Trump: I have no thoughts about buying the NHS Donald Trump has sought to counter Labour claims that the NHS would be at risk under a UK-US trade deal by saying he would not want it even “on a silver platter”. With the election just over a week away, the Tories have been worried that…
Trump: I have no thoughts about buying the NHS
Donald Trump has sought to counter Labour claims that the NHS would be at risk under a UK-US trade deal by saying he would not want it even “on a silver platter”. With the election just over a week away, the Tories have been worried that any overt endorsement of Boris Johnson by the US president could backfire. But they have also been anxious for him to respond to Jeremy Corbyn’s much-repeated allegation (which clearly has some traction with the public) that a Trump trade deal would pose a threat to the NHS, particularly via possible higher drugs prices.
In an extended press briefing this morning, Trump staged an intervention in the election – while claiming to be doing the opposite – when he was asked if the NHS should be included in trade negotiations. He replied:
No, not at all, I have nothing to do with it. Never even thought about it, honestly … I don’t even know where that rumour started. We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn’t want to if you handed it to us on a silver platter, we want nothing to do with it.
This was, of course, disingenuous because one person who started the rumour was Trump himself, when he said in a press conference in the UK in June that “everything is on the table … NHS or anything else”. Given Trump’s reputation for honesty, his assurance may have little or no impact on public opinion, and it ignores the granular detail of how a trade deal could impact negatively on the British healthcare (which almost certainly would not involve US companies buying NHS hospitals). But, for the Conservatives, it is at least a quote they can use.
Trump: I also have no thoughts about the UK election
On broader electoral issues, Trump ostensibly avoided the temptation to take sides. He claimed he had “no thoughts” on the election and, although he said he thought Johnson was “very capable”, he said he could work with Corbyn if he became prime minister:
I can work with anybody. I’m a very easy person to work with. You wouldn’t believe it.
This was also disingenuous because, only a few weeks ago, Trump did have very clear thoughts on the election: he thought Corbyn would be “bad” for the UK, and he wanted Johnson to align with Nigel Farage. In a rare display of self-awareness, Trump also told the press today that intervening in the election would not be helpful because in Britain “they may not like me”.
During his day in London Trump also managed to send share prices falling around the world, by saying a trade deal with China might be more than a year away, and to traduce the French president, Emmanuel Macron (for being rude about Nato, of all things – even Trump himself once called it “obsolete”). So, on the Trump mayhem front, the UK got off quite lightly.
Corbyn has cast doubt on the plausibility of Trump’s NHS assurances and said he intends to take up the matter with the president at a reception at Buckingham Palace early this evening. As I write, it is not clear yet whether the two men will be able to have a proper conversation – or whether their encounter (if it happens at all) will not get beyond pleasantries.
Channel 4 has been cleared of bias by the media regulator after replacing Johnson with a melting block of ice during last week’s leadership debate on the climate crisis.
Nigel Farage has claimed that Johnson only became prime minister because he launched the Brexit party this year out of anger about Theresa May’s handling of Brexit. He may be right. A new biography of May claims that in private Johnson has said something similar.
Corbyn has apologised for antisemitic incidents involving Labour party members and said he was dealing with the issue.
A host of leading cultural figures including the actors Steve Coogan, Mark Rylance and Julie Christie, the grime artist Kano and the writer and environmentalist Naomi Klein have united to back Corbyn and praised Labour for prioritising “people and planet over profit”.
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