Jeremy Corbyn has attacked Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle as a “pointless PR exercise” that failed to make up for years of Tory failure.
In a New Year’s address to his MPs, the Labour leader said that the PM had tried to “dodge the real issues” and ridiculed name-changes for Government departments covering health and housing.
Corbyn told the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting in the Commons on Monday night that May was guilty of “breathtaking complacency”.
“In 2018, the impact of Tory austerity is hitting home with the public, most tragically with the most serious NHS winter crisis yet,” he said.
“And yet the government’s big plan for the New Year is to dodge the real issues and reshuffle the pack in a pointless and lacklustre PR exercise.
“It’s simply not good enough. You can’t make up for nearly eight years of failure by changing the name of a department.”
Corbyn hammered home the state of the NHS and the Government’s decision to cancel planned operations because of the acute pressures on hospitals.
“Back in the real world, outside Westminster, our health service is on its knees: with patients dying as they wait for ambulances to arrive, ambulances stacking up outside hospitals, and corridors full with trolleys and patients,” he said.
“Yesterday on the BBC’s Marr show, Theresa May said of the NHS crisis that ‘nothing is perfect’. That is breathtaking complacency and entirely unacceptable. When people are dying because of this government’s decisions, we know what it is that has to change.”
Corbyn spoke as Jeremy Hunt stayed on in his post, but with a new title of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
But the Government faced a fresh row as Health minister Philip Dunne dismissed reports of a lack of beds by saying ‘most hospitals have seats’ for those left waiting.
The Labour leader added that the Tories were guilty of a wider failure.
“Because of course we’re not only seeing growing problems across the NHS; the cost of travel is going up; our social security system is being dismantled; our housing crisis has been cruelly exposed by the terrible Grenfell Fire, and by the Conservatives in Windsor who want to sweep rough sleepers from the streets; and the Government’s threat to jobs and living standards from its chaotic Brexit negotiations.
“This weak and struggling government is causing untold damage – and we need to replace it as soon as is possible.
“So, as I said in my New Year message, we are staking out the new centre ground, as a Government in waiting. We are actively preparing for government and this week we have meetings for the whole frontbench to discuss those preparations.”