Johnson on Defensive Over Boy on NHS Hospital Floor: U.K. Votes

Alex Morales, Greg Ritchie and Tim Ross

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced onto the defensive over the U.K.’s National Health Service after a newspaper published a picture of a 4-year-old child being treated for pneumonia on the floor of a hospital emergency room.

Johnson initially refused to look at a picture of the boy when confronted with it in an ITV interview, but later apologized for the poor treatment and said only his Conservatives could solve the free-to-use health system’s problems. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson’s party had failed to properly support the NHS during its nine years in power and pledged to increase investment.

Must Read: Britain’s Latest Battle of Hastings Is Really About the Economy

For more on the election visit ELEC.

Key Developments:

Labour’s John McDonnell lays out Labour’s early priorities in speech in LondonJohnson denies knowledge of online tricks ahead of Thursday’s voteLabour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeals for support for the NHS at rally in BristolThe BBC will hold a Question Time debate for an audience of under-30s to be broadcast at 8.30 p.m.The chance of a Conservative majority has risen to 80% -- the highest level so far -- according to Betfair

Health Secretary ‘Horrified’ by Hospital Photo (5 p.m.)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock apologized for the hospital treatment of four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr, who was taken to the emergency department with suspected pneumonia and photographed lying on a pile of clothes on the floor because no bed was available (see 2:45 p.m.).

Hancock said in a broadcast interview that he was “horrified” when he saw the photo.“It’s not good enough and I’ve apologized.”

Hancock said Leeds General Hospital had already realized there was problem with space on the unit and had committed to trebling its size next year. He denied the situation was a result of under-funding by Conservative governments, but rather a result of increased demand on the NHS.

Corbyn Blames Tories for Child on Floor (3 p.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn blamed Boris Johnson’s Tories for causing the crisis in the National Health Service that saw a 4-year-old boy being treated for pneumonia on the floor of an emergency department (see 2:45 p.m.).

“The Tories have had nine years to fund the NHS properly, it’s time to bring their regime to an end,” Corbyn said at a rally in Bristol, western England, as he questioned Johnson’s commitment to the U.K.’s free-to-use health service. “Elect a Labour government that’s determined to fund it properly.”

Corbyn also repeated his claims the NHS is under threat in a trade deal with the U.S. after Brexit and warned that Johnson would “sell-out” the widely loved service by allowing access for U.S. corporations and pharmaceutical companies.

Johnson Takes Reporter’s Phone in NHS Row (2:45 p.m.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced questions all day over the case of four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr, who was taken to the emergency department with suspected pneumonia.

The boy became an instant symbol of the pressures on the National Health Service after he was photographed in a newspaper lying on a pile of clothes on a hospital floor because no bed was available.

On Monday, Johnson was asked for his reaction to the photograph during an interview with ITV News journalist Joe Pike. Johnson said he hadn’t seen the picture, so Pike showed it to him on his phone. The premier then took Pike’s phone and put it in his pocket, declining to look at the image.

“I’ll study it later,” Johnson said. Later, he gave the journalist back his phone and said he was sorry for the ordeal the boy had suffered.

“It’s a terrible, terrible photo and I apologize obviously to the family and all those who have terrible experiences in the NHS,” Johnson said. “But what we are doing is supporting the NHS.”

Johnson Denies Knowledge of Web ‘Diversions’ (2:30 p.m.)

Boris Johnson was cornered by factory workers at a question-and-answer session in northeast England who asked him about allegations his Conservative Party paid Google to route searches for Labour’s manifesto to a fake website it set up to criticize the opposition party’s program.

Repeatedly asked about the claims, Johnson said he knew nothing about it and accused the other parties of trying to divert attention away from Brexit, which he described as the key issue in the election.

“We’re accused of interfering with the internet or whatever else, it might be a lot of distractions are being brought into this debate,” Johnson said. The other parties are “throwing up more diversions to conceal what this is all about,” he told staff.

The Conservatives ran into criticism in the first televised debate when they changed the name of their official twitter feed to look like a fact-checking service that was critical of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Johnson Says Nissan Safe After Brexit (2:15 p.m.)

Boris Johnson said the U.K.’s motor manufacturers will be protected after Brexit, suggesting their supply chains won’t be disrupted by Britain’s divorce from the European Union.

On a visit to Sunderland in northeast England, which is home to a Nissan factory that’s the country’s largest car-making plant, the premier was asked whether he can guarantee its continued existence.

“Of course. It’s absolutely vital we protect supply chains, we protect Nissan Motors, we make sure people continue to want to invest in our country,” Johnson said. “As we come out it’s all protected from the point of view of big motor manufacturing investors in our country.”

McDonnell: No Blank Check for Shareholders (11:45 a.m.)

Labour economy spokesman John McDonnell said the amount he would pay to nationalize key industries would not amount to a “blank check” for shareholders after he was asked if there was a price a Labour government would be unwilling to pay. He said he expects the process of bringing sectors under public control to be a “smooth transition.”

“We’ll go through the normal exercises every other element of private ownership have been done in the past,” he said. “Parliament will determine the price and bonds will be issued for shares.”

McDonnell: Won’t Be Capital Flight If Labour Win (11:35 a.m.)

John McDonnell rejected the idea there would be a run on the pound or capital flight if Labour wins Thursday’s election.

“In fact, my fear is the pound will start going up because of our investment plans,” McDonnell, Labour’s economy spokesman, said in response to a question at a campaign event in central London. “When Labour comes into power we’ll be implementing our manifesto, we’ll have a large-scale investment program where private investors will be able to get a decent rate of return, but we will not be ripped off.”

McDonnell took a swipe at the Tories’ economic record by referencing sterling’s performance under recent Conservative governments. The pound fell significantly in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum, and remained volatile as negotiations with the EU proceeded.

“It’s interesting when people start talking about runs on the pound and all the rest of it,” he said. “I’d just ask them to explore the recent history of the pound under the Tory government and suggest to commentators the instability brought about by a combination of incompetent management of the economy, exaggerated claims about what’s potentially available in terms of a Brexit deal, the threat of a no-deal.”

“The market recognizes we have a prime minister whose word cannot be trusted,” he said.

McDonnell Lays Out Labour’s First 100 Days (11:15 a.m.)

Labour economy spokesman John McDonnell said he would put forward a budget “which ends austerity once and for all” on Feb. 5, if his party wins. He also said Labour would start the process of bringing the water and energy sectors under public ownership within their first 100 days.

“This is the budget that will save the NHS, that starts to rebuild the public services the Tories have brought to their knees,” McDonnell said in a speech in a central London. “When they attack me, or Jeremy, we know it’s not really about us. It’s about you, they hate the people of this country.”

McDonnell also said he agreed with the DUP on the issue of Boris Johnson’s trustworthiness. “I agree with Arlene Foster -- you won’t hear those words very often,” he said, in reference to the DUP leader saying Johnson broke his word on Brexit and cannot be trusted (see earlier). “You can’t trust him, you can’t trust a word he says,” McDonnell said.

Johnson: Tories Making Case in ‘Every Seat’ (9 a.m.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his Conservative party is trying to make the case for power in “every seat” as it seeks a majority in the House of Commons in Thursday’s general election.

In an interview with LBC radio from Grimsby, where the Conservatives are trying to take a seat from Labour, Johnson was asked if he wanted to break through Labour’s so-called red wall of seats in the Midlands and Northern England. “Of course, because we’re a one-nation Conservative Party and we want to make our case everywhere in the country,” Johnson replied.

Johnson’s travels in the final days of the campaign show the party is trying to secure seats that have been Labour preserves for decades, an illustration of how Brexit has changed Britain’s electoral politics.

Read more: Britain’s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy Corbyn

DUP’s Foster: Johnson Broke His Word (Earlier)

Democratic Unionist Party Leader Arlene Foster said Boris Johnson broke his word on Brexit and suggested she’d struggle to trust him in the future.

“It says more about the person who broke their word than me and the leadership of the unionist party,” Foster told BBC Radio when asked if voters should conclude she’d lost the fight for a Brexit deal that keeps Northern Ireland on the same terms as the rest of the U.K. On the subject of taking Johnson at his word in the future, she said: “Once bitten, twice shy.”

She said contrary to the premier’s assurances, tax officials told her team the Brexit deal would necessitate checks on goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland -- regardless of whether they were destined for Ireland. She said she’d listened to Rishi Sunak on the radio just before her own interview (see earlier). “He very carefully didn’t say that there would be unfettered access” for trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, Foster said.

Minister Sees EU Trade Deal Ready by 2021 (Earlier)

The U.K. will meet its deadline to broker a new trade agreement with the European Union by the end of 2020, meaning there’s no need to prepare for a no-deal exit, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak said. He said the outline of the deal is already enshrined in the withdrawal agreement.

“The trade deal, the outlines of it, the framework of it, is already there, contained in the political declaration in quite a lot of detail,” Sunak told BBC radio. “We can go on and sort the details of that over the course of next year.”

He also pushed back against the suggestion that new trade barriers will be put up between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. “The prime minister has been unequivocal,” he said. “There will not be checks, there will be no new barriers to trade.”

McDonnell Challenged by Billionaire Caudwell (Earlier)

Labour’s finance spokesman John McDonnell was challenged in a radio conversation with billionaire Phones4U Co-founder John Caudwell, who accused the main opposition party of “destroying confidence.” Caudwell said he and other wealthy people were likely to leave the country if Labour won Thursday’s election, because of the party’s “destructive” rhetoric.

Labour, Caudwell said, would “create an environment where wealthy people feel like they’re almost pariahs.”

McDonnell replied that Labour was not against entrepreneurs and that all the party wanted to do was create a fair society and end “grotesque” inequality. “We’ve had a lot of discussion about how we redistribute wealth; we need to have a proper discussion about how we create it,” he said.

Swinson Swings Back to People’s Vote (Earlier)

Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson said her party is publishing legislation to pave the way to a second referendum on European Union membership so Parliament can act quickly after the election.

“The most likely way we can stop Brexit is through a people’s vote,” Swinson told BBC Radio on Monday. “There’s a much brighter future ahead if we are able to remain in the European Union.”

It’s a change of direction for the Liberal Democrats, who have campaigned on a platform to cancel Brexit altogether -- though Swinson said that remains the policy in the event of a Liberal Democrat majority. She also reiterated she would not support Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, but held out the prospect that in a hung parliament, the Labour leader might change.

Earlier:

Johnson Returns to Key Brexit Message as Polls Put Him AheadRemainers’ Dreams Are Dying in Boris Johnson’s Brexit ElectionBritain’s Latest Battle of Hastings Is Really About the Economy

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.net;Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny

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