In a serious of astonishing remarks, Nigel Farage’s top aide Matthew Richardson condemned the NHS as “the biggest waste of money in the UK”
Nigel Farage’s right-hand man has branded the NHS “the biggest waste of money in the UK” and compared the health service to Nazi Germany.
In a series of astonishing remarks, Ukip general secretary Matthew Richardson condemned the NHS and called for it to be privatised.
His comments – made to an American audience and revealed by the Sunday Mirror – will be a huge embarrassment to leader Mr Farage, who is now facing calls to axe his Mr Richardson.
A City barrister hired by Ukip to keep “bad stuff” out of the media, bespectacled Mr Richardson, 34, explosively compared the NHS – cherished by millions as Britain’s greatest post-war achievement – to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Speaking at two events for right-wing activists in Washington, he launched a ferocious attack on the service, blaming it for much of the nation’s debts.
He said: “A number I couldn’t possibly imagine when I was younger is now the amount of money that is owed by my country… of course, at the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism, is the National Health Service.
“And that is why socialised health care is so dangerous – because it is a ratchet. Once it is in place it is very, very hard to get rid of.”
He also launched a vitriolic attack on taxpayer-funded cosmetic surgery.
“I promise I’m not making this up – breast augmentation, hymen repair for those who want to be born-again virgins, is paid for by the National Health Service,” he told his audience of young Americans.
“If you have low self-esteem you get new breasts, but if you are dying of breast cancer you can’t have the treatment you need to stay alive. “
He added: “Socialists think that if somebody wants to reassign their gender the state should pay, they think that’s how the world works. So if you love she-males come to the United Kingdom, if you love freedom – stay here.”
The Reichstag bunker was the air-raid shelter in Berlin which became the infamous heart of the Nazi regime at the end of the World War Two. It was where Hitler married Eva Braun in 1945 before the pair committed suicide.
The emotive comparison will infuriate hardworking doctors and nurses.
One veteran nurse stormed: “We save lives every day. Is this Ukip character seriously comparing us to one of the world’s mass murderers?”
In his speech in 2010 to Young America’s Foundation Conservative Student Conference in Washington, Mr Richardson also said the NHS was the “sacred cow of British politics” – but that he hoped David Cameron would start privatising it.
Referring to Labour, Mr Richardson sneered: “This socialist Government wastes money like you can’t imagine. They have started doing every wasteful scheme under the sun.”
In a second speech in Washington at the Conservative Political Action Conference that same year Mr Richardson repeated his claim that the NHS was a massive drain on resources.
He said to the applause of his audience: “The biggest waste of money of course in the United Kingdom is the NHS.”
His comments will pile the pressure on Ukip about its plans for the health service – despite its claims that it is opposed to privatisation.
The revelation is a gift to Labour ahead of Mr Farage’s planned appearance on tomorrow’s Andrew Marr show on BBC1.
Shadow Minister without Portfolio Jon Trickett called on Mr Farage to sack Mr Richardson, or come clean and admit that Ukip backs an NHS sell-off.
“Either Nigel Farage supports this or Mr Richardson cannot stay in post,” he said. “Nigel Farage cannot simultaneously defend these comments and claim that his party stands for the NHS free at the point of use.
“The man chosen by Nigel Farage to control Ukip’s image has compared the NHS to Hitler’s Nazi bunker.”
He went on: “This is Ukip’s real agenda on the NHS. They claim to defend the service we cherish, but they want to dismantle its foundations.
“UKIP can no longer attempt to fool people. They are a party of Tory people, Tory money and they want to extend the worst Tory policies, which would have horrific effects on working people.”
Mr Richardson sat alongside Nigel Farage at the launch of UKIP’s local election campaign in 2012.
And he was one of only two officials to accompany the party leader to the House of Commons to see Tory turncoat Douglas Carswell introduced as a Ukip MP last October.
Labour faces a battle to stop disenchanted voters switching their support to Ukip, best known for its hardline policies on immigration and Europe.
Labour strategists plan to draw the contrast between Mr Richardson’s remarks on the NHS and their 10-year plan for the health service, to be unveiled on Tuesday.
Labour will also release a video of Mr Richardson’s NHS remarks, as well as launching a website called meetnigelfarage.com which invites voters to read Mr Farage’s words and make their own judgements.
Ironically, Mr Richardson was appointed as UKIP’s ruling general secretary in 2013 to keep bad news about the party buried.
Leaked minutes from the party’s ruling national executive committee reveal: “We need to ensure all of the bad stuff is kept out of the public domain. As party secretary [Mr Richardson] would try to ensure that we keep a tight rein on things.”
His remarks on the NHS are a major embarrassment to Mr Farage, who was himself forced to deny he backed privatising the NHS after remarks he made in 2012 were made public.
Mr Farage was caught on camera telling supporters that the state-funded NHS should move towards an insurance-based system run by private companies like in the US.
Earlier this month Ukip’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall insisted: “It might be better if you brought in a private company who you could hire and fire on results.”
And today the party’s health spokeswoman, MEP Louise Bours, gaffed by admitting: “I have no experience in health whatsoever.”
Tonight a Ukip spokesman said Mr Richardson was “specifically talking about the growth of middle management which had not reflected a growth in health outcomes”.
Responding to calls to sack him, he added: “It’s none of Labour’s business who we employ or don’t employ.”
It’s an unusually candid way to begin a political interview.
“One thing that irritates me more than anything, and you see so much of it the higher up the political hierarchy you go, that’s it’s full of a load off… people who aren’t particularly honest, let’s put it that way,” says Louise Bours, Ukip MEP for the North-west and the party’s official health spokesperson.
“I like people to be straight with me, I don’t like all this…shenanigans in the background, I’d rather people be honest and up-front and I always try to answer things very honestly.
“So, honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever,” she says.
To be fair, most Health Secretaries could – and perhaps should – have said the same when they started the job.
Ms Bours, a former actress, mother-of-two and town councillor in her native Cheshire, was sent to Brussels with 23 other MEPs in Ukip’s most successful ever election last May. She was chosen to be the party’s health lead last summer. Having been a relative unknown among the Ukip ranks, she was projected into the national spotlight this week after Nigel Farage told the BBC that the idea of replacing the NHS with an insurance-based system was “a debate that we’re all going to have to return to”.
Ms Bours immediately issued a statement distancing herself and the party, reiterating that she and “the majority of Ukip members” support a state-funded NHS: a commitment she says will be in the party’s manifesto. “That is not going to change at all, no matter what Nigel’s personal opinion is,” she says.
It is not the only issue on which she disagrees with Mr Farage. The day before we meet, Parliament has pushed ahead with legislation to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. Mr Farage, perhaps the country’s most photographed smoker, called the policy “counter to freedom”.
Ms Bours begs to differ. “This is a personal opinion I’m giving now, because it’s not something I’ve looked at yet. It’s not something I’ve talked about with my group yet,” she says. “I listened to a doctor this morning, from Christie’s [the cancer hospital] – that’s the kind of person I want to listen to. He felt it worked… he’s a guy, a top oncologist, a top anti-smoking expert telling me that.”
She is also a fierce advocate of the smoking ban, but does back the party’s policy of providing ventilated smoking rooms in pubs and clubs.
“I love the smoking ban. Absolutely love it… Who wouldn’t think it’s a good thing? Except smokers…except Nigel,” she says, with a hearty laugh.
She bristles when reminded of Mr Farage’s views on HIV and migration. In an interview last year, Mr Farage said that he wanted to control “the quality” of people allowed to live in the UK – and suggested “people who do not have HIV” as an example. “I’ve looked at Australia’s minimum health standard…they exclude people with long-term medical conditions and I think you have to look at those kind of things,” Ms Bours says. “HIV is rather a bad example though, to be honest. HIV is managed now, isn’t it. As somebody with personal experience, through very dear friends, HIV is a bad example… I know perfectly helpful, fabulous folk… I think it was an unfortunate example that he used.”
Between Ms Bours in one corner, and Mr Farage in the other, what health policies have made it into the manifesto? Much cannot be discussed until it is finally approved by the party’s National Executive Committee. However, Ms Bours can confirm that improving care of the elderly would be a key priority, with a single funding pot combining NHS and council money to pay for services outside of hospital.
NHS management posts would be slashed, as will the burden of “bureaucracy” for GPs, and hospital watchdogs the CQC and Monitor would be abolished in favour of local “health boards” led by clinicians who would be responsible for care standards.
NHS spending, Ms Bours says, should be protected.
Immigration, she believes, has impacted on NHS services in some parts of the country, but not others. She insists that Ukip border policies would not hurt the NHS workforce. “What we want is highly skilled, highly qualified doctors and nurses. Now if they come from Basingstoke, fabulous, but again if they come from Brazil, that’s fabulous too.”
It is certainly hard to doubt her passion for the NHS. And on the importance of state-funding over an insurance system, she couldn’t be clearer. “When my youngest was poorly, it was a time when money was tight. Thinking back now, if I had had to think about: ‘Oh no, I’ve got to ring an insurance company’ … the stress of that on top of the stress of what was going on with my daughter – to inflict that on people is just terrible. To my mind, state-funded means: people don’t ever need to worry.” Whether her party is with her on that, only time will tell.
Less than four months before the general election, the UK Independence party’s manifesto is “just a series of bullet points”, according to one official, prompting the party to appoint a new head of policy.
The delay matters because Ukip support has surged and polls suggest the party may enter the next parliament with several MPs, prompting greater than usual interest in its election promises.
Senior Ukip figures say their manifesto may not be ready to publish at the Ukip spring conference on February 27-28 and have expressed concern at the slow pace of work on it.
Ukip confirmed on Tuesday that it was removing Tim Aker, the head of policy, from his role overseeing the drafting of the manifesto.
Neither Mr Aker nor a party spokesman replied to a request for comment. But Suzanne Evans, the former deputy chair who has been brought in to replace him, told the FT: “Tim Aker is an MEP, fighting for a seat in Thurrock and now a local councillor too. He was delighted to hand over the manifesto process.”
One person involved in the preparation of the manifesto said: “It will be largely ready by the spring conference, but perhaps not in full written form. It is going to take a lot of hard work to get to that point though.”
Another said: “A lot of people got irritated with Tim throwing his weight around. All he has for a manifesto at the moment is a series of bullet points, not a proper document at all.”
Ukip’s policy process has been particularly challenging for this election, because party leader Nigel Farage disowned every policy in the 2010 manifesto.
This included ideas such as a flat income tax of 31 per cent, a phasing out of national insurance, compulsory uniforms for taxi drivers and safeguarding British weights and measures.
The Financial Times revealed earlier this month that the party is planning a series of new policies, including ringfencing the National Health Service budget, raising the income tax threshold for lower earners and opposing a new runway at Heathrow.
But many details remain unclear, not least how the party would manage the economy and cut Britain’s gaping deficit.
Part of the delay is attributed to a split between those wanting to keep the party grounded in its libertarian roots and those wanting to push it towards more populist policy positions.
Those tensions erupted in public on Tuesday as senior party figures turned not only on Mr Aker, but on Mr Farage himself, who was quoted by the BBC saying the party should return to the debate over radical transformation of the NHS.
Mr Farage has previously advocated replacing the service with an insurance-based system, even though the party says it is committed to maintaining an NHS free at the point of delivery.
His words echo those of several officials, who have told the FT that maintaining the health service in its current form is only party policy “for now”
Louise Bours, Ukip’s health spokesman, made an unusual public attack on her party leader. She said: “Nigel is entitled to his opinion and others are entitled to theirs, . . . [but] I am certain that if the party discuss it again, we will reject it again. The vast majority of Ukip members, the British public and I will always favour a state-funded NHS.”
Another senior party official expressed irritation that Mr Farage would speak openly about such a possibility so close to the election. The person said: “Nigel has foot-in-mouth disease, he just can’t help himself.”
The row encapsulates what some in the party have billed the split between the “blue-collar kippers” and the “uber-libertarians”, as the party tries to win over disaffected Labour voters.
Internal rows suggest the party is struggling with pressure in run-up to the general election
Ukip is facing pre-election turmoil after policy differences and personality clashes burst into the open, with the party’s health spokeswoman slapping down Nigel Farage’s suggestion the NHS could eventually be privatised.
Amid signs of in-fighting and internal rivalry, a senior source admitted last night that the mood in Ukip’s higher echelons had become “scratchy and irritable” ahead of the 7 May ballots.
There is also dismay in parts of the party over the slow progress in compiling its manifesto, with the MEP responsible for drafting the document revealed to have recently relinquished responsibility for the task.
A fresh spotlight was shone on Ukip’s growing pains yesterday in a BBC interview when the party leader raised the prospect of ultimately replacing the state-funded NHS with an insurance-based healthcare system.
While stressing his party remained committed to healthcare free at the point of delivery, Mr Farage indicated it was “a debate that we are all going to have to return to” because of Britain’s rapidly ageing population.
Ukip’s health spokeswoman Louise Bours swiftly contradicted her leader as she insisted the vast majority of party members “will always favour a state-funded NHS”.
Ms Bours said: “Nigel is entitled to his opinion and others are entitled to theirs, we don’t whip people into all thinking the same thing, like the establishment parties.
“As he has said before, he raised the idea for discussion a while ago, the party discussed it and rejected it. I am certain that if the party discuss it again, we will reject it again.”
The clash followed the disclosure that Suzanne Evans, Ukip’s deputy chairwoman, had taken over the writing of the party’s manifesto from the Euro-MP Tim Aker.
He was reported to have fallen behind with completing the final draft, leading to protests from candidates that they were struggling to answer voters’ questions on the doorstep.
The party dismissed claims he had been sacked as “complete tosh” and said he had asked about 10 days ago to be relieved of the duty, although sources acknowledged Mr Aker had been behind schedule as he attempted to juggle his other jobs as an MEP, councillor and parliamentary candidate.
Work on the manifesto was also affected by the furore surrounding the party’s general secretary, Roger Bird, who was cleared internally of a sexual harassment allegation but stood down from his post by mutual consent.
Meanwhile, the party has been hit by a farcical series of events over its choice of a candidate in the Essex seat of South Basildon and East Thurrock. Kerry Smith – who was selected after the former MP Neil Hamilton pulled out amid controversy over his expenses – was forced to quit over offensive remarks he made in a telephone call.
Evidence is also emerging of rival camps gathering around Mr Farage and Ukip’s first elected MP, Douglas Carswell. The MP for Clacton upset some party traditionalists with a call for it to be “inclusive” and is understood to be at odds with senior figures over health and defence policies.
EAST Lancashire Euro MP Louise Bours has called for an urgent drive to train more nurses in the UK.
She spoke out after a report for Health Service Journal showed almost three-quarters of hospital trusts have been driven to recruiting overseas.
The Blackburn college-educated UKIP health spokeswoman said: “While we have always had some foreign nurses working in the NHS, it is now getting out of control and we cannot go ignoring the situation.
“This shortage of home-grown registered nurses should never have been allowed to develop and cutting 10,000 training posts since the last General Election has plainly been a massive mistake.”
“ I believe one of the ways to address this is to scrap the insistence on university degrees.
“Recruiting staff from abroad carries the inherent risk that poor English skills could lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. It also adds to the costs of recruitment, money which should be spent on training and paying British nurses.”