You may recently have watched the footage of UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall calling for “more free market” in the NHS. Hardcore UKIP supporters have responded to the video with claims that UKIP have changed their policy on NHS privatisation since 2011. Let us set aside the obvious argument that UKIP are merely hiding their true colours in order to appear acceptable to the public. Instead, let us look at the much more recent evidence that UKIP want to privatise the NHS.
(If you’re not sure what constitutes privatisation of a public health service, see Clive Peedell’s article on Open Democracy. In this article we’ll consider privatisation as the increasing provision of a public health service by private companies via a free market process.)
1. Nigel Farage
The UKIP leader Nigel Farage called for private involvement in the NHS in an interview with The Telegraph as recently as October 2014: “I genuinely do think, when you hear of a big businessman that says he’d like to run the National Health Service and streamline it, and get better value for money, I think that’s the approach we’ve got to take.”
Farage previously told the Telegraph in January 2014 that it would be “ridiculous to protect the NHS from spending cuts“.
Going back further, Farage was caught on camera in September 2012 telling UKIP supporters that the NHS should move towards an insurance-based system run by private companies.
2. Paul Nuttall
An open letter on Nuttall’s own website opened with “I would like to congratulate the coalition government for bringing a whiff of privatisation into the beleaguered National Health Service“. The letter remained on Nuttall’s site until May 2014.
3. Samuel Fletcher
In May 2014 Vox Political’s Mike Sivier managed to catch a tweet from UKIP candidate Samuel Fletcher – it read “Personally I would completely scrap the NHS and require everyone to take out private health insurance.”
4. Bradley Monk
In May 2013 the Southern Daily Echo had reported on a very similar tweet from UKIP candidate Bradley Monk – it read “The welfare state is massively bloated. I’d scrap the NHS personally, but that is political suicide.”
5. Douglas Carswell
In February 2012 Tory defector and UKIP by-election winner Douglas Carswell wrote an article on his website stating his full support for Andrew Lansley’s privatising Health & Social Care Act.
Regarding TTIP (the privatising EU-US Trade Deal) – UKIP initially came out in favour of TTIP in October 2014 but then quickly back-pedalled. What’s clear is that they would be fully in favour but for their issues with Europe: “Ukip is in favour of free trade but we are opposed to the undemocratic Commission negotiating on our behalf. Of course we look at each trade deal on case by case basis…” So clear as mud, then. At least RT’s Max Keiser seems to know the score.
7. The UKIP 2014 manifesto
UKIP spokesman Keith Rowe’s website summarised UKIP’s NHS policy in May 2014, stating: “UKIP will abolish the complex competitive tendering rules which currently make it very difficult for smaller companies to bid […] the UKIP will require the NHS to use people with commercial experience to negotiate with the private sector.” In other words, they wanted to make it easier for small private companies to take over NHS services, and they want to put privateers in control of the process.
8. The UKIP 2015 manifesto
The current UKIP manifesto claims “UKIP will ensure the NHS is free at the point of delivery and time of need for all UK residents“. UKIP have said nothing about stopping NHS privatisation – they have not claimed that they will ensure a publicly-funded, publicly-run NHS. So, if you’re trying to claim that UKIP aren’t going to privatise the NHS, copying and pasting the UKIP manifesto proves nothing.