David Cameron has accused Ed Miliband of "wriggling like an eel" after the Labour leader dodged questions over whether he had privately discussed "weaponising" the NHS for use as an election tactic.
On Sunday, Miliband was repeatedly asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show whether he had used the word, but he said only that he could not remember.
Labour sees the NHS as one of its strongest campaign issues for the long general election campaign ahead. The Conservative Party has seized on Miliband's private conversation, reported by the Daily Telegraph to have been with BBC executives in November, as evidence that Labour is using the health service as a "political football".
"The NHS is not a weapon. The NHS is what we have for looking after our families," Cameron said today. "Having watched that exchange on Andrew Marr, where he was wriggling like an eel, it's absolutely clear to me he did say those words and that's why he wouldn't deny it."
Speaking at a campaign event this morning, the prime minister added: "In one moment we learnt more about Labour's attitude to the NHS than we have in five years. They just see it as a political weapon and frankly I think that is disgraceful."
Miliband told the Marr show when asked if he used the term: "I don't recall exactly what I said, but what I'm clear about is we are in a fight for the NHS and I think that's really important. The prime minister went into the last general election and he said he could be trusted with the National Health Service. He has betrayed that trust with people. We've seen an NHS where we've seen tents erected in hospital car parks this week."