GP backed to fight Jeremy Hunt by 'unprecedented' cross-party alliance

GP campaigner Dr Louise Irvine has been backed by members of four political parties to run for election against health secretary Jeremy Hunt in the general election.

Dr Louise Irvine: campaigning against Jeremy Hunt (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Louise Irvine: campaigning against Jeremy Hunt (Photo: JH Lancy)

Dr Irvine, who came fourth in the 2015 race in the health secretary’s South West Surrey constituency will again challenge Mr Hunt on the government’s record on the NHS.

The south London GP and GPC member will stand as the National Health Action (NHA) party candidate with the support of local members of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties.

The so-called ‘progressive alliance’ campaign is also backed by Compass, a centre-left thinktank.

The doctor-led NHA party opposes privatisation, competition, PFI and cuts in the health service and the current move towards accountable care systems.

Read more: Dr Louise Irvine on the 2015 campaign trail

Dr Irvine, who led the successful campaign against government plans to downgrade hospital services in Lewisham where she works, was overwhelmingly adopted as the progressive alliance candidate at a cross-party meeting on Saturday.

She told GPonline her campaign represented an ‘unprecedented’ alliance of local progressives. She said the local Labour party and a large section of the Liberal Democrats, including a local councillor, were supporting her, while the Greens agreed not to stand a candidate. Labour is still running a candidate, which Dr Irvine said had been imposed on the local party by the national organisation.

Media reports last month suggested local Labour members could defy their party by backing a ‘progressive alliance’ candidate to unseat Mr Hunt.

Mr Hunt was elected in 2015 with a majority of more than 34,000 ahead of Ukip. In previous years the Liberal Democrats were close behind the Tories.

Dr Irvine said she wanted to ‘hold Jeremy Hunt to account’ for his treatment of the NHS and ‘alert people to the risks of another five years of Tory government, what it will do to the NHS and to society as a whole, which I think is extremely worrying’.

NHS march

The GP, who helped organise the massive demonstration in defence of the NHS in March, said she would stand on a platform which raises issues of concern for all the parties backing her. ‘I will be talking about NHS and social care cuts but also education cuts, the degradation of the environment and the housing crisis, growing inequality due to austerity and the impact of that on the health and wellbeing of everybody’, she said.

Dr Irvine said that while South West Surrey would be seen as relatively wealthy, there were people there suffering the same effects of government policy as people elsewhere.

Dr Irvine called on fellow GPs and other NHS supporters to give their support to the campaign. ‘We want a massive presence, we already have junior doctors and nurses saying they will support the campaign,’ she said.

She said the campaign was a ‘progressive alliance on the ground, where it matters’. ‘We recognise we have more that unites us that divides us.'

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