Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over the NHS in what was likely the last PMQs before the Christmas election.
Britain’s EU exit has dominated politics in recent weeks and PMQs was expected to be no different ahead of the 12 December poll that is designed to break the Brexit deadlock in parliament.
But in a reminder that Brexit won’t be the only issue that decides who will occupy Downing Street after polling day, it was the NHS that was the focus of the exchanges.
The prime minister said Labour would put the health service at risk because the opposition would “wreck” the economy.
Mr Johnson said the “stark choice” facing voters was between the “politics of protest” offered by Mr Corbyn and the “politics of leadership” he said was on offer with the Tories.
But the Labour leader said the public now had a “chance to vote for real change” after nine years of the Conservatives in power – five of them in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said voters “deserve better than a choice between the two tired old parties”.
PMQs began with tributes being paid to departing Speaker John Bercow, before the Labour leader went on the attack over the NHS.
Mr Corbyn told MPs that Mr Johnson wanted to “sell out” the health service in order to get a trade deal with Donald Trump.
He said this would mean “yet more National Health Service money being siphoned off into private profit”.
The Labour leader cited a documentary from Channel 4’s Dispatches, which reported that the price the NHS pays for US medicines has been discussed in six meetings between trade officials from both countries.
Mr Corbyn added: “Why did the prime minister say the health service wasn’t on the table in any post-Brexit trade deal?”
The PM said it was “very simple”, the NHS “is not on the table”.
Mr Johnson added that the government had put a “stupendous” amount of money into the health service.
But Mr Corbyn said patients “continue to suffer” as the government has “secret meetings with US corporations”.
This prompted the PM to accuse the Labour leader of being “phobic” of American companies.
Mr Corbyn kept up the pressure by raising NHS shortages and waiting times, before asking Mr Johnson how he had the “brass neck” to defend the government’s record.
He used a letter from a woman whose mother died in February to try and illustrate his point, saying her passing was “as a direct result of the GP shortage in the UK”.
The PM said his government “would deal with the woman’s concerns” – and claimed the number of doctors and nurses on wards had risen since 2010.
He then broadened his attack on Mr Corbyn, telling MPs: “It is time to differentiate between the politics of protest and the politics of leadership.”
Dismissing the Labour leader as an “Islingtonian protester”, the PM continued: “Leadership means standing up for the people of this country, standing up for our police, standing up for our NHS, making sure it gets the funding that it needs and standing up for our economy and wealth creators.
“Above all it means getting Brexit done and ending the dither and delay.
“The time for protest is over, it’s time for leadership – and that is what this government provides.”
Hitting back, Mr Corbyn urged voters to opt for “real change” on 12 December, following “years of Conservative and Lib Dem cuts, privatisation and tax handouts for the richest, this government that has put our NHS into crisis”.
He continued: “This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to end privatisation in our NHS, give it the funding it needs and give it the doctors, the nurses, the GPs and all the other staff that it needs.”
Mr Corbyn added that the NHS was “up for grabs” in a “Trump-style trade deal”, telling MPs: “Our health service is in more danger than at any other time in its glorious history because of his government, his attitudes and the trade deals he wants to strike.”
Written by Laura
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