In a letter addressed to party members this morning he said he knew ‘that many Lib Dem activists know in their heart of hearts that this Bill is bad for the NHS’ and ‘ to tell that truth to power’ at their spring conference in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.
He said it was ‘not too late’ for the two parties to work together after they failed to join forces when Lady Williams argued the competition parts of the Bill should be deleted three weeks ago. Mr Burnham described this in the letter as ‘frustrating’ and claimed there was a ‘fair chance’ their joint efforts could have enabled it to be deleted.
He added: ‘Parliament is sleepwalking into the looming disaster for the NHS of this defective Bill entering the statute book but it is within your power to stop it.
‘It is clear that many prominent Liberal Democrats, in private if not in public, consider this Bill to be a dud. I feel certain that the long-term best interests of your party are better served by acknowledging that and doing something about it, rather than acting out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to the coalition.
‘We are disappointed by this week’s events in the Lords. We feel many of your peers and MPs have let you down. But next week we are giving the Commons a final chance to drop the Bill.
‘The truth is Labour’s narrow political interests are probably best served by the coalition simply ploughing on with this disastrous Bill. But, even so, I desperately want them to stop.
‘It probably goes without saying that you didn’t agree with everything Labour did in government. The NHS isn’t perfect but, by the time we left government, it was judged one of the world’s best healthcare system with the lowest ever waiting lists and highest ever patient satisfaction. This NHS model which your party helped conceive isn’t broken. In fact, it’s the envy of the world.’