Jon Ashworth was first elected as Labour MP for Leicester South in 2011, having previously worked as a political advisor to Gordon Brown. He has now become the new Shadow Minister for Heath — a position of considerable importance given the ongoing NHS crisis.
Locally, Mr Ashworth has been active in supporting a wide range of campaigns and he has not shied away from public protests. At a demonstration last month, Ashworth stated his commitment “today, tomorrow, and forever in fighting the closure of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning.”
With Leicester’s Glenfield Heart Centre also facing the axe, Mr Ashworth has rallied behind the ever-growing campaign to fight its closure. Therefore, his promotion as Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Health Secretary will certainly help Glenfield campaigners bring more pressure to bear upon our hated Tory government, in order to force NHS England to reverse their ill-informed decision to close our heart centre.
In 2014, Mr Ashworth made it clear that he was opposed to the “creeping privatisation” of the NHS and said that Labour would “repeal” the Tories Health & Social Care Act 2012.
Of course, profiteering from our NHS is an issue that has long been of central concern to the Leicester Campaign Against NHS Privatization, a group which prior to the last General Election called upon the Labour Party to support the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
This Bill proposed to fully restore our health service as an accountable public service by reversing 25 years of marketisation in the NHS. But sadly, at the time of the General Election, the Labour Party had refused to back the NHS Reinstatement Bill. That said, the initial tabling of the NHS Reinstatement Bill (in July 2015) was supported by both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
Now under Corbyn’s socialist leadership things are looking up, and this July Diane Abbott (the previous Shadow Health Secretary) spoke out publicly in defence of the NHS Reinstatement Bill for the first time. Backtracking from this public position of support for the Bill is therefore unlikely, but Labour’s backing for the Bill could certainly do with becoming more vocal.
Since adopting his new position, Mr Ashworth has already tweeted that “The NHS was and still is Labour’s greatest achievement. On the brink of crisis under the Tories & going backwards. We’ll be campaigning hard” (October 7).
This commitment to “campaigning hard” is certainly very welcome, and now I and many others will be looking forward to hearing what concrete plans Mr Ashworth has to kick the profiteers out of our NHS.
I will also be looking forward to hearing what plans Mr Ashworth has for helping to build public support for the little-known but critically important NHS Reinstatement Bill that local NHS campaigners have been assiduously promoting for so long.
Mr Ashworth’s wife, Emilie Oldknow, also holds much power with the Labour Party, and her formal title is Executive Director for Goverance, Membership & Party Services.