Labour’s new political broadcast uses a veteran to promote NHS scare stories

News & Analysis

21st January 2015

Now we know what ‘weaponising’ the NHS looks like: a World War II veteran. Labour has released an emotive party political broadcast via Mirror Online starring Harry Leslie Smith. The 91-year old received two standing ovations at the Labour conference last year for his strident defence of the NHS — a theme continued in this video.

The purpose of the PPB can be summed up in two words: emotional blackmail. Labour appear to have used Leslie Smith, telling a very moving story about his family and how much the NHS has done to improve our quality of life, to point to the notion that the health service is somehow in danger:

‘The NHS is not just important; it is essential in a healthy society. A healthy society means a healthy country.’

‘The NHS provides hope and security for all of us, that’s why we must protect the NHS’

‘I don’t want my past to become Britain’s future. We must make sure that the NHS will continue for you, your children and hopefully your grandchildren’

There is also an implication that if you don’t vote for Labour to ‘save’ the NHS, you would be letting down Leslie Smith and his generation who rebuilt Britain after the war. The video also features Charlotte, an NHS worker, who is ‘really concerned’ about the future of the NHS:

‘If it continues as it is, the NHS as we know it won’t exist any more’

‘It’s really important what it’s going to like now for us right now and for future generations’

Charlotte does have a point that if the NHS continues as it is, the NHS won’t exist as we know it. If politicians keep pumping in the odd £2 billion, the health service will end up collapsing because this is unsustainable and won’t tackle any of the structural issues.

While Harry and Charlotte explain their personal stories, the party political point scoring is left to a voiceover:

‘A different government would make different choices. Labour will guarantee 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more careworkers, a GP appointment within 48 hours. No one will wait more than one week for a cancer test and result.’

Before ending on an incorrect URL. The address on the last side (http://labour.org/harry) returns a page not found; it should be labour.org.uk.

Just in case there was any uncertainty, here is a reminder: no political party is planning to shut down the NHS. No political party is plotting to take the whole service out of public ownership and privatise it. There is no reason whatsoever to suggest the NHS won’t exist for our children or grandchildren. In fact, Labour and the Conservatives have both signed up Simon Stevens’ Five Year Forward Plan. Creating a video that suggests otherwise is dishonest.

It’s also worth noting this video comes from a party which has complained that the Tories are running a negative campaign. In 2013, Ed Miliband told the Daily Mirror ‘They don’t have anything positive to offer the country and so they will resort to a dirty and negative campaign.’ He told the Evening Standard, ‘the next election can’t be fought in the gutter’. Miliband also attacked the ‘threats’ and ‘scare stories’ from the energy companies over his price freeze cap. Now his party is doing the same for the NHS.