Corbyn Shifts Focus to Health Care Amid Racism Row: U.K. Votes

Corbyn Shifts Focus to Health Care Amid Racism Row: U.K. Votes

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Jeremy Corbyn accused Boris Johnson’s Tories of risking the National Health Service in secret talks with the U.S. as he sought to shift the election campaign away from allegations of antisemitism. Johnson denied the U.K.’s free-to-use health care system is up for sale after the Labour leader unveiled previously redacted documents about negotiations.

Time is running out for Corbyn to claw back Johnson’s lead ahead of the Dec. 12 general election; a closely watched YouGov poll tonight will provide an indicator of how realistic that is.

Read More: Corbyn Accuses U.K. Tories of Secret NHS Talks With the U.S.

The Context: Never Mind Brexit, U.K. Vote Hinges on Future of the NHS

ELEC for more on the U.K. election

Key Developments:

Corbyn’s reveals documents showing six rounds of talks over U.S. trade deal, which he says shows the NHS is “up for sale”YouGov releases MRP poll at 10 p.m. In 2017, it correctly predicted the Conservatives losing their majorityJohnson is campaigning in Cornwall as the Tories pledge to improve mobile phone coverageLiberal Democrats call for gig economy workers on zero-hours contracts to get a 20% higher minimum wageScottish National Party unveils manifesto to “protect Scotland from Boris Johnson”Johnson’s Conservatives have about a 69% chance of a majority in Parliament, according to odds from bookmaker Paddy Power

Remainers Urged to Vote Tactically (3 p.m.)

Boris Johnson’s Tory Party is on course to win 366 seats on Dec. 12, giving him a majority of 41, according to new data released by anti-Brexit group Best for Britain.

The group used MRP data to assess the outlook since Nigel Farage announced his Brexit Party won’t stand in seats won by the Conservatives in 2017.

What Is the ‘MRP Poll’ and Can It Predict the U.K. Election?

Best for Britain said there are 165 districts where the margin of victory is fewer than 5,000 votes, and urged pro-EU voters in these seats to vote tactically to prevent a pro-Brexit party winning.

“Even with the Brexit Party collapse, there are still lots of seats in play for Remainers,” said Naomi Smith, the group’s chief executive. “This is crucial as it means they could be won by pro-EU parties if voters hold their nose and vote for the party with the best shot of beating the Tories.”

Separately, favorability ratings for Jo Swinson, leader of the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, have “fallen sharply in the past week,” an Ipsos Mori poll showed.

Archbishop Raps Tories Over Twitter Deception (2 p.m.)

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby criticized Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party for masquerading as a fact-checking organization on Twitter during his debate with Jeremy Corbyn last week.

“Where something like that is done, where there is a misleading use of facts, deliberately, that is wrong,” he told the BBC. “We have to have an enormously high value on truth.”

He also repeated his support for Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who on Tuesday attacked Corbyn over antisemitism in the Labour Party. Welby said he knows Mirvis well, and it was “one of the most painful decisions he’s ever had to take, and I know that’s true. His instincts, like mine and others, are that during an election, you keep schtum, you say nothing,” Welby said. “He felt there was no choice.”

Johnson Vows Zero-Tolerance on Prejudice (1 p.m.)

Boris Johnson vowed to take a zero-tolerance approach to racism in his Conservative Party and apologized for any offense caused by incidents involving its members.

“Whenever we have an incident of antisemitism or islamophobia or whatever in the Conservative Party, we take a zero-tolerance approach,” the premier told broadcasters. “We have a one bounce and we deal with it approach to this.”

He said there will be “an independent inquiry into Islamophobia, antisemitism, every manner of prejudice and discrimination and it will start before Christmas.”

With the Labour party facing accusation about antisemitism , the Tories have been charged with Islamophobia. Johnson himself once described Muslim women who wear burkas as looking like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers.”

Asked if he apologized for the Islamophobia that has taken place in his party, he replied “look, of course. And for all the hurt and offense that has been caused, of course we do. All that is intolerable.” He wasn’t asked specifically about his own remarks.

Johnson Denies NHS Sell-Off Plan (12:20 p.m.)

Boris Johnson responded to Jeremy Corbyn’s publication of documents about trade talks with the U.S. (see 10:15 a.m.) with a denial that the NHS will be part of any agreement.

“We are absolutely resolved there will be no sale of the NHS, no privatization,” he said in a pooled TV interview while campaigning in Cornwall. “The NHS is not on the table in any way. The NHS is in no way on the table, in no aspect whatever.”

The prime minister accused Corbyn of trying to change the focus of the campaign. “It’s continually brought up by the Labour Party as a diversionary tactic from the difficulties they are encountering, particularly over the problem about leadership on antisemitism and then the great vacuity about their policy on Brexit,” Johnson said.

Sturgeon: SNP Can ‘Pressure’ Corbyn (12 p.m.)

Nicola Sturgeon likened the choice her Scottish National Party may face between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in the event of a hung Parliament to picking the “devil or the deep blue sea,” but said despite her misgivings about the Labour leader, his party had far more in common with her social and economic agenda. She ruled out supporting the Conservatives.

Following her speech in Glasgow, Sturgeon was asked if she would back Corbyn despite the warning from the U.K.’s chief rabbi this week that the Labour leader is unfit for high office. She criticized Corbyn’s failure to eradicate antisemitism from Labour’s ranks, but pointed out that there are other issues the SNP would also have to consider — including the path to a second referendum on Scottish independence and stopping Brexit.

“We would be very clear with our expectations to any party leader who wanted the support of the SNP to make clear its zero tolerance approach to antisemitism, to Islamophobia, to any form of prejudice or racism,” Sturgeon said. “I think, to those worried about Jeremy Corbyn, it should give a degree of reassurance that SNP MPs, with the right values and approach on these issues, can apply that pressure.”

Corbyn’s Key Claims on U.S.-U.K. Negotiations (11 a.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservative government of concealing secret negotiations between U.K. and U.S. officials on the future of the NHS in any trade deal. These are the key allegations:

U.S. pharmaceutical companies want to force up the price the NHS pays for drugs as part of a U.S.-U.K. Trade deal, he said, noting that Donald Trump regularly complains about the “unreasonably low prices” other countries pay for medicinesThe documents show both sides have finished initial discussions on lengthening patents for medicines in the U.K., Corbyn saidHe said this would mean the U.K. paying U.S. levels for many drugs. He gave the example of AbbVie Inc.’s Humira — a drug for the treatment of Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis — which he said costs the NHS 1,409 pounds ($1,815) a packet, compared to 8,115 pounds ($10,450) in the U.S.He said U.K. officials conceded “NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration” in talks, and they are entering a “very advanced stage”

Corbyn: Party Has Apologized For Antisemitism (10:40 a.m.)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn did not directly say sorry when pressed again on his handling of cases of antisemitism, after he missed several opportunities to apologize in a BBC interview on Tuesday night.

“I made it very clear antisemitism is completely wrong in our society,” he said. “Our party did make it clear when I was elected leader, and after, that antisemitism is unacceptable in any form in our party or society and did indeed offer its sympathies and apologies to those that had suffered.”

He also said “a very large numbers of other people in the Jewish community do support Labour, do recognize my absolute commitment that every community in our country will be safe under a Labour government.”

Corbyn Plays on Trump Fears (10:20 a.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was heavily infused with the name of the Donald Trump, as he sought to capitalize on Britons’ suspicions of the U.S. president.

The document Corbyn referred to (see 10:15 a.m.) includes accounts of trade meetings between U.S. and U.K. officials. He said the account of one meeting showed U.S. officials refusing to include reference to climate change in the trade discussions.

“This is not only a plot against our NHS, it’s a plot against our country,” Corbyn said. “What’s at stake in a deal with Trump could not be more important for the country.”

“These documents confirm the U.S. Is demanding the NHS is on the table in the trade talks,” Corbyn said. “Big pharma has ripped off and imperiled the health of the American people for years. Now these secret reports show they’re looking to do the same to us if the conservatives are elected on Dec. 12”

Corbyn: Secret U.S. Talks Put NHS in Danger (10:15 a.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn sought to turn attention to the fate of the National Health Service after his party was hammered over its record on antisemitism.

At an event in London, he held up a 451-page unredacted document, which he said showed information Boris Johnson’s government wouldn’t reveal about the status of health care in U.S. trade talks. He said the secret document — previously only available in a heavily redacted form — showed that under Johnson, “the NHS is up for sale” in trade talks with the U.S.. The premier’s denials that it isn’t are “in tatters,” he said.

The presentation was preceded by a video clip that included U.S. President Donald Trump saying that everything was on the table in trade talks.

“This election is now a fight for the survival of our National Health Service,” Corbyn said. “Labour will never ever treat the NHS as a bargaining chip in trade talks with anybody. We will never let Donald Trump get his hands on our NHS.”

“Labour will not rest, because unlike the Conservatives we’re not on the side of the billionaires and the bankers. We’re on the side of the nurse, the doctor, the patient and the people, and we will never sell out our national health service.”

SNP Manifesto to ‘Protect Scotland’ From Johnson (10 a.m.)

The Scottish National Party will unveil its manifesto at an event in Glasgow — the last major party to do so — with a pledge to “protect Scotland from Boris Johnson” and a warning there is “much worse to come” if Brexit goes ahead.

“A vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands — not Boris Johnson’s,” SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will say, according to speech excerpts released by the party. “The future of our country is on the line.​”

With the SNP holding a significant poll lead in Scotland, a key question is what the party will do in the event of a hung Parliament on Dec. 12. The SNP’s signature policy is a second referendum on Scottish independence, but more funding for the National Health Service is also a priority.

Burgon: Labour ‘Sorry’ for Hurt Over Antisemitism (Earlier)

Labour’s justice spokesman Richard Burgon said his party is “sorry for the hurt caused” over its handling of cases of antisemitism, after leader Jeremy Corbyn struggled to explain his strategy and missed several opportunities to apologize in a BBC interview on Tuesday night.

“Jeremy has apologized on a number of occasions and said that he’s sorry for the very real hurt felt by people in the Jewish community,” Burgon told the BBC. “On a number of occasions last summer for example, he has made those statements and it’s right that he did.”

The latest row over antisemitism in the Labour Party was triggered by the U.K.’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who suggested this week Corbyn is unfit for high office and said Labour can “no longer claim to be the party of equality and anti-racism.”

Jenrick: Tory Islamophobia Probe Will Be ‘Thorough’ (Earlier)

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted the Conservatives will conduct a “thorough” investigation into discrimination and prejudice in the party, after the Muslim Council of Britain criticized Boris Johnson’s Tories over their handling of Islamophobia in their ranks.

“I want to see by the end of this year, as the Prime Minister’s promised, a thorough review of prejudice and racism and discrimination within the party,” Jenrick told the BBC. “We want to be a party that has no tolerance whatsoever of racism, prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”

Just as Labour has failed to shake off accusations of antisemitism in the party, the Tories are struggling to overcome charges of Islamophobia, exacerbated by Johnson in a 2018 newspaper column in which he said Muslim women who wear burqas look like “letter boxes.”


Corbyn Can’t Find Antidote to Anti-Semitic ‘Poison’ in LabourU.K. Car-makers Warn Against Flimsy EU Trade Deal After BrexitWhat Is the ‘MRP Poll’ and Can It Predict the U.K. Election?Corbyn Struggles With Anti-Semitism Claims: U.K. Campaign Trail

–With assistance from Robert Hutton and Jessica Shankleman.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at;Greg Ritchie in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny

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