Labour top team unites in bid to save Remain campaign
Show of unity as MPs told that Remain needs a 3 per cent swing among Labour voters to win.
Jeremy Corbyn has linked up with trade union chiefs to argue that Brexit would mean the end of the National Health Service in its present form.
In his starkest warning yet, the Labour leader said a vote to quit the EU would put the NHS "in the hands of those who want to break it up to end it as a service free at the point of use".
Corbyn was appearing with the entire shadow cabinet, members of Labour’s ruling body and trade union chiefs at an event in central London on Tuesday,
The event came amid mounting fears in the pro-EU camp that working class voters are switching to Leave as the referendum looms and polls are pointing towards a defeat for Remain. Labour MPs are understood to have been told today that Remain needs a a 3 per cent swing among Labour voters to win.
Corbyn's commitment to the cause has been repeatedly questioned, but he insisted: "I would not be voting for Remain if I thought there was any risk to our NHS whatsoever - the risk to the NHS is if we leave."
He said the health service was in crisis under the Conservatives, which "would be even worse if many on the Leave side had their way".
The Labour leader pointed to previous comments made by prominent Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove giving their backing to a US-style health insurance system.
He said: "A vote to Leave is a vote to put our NHS in jeopardy, in the hands of those who want to break it up to end it as a service free at the point of use."
Corbyn said Vote Leave's claim that Brexit would allow the UK to spend an extra £350 million a week on the NHS was "an outright lie".
"Does anyone really believe that those from the hard right of the Tories and Ukip would spend any extra funds on the NHS?" he asked.
And he branded Johnson and Ukip leader Nigel Farage as "wolves in sheep's clothing - using their fake concern for the NHS to mask their real agenda".
Leave.EU co-chairman Arron Banks later hit back at Corbyn with a colourful tirade.
The Conservative-turned-Ukip donor said: “You have to feel sorry for old Jez, really. Voted to leave in '75, voted against Maastricht, voted against Lisbon – but now the Blairites have got him supping cream from the same EU bowl as Cameron, Osborne and the crooked mega-banks who are the real fat cats in this referendum, drooling at the prospect of being able to buy up huge chunks of the health service after Brussels finalises its dodgy TTIP deal with the US.
“That's the real threat to the NHS, and I think we all appreciate that Jeremy knows it, really.”
But the Labour leader was backed up by TUC general secretary of Frances O’Grady, who also questioned the Brexiteers’ commitment to pouring money into the NHS.
She derided Johnson, Gove and Iain Duncan Smith as “fibbers, fakes and phoneys” and said they were on record as having suggested alternatives to the current system.
The TUC chief added: “When did their leading lights every give a toss about our NHS. The hard right Tories and Ukip … They love the NHS in a way that Dracula loves a blood bank.”
Similarly, Unison boss Dave Prentis said: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a campaign as deceitful as the one being waged by the leave campaign.
“These are the people we have been fighting tooth and nail. Michael Gove writes in books that [the NHS] is not fit for the 21st century … I’m sick of the British people being lied to.”
Picture by: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Press Association Images