The former Prime Minister feared his discussions with the US President about privatising the NHS would cause “mischief” if they became public, according to a new book
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Boris Johnson privately discussed privatising the NHS with Donald Trump, according to a new biography of the former Prime Minister.
The claim, which is contained in an extract from Johnson at 10: The Inside Story by Anthony Seldon, published today by The Times, suggests that the former PM asked Trump not to publicly mention their discussions as they could create “mischief” if they were to become widely known.
However, he suggested that they could privately discuss it together.
“Some people in my party and other parties might make mischief if you talk about doing that, Donald,” Johnson told him. “Let’s talk about it all you like in private when you’re here, but we can keep it to ourselves.”
Johnson’s comments to Trump came amid growing concerns in Downing Street that his association with the then US President had become a “liability” for his personal “brand”.
Claims of secret talks between the two countries about privatising the NHS were denied at the time.
Johnson’s Government faced allegations in 2019 of secretly planning to privatise the National Health Service as part of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. At the time, then Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn published official documents suggesting UK officials had been in secret trade talks with US firms about the NHS.
The documents suggested that America was seeking “total market access” to the UK’s health service after Brexit.
Johnson’s Government dismissed the claims at the time, insisting the NHS would always remain “off the table” in talks with the US.
Then International Trade Secretary Liz Truss also described the claims as a “conspiracy theory”, saying that Corbyn was “getting desperate and is out-and-out lying to the public about what these documents contain”.
“As we have consistently made clear, the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade deal and the price that the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table,” she claimed. “This sort of conspiracy theory fuelled nonsense is not befitting of the leader of a major political party.”
However, fears of secret plans by the Conservative Government to sell-off the NHS have long been part of the national debate.
In 2016, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major warned that his party would seek to destroy the NHS, were it put in the hands of the leaders of the Brexit campaign. “The NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python”, Major said of Johnson and his colleague Michael Gove.
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The Conservative Party has long sought ‘reforms’ of the NHS, including greater private involvement.
In the aftermath of the 2005 General Election, half a dozen members of Rishi Sunak’s current Government – including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove – co-authored a book arguing that the NHS was “no longer relevant” in the 21st Century.
“The problem with the NHS is… that the system remains a centrally run, state monopoly, designed over half a century ago”, they wrote.
“We should [instead] fund patients, either through the tax system or by way of universal insurance, to purchase healthcare from the provider of their choice. Those without means would have their contributions supplemented or paid for by the state.”
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