New Labour appear to be trying to figure out a way to close hospitals without it costing them votes.
Ministers have denied reports that prominent Labour ministers and officials have met to work out ways of closing hospitals without jeopardising marginal seats.
The Times on Friday revealed an email passed which showed that the meeting included Labour chairman Hazel Blears and political advisers from Number 10.
The emails show that health secretary Patricia Hewitt asked for ‘heat maps’ to be provided, which indicate where hospital closures or reorganisation of health services could cost votes in marginal constituencies.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “There is a secret political debate going on to try to minimise the damage to the Labour Party.”
But speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, health minister Rosie Winterton said the meeting was simply seeking to take “a longer view in terms of political developments”.
She said it was “absolutely not” the case that decisions on hospital closures were taken at the meeting.
It’s nice to see Labour’s priorities; not ‘how do we stop this sort of thing?’ but ‘how do we get away with this sort of thing?’ One way of getting away with it seems to be to close hospitals in constituencies not held by Labour