Last Friday Ed Miliband launched Labour's general election campaign. His chosen topic to discuss was of little surprise: the NHS. The NHS has long proven to be a safe area of debate for the Labour party who have an 18 point lead over who is must trusted with the institution when compared to the incumbent Conservatives.
Photo: Wikimedia, EMASNHSTrust
Since the Tory led coalition took office 5 years ago in 2010 the Labour leader has criticised David Cameron for his health policies with the privatisation of the National Health Service being on of Miliband's most frequent attacks. '[Labour will] stop the fragmentation and the privatisation of our NHS' he exclaimed in an opinion piece for The Daily Mirror back in 2013. Polls have clearly shown that the British public on the whole are against privatisation of the health service. Consequently, Miliband's announcement on Friday that he would cap profits which private firms make from hospital treatment at 5% and that Labour would end the requirement for all health contracts to be opened up to the NHS certainly sounds like a winning policy.
However, what Ed Miliband did not claim on Friday was that he would outright stop the privatisation of the health service. While repealing the requirement for all contracts to open to bidding from private firms does mean that there is the potential of reduce privatisation it does not guarantee it. Further, capping the profits made by firms working in the NHS at 5% does not mean stopping privatisation, it merely means regulating those private businesses working in the market.
In both these cases, nowhere did Miliband actually state that he would not further the privatisation project if he was Prime Minister. While on the face of it these pledges sound like they protect the NHS as a public sector body, in reality they allow Labour to potentially continue privatising the NHS without breaking their pledges.
It is quite possible that the NHS is not 'safe' in either the hands of the Conservatives or Labour. Judging from Labour's pledges made last week they are just as likely as the Tories to continue to open up the NHS to the private sector.