaigners however pointed to his record in government and Parliament, which includes voting for austerity, the widely condemned Rwanda deportation policy and the privatisation of the Royal Mail.

His Parliamentary Register of Interests also shows that Dr Poulter earns at least £54,000 for his directorships at pharmaceutical firms on top of his salary as a part-time NHS consultant psychiatrist, and accepted a free invitation to the exclusive members-only R&A golf club in St Andrews last August.

Dr Tony O’Sullivan, co-chairman of Keep Our NHS Public and retired consultant paediatrician, told the Morning Star: “Dan Poulter joins Labour as an ex-Tory health minister [between] 2012-15, who implemented the Health & Social Care Act 2012, the most damaging ‘reform’ of the NHS since 1948.

“Poulter’s ex-party is responsible for one nurse taking their life and 268 patients dying from urgent care delays every week.

“Let’s hope without holding our breath that he warns (shadow health secretary) Wes Streeting how wrong he is to prioritise further ‘reform’ over emergency funding. 

“The NHS colleagues and patients Poulter could no longer look in the eye need above all an NHS restored as a well-funded publicly provided service.”

Dr Poulter was also in the Con-Dem coalition government that introduced the bedroom tax in April 2013 and the Windrush scandal’s “hostile environment” policies.

Disabled People Against Cuts co-founder Linda Burnip said: “It’s obviously taken Dan Poulter a long time to decide that the Tories were destroying the NHS, which is something most of the rest of the population realised shortly after they came to power in 2010.

“I’m sure he will feel comfortable supporting Wes Streeting’s drive for yet further NHS privatisation in the future if Labour are elected at the next general election however.”

A spokesman for Momentum said: “Dan Poulter spent 14 years voting through and enacting Tory austerity and privatisation.

“If he’s right to say the Tories have broken the NHS and our public services, he fails to mention he helped break them.

“Sadly, it speaks volumes about Starmer’s Labour that an active opponent of working-class interests feels comfortable joining the party.”

Left-wing former MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad said: “Dan Poulter finding a warm embrace from what used to be the Labour Party reminds me precisely why I resigned a year ago.”

Dr Poulter is the latest Tory MP to cross the floor to Labour following Christian Wakeford in 2022.

His decision has fuelled divisions in the Tory Party over Mr Sunak’s premiership.

Today he insisted that he intends to call a general election in the second half of the year, but it is thought the fallout from the local elections could force his hand, either by leading to a challenge to his leadership or by persuading him that an earlier polling day could be a better solution than limping on with a divided party.

Dr Poulter has been an MP since 2010, and held a majority of 23,391 at the 2019 election.

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