The Tory Party does have plans to close one of south London’s large NHS hospitals if they win the General Election on June 8 – that’s according to the Conservatives’ candidate in Croydon North.Samuel Kasumu made the stunning admission – coming after months of denials from Tory figures including health minister Jeremy Hunt and his local Conservative colleagues – at a hustings event where he insisted that Croydon’s Mayday Hospital “isn’t going anywhere”.
It is the first time that 29-year-old entrepreneur from north London has run for public office, and the implications of what he said exposed his rookie status as a politician. The schoolboy error by the Tories’ work experience candidate came, suitably enough, in front of an audience of pupils at St Joseph’s College in Upper Norwood.
At the debate, attended by the candidates for the constituency including Steve Reed OBE, who has been MP for Croydon North since 2012, Kasumu told the audience, “Steve and I both know which hospital is to close.”
When pressed to name the doomed hospital, Kasumu declined to elaborate.
Kasumu was responding to Reed’s assertions that the Tories have already agreed a further £36million-worth of NHS cuts in Croydon in the next year, which will see 1,000 nurses’ jobs axed.Reed also highlighted that under the Tories’ “sustainability and transformation partnerships”, or STP plan published for south-west London, one of five hospitals in the area is to close. St George’s in Tooting has protected status, but Mayday in Croydon, St Helier in Sutton and Epsom hospitals are among those which remain at risk of the axe.
Reed, who is defending a 21,364-vote majority from 2015, and Sarah Jones, Labour’s candidate seeking to win in neighbouring Croydon Central from Tory Gavin Barwell, have both made much of the STP report and the lingering threat to Mayday.
But in a coherently run NHS in south London, with growing demand for medical services, the closure of St Helier, too, would have a massively detrimental effect on hospital waiting lists and treatment times across the whole area.
In the Sutton seats, the Tories have repeatedly failed to guarantee St Helier’s future, and at a hustings event last night, Paul Scully, who was elected for the Conservatives in Sutton and Cheam in 2015, told the audience that he wants to see St Helier replaced with a £300million facility on the site of Sutton Hospital, a move which could also see Epsom Hospital replaced.
Last week’s slip of devastating NHS news from Kasumu, though, could end up damaging Tory prospects not only in Croydon North, but also in Barwell’s Croydon Central seat and in Carshalton and Wallington, where Conservative Matthew Maxwell-Scott is bidding to unseat LibDem Tom Brake.
The admission by Kasumu has been skilfully recorded and presented in this video prepared by pupils at St Joseph’s. The sequence in question comes at around 39minutes into the recording.
Kasumu starts off by highlighting the £21million being spent on the A&E unit at Mayday. He goes on to say, “Let me be absolutely clear as somebody who knows people in the current Government, Mayday Hospital is not going to be shut.
“Steve knows this as well.
“Would you put £21million into something you were going to close down?
“He and I know that hospital isn’t going anywhere. Steve and I both know which hospital is to close.”
The school audience was either too well-behaved, or just too stunned, to respond audibly to Kasumu’s casual attitude towards the latest Tory hospital closure.
One observer at the hustings said of Kasumu’s performance, “He was maybe showing his inexperience, trying to show off how clever he was. But he’s come unstuck by admitting something the Tories have been trying to deny for some time.
“In truth, he was all over the place on Tory policies, though who can blame him when his party leadership has been conducting U-turns with dizzying frequency?
“When he said he knew people in government, it sounded like he was boasting, showing off how important he is, when all he is really is just another member of a political party who happens to have been selected as a candidate in a seat where he has no chance of winning.”
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