Every politician likes to tell a backstory, but few current politicians have one as vivid as Wes Streeting’s.
The Labor Party’s health spokesman, who could be just a year away from taking a cabinet position, was raised in a council home by a single mother (daughter of a suspected armed robber) before studying at the University of Cambridge, where he came out as gay. And he has been successfully treated for cancer.
The 40-year-old, widely touted as a future leader, must also be the only senior politician whose parents are still in their 50s: he was born when his mother was 17 and his father 18.
Today he speaks to me in a green corner of his Ilford North constituency about Labour’s plans for the NHS, including promises to end 8am phone jams for GP appointments and increase the number of doctors .
It also opens a new front of attack against Rishi Sunak by accusing the Prime Minister of an “appalling” record with women.
Mail on Sunday political editor Glen Owen (left) interviews Labor Health Secretary Wes Streeting (right).
Labour’s recent advert accusing Sunak of not wanting child sex abusers sent to prison has divided the party. Many MPs complain that it combines injustice (its statistics include those from a five-year period when Sunak was not even an MP) with implicit racism.
Streeting, who is prolific on social media, evidently did not retweet the ad, but in the interview he strongly endorses it. Explaining that he didn’t retweet it because he was “on vacation,” he says: “I totally support it.” I think it is absolutely right that the Labor Party takes off the gloves and holds Rishi Sunak to account. How many times do people retweet positive Labor Party ads? How many times was that ad retweeted?
When asked the trans question of the day about the percentage of women who believe they have a penis (Sir Keir Starmer recently said 99.9 per cent don’t, while Sunak put the figure at 100 per cent), the Tony Blair’s disciple takes a turn. worthy of the hero of him.
“It’s nice that Rishi Sunak is giving himself a pat on the back because he understands GCSE biology well,” he says. ‘But if he knows what a woman is, why does he let so many of his rapists go free?
‘If Rishi Sunak knows what a woman is, why do so few women receive a diagnosis of endometriosis in a reasonable period of time? And if Rishi Sunak knows what a woman is, why do so many pregnant women end up on the day of delivery being sent to another hospital because the maternity unit they were admitted to was overwhelmed? His record with women is atrocious.
And he adds: ‘I agree with Keir Starmer: biology is biology. Men have penises, women have vaginas. That’s the biology lesson. But I think what Keir is also right to recognize is that there are people in this country who are trans, who experience gender dysphoria, and who deserve dignity and respect, and… (we should) not use them as political punching bags in the way I think the conservatives have done it.
Given the structural advantage Labor traditionally enjoys in NHS polls, some in the party have argued that putting someone of Streeting’s prowess in the portfolio is like putting Lionel Messi in front of an open goal. They believe she should instead fight on the battlefield of Internal Affairs, where the dour Yvette Cooper fails to electrify her rule.
Wes Streeting (pictured), 40, widely touted as a future leader, must also be the only frontline politician whose parents are still in their 50s: he was born when his mother was 17 and his father 18.
Meanwhile, two years ago, Streeting experienced the NHS first-hand when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She is now free of the disease and says the experience showed her the best service in many ways.
He tells me: ‘When I got the diagnosis, this Rolls-Royce machine went into action. I received incredible treatment from one of the best kidney cancer surgeons in the world and the best part was that I never had to worry about the bill at any time. I think it is something wonderful and precious. But I also saw the worst of the NHS.”
Blair failed to prevent the NHS from becoming a national money pit, despite the advantage of a 179-seat majority. So why should we trust that a Starmer administration will succeed where he failed?
Streeting says: “When the Labor Party was in government, we produced the shortest waiting times and highest patient satisfaction in the history of the NHS. Things improved under the last Labor government and I think the truth is that it only improved can trust Labor to not only get the NHS crisis under control but to ensure we have an NHS fit for the future.
‘I have been very candid about the fact that it will take time, but also that the NHS needs to change. It’s not just about money, it’s about the shape of the NHS, to ensure we have a modern health service that can meet the needs of Britain for the next 75 years and doesn’t preserve the NHS on an aspic.’
He adds: ‘One of the big changes I want to see is a shift in the focus of healthcare away from hospitals and towards the community. Also that we are supporting people to be fit, active and healthy.’
Streeting is careful not to openly criticize the Prime Minister for using a private GP. “What I would say to Rishi Sunak is that if you want to use a private GP that’s up to you, but the least you can do as Prime Minister is make sure that people who can’t afford to pay to go private have access to an NHS GP as quickly as you have access to a private one.
Speaking from a converted barn in Hainault Forest, Streeting tries to sound optimistic about Labour’s shrinking lead in the polls, which in some polls has more than halved to just 11 points.
He says: “I think we knew that some of the frankly wild polls predicting a Parliament with more than 500 Labor MPs were fantasies.” – and I think we’re more grounded in the day-to-day reality with the conversations we have with voters at the door. “We know that the work is not done, that the next elections are not scheduled, so we are not complacent.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (left) during a visit to Peterborough City Hospital in Cambridgeshire on March 9 this year.
He hopes Starmer will give him “at least a full mandate” in his current portfolio if the party wins a majority. But if the Labor leader fails at the next election, Streeting will be a favorite to succeed him, and the publication of his memoir, One Boy, Two Bills and a Fry Up, in June will not hurt those ambitions.
“It’s really a story about how a working-class kid from a council estate in the East End, with grandparents who spent time in prison, managed to overcome all the obstacles and obstacles.
“To the extent that there is politics, the only thing I reflect on in the book is how it was that someone from my environment was given the opportunities that I had to reach Parliament today, because my mission and ambition in politics have always been It’s been about how to make sure that working class children have the same fair opportunities.
“It’s partly because I’ve always had a bit of a mood that says, ‘Well, if you can do it, I can do it, too, and just because I went to public school doesn’t mean I can’t achieve as much as a student.'” “I went to a private school.” I’ve always had that. I think it has been very useful to me.’