THE St Helens South and Whiston Conservative general election candidate has branded Labour’s claims of the National Health Service being for sale as “absolute nonsense”.

Richard Short is contesting the seat held by Labour’s Marie Rimmer in the December 12 election.

Mr Short grew up in council estates in in Corby, Wellingborough and Leigh and is the deputy director of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

READ MORE > 21 questions with Conservative candidate Richard Short

He stood as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Warrington North in 2015.

The NHS has been one of the issues in the election campaign, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn last week claiming he had a dossier showing initial talks had taken place, proving the NHS was "for sale".

Mr Short described the claims as “nonsense.”

He said: “We have been looking after the NHS for longer than the labour Party and I cannot remember a single general election where they haven’t said ‘save the NHS’.

“The very soul of the NHS didn’t start with the Labour Party. The very words ‘National Health Service’ were coined by Sir Henry Willink in 1944.

“The focus should be on the healthcare and that’s where our Conservative polices come from, free at the point of use regardless of income. It goes right back to Sir Henry Willink’s first principles. It’s a very conservative thing to have a workforce that is the engine and the backbone of your economy.

“What the NHS needs is a focus on healthcare and it’s getting record funding now to do that and then it is over to the NHS itself.

“Any idea of sale for the NHS is just absolute nonsense. I’ll give you his pledge sincerely. If I was ever to go to my GP and I was given a bill for it and told to pay for it I would leave the Conservative Party.”

St Helens Star:

Mr Short, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Mr Short said the main message he has been hearing from residents on the doorstep is to “get Brexit done”.

Like all Tory candidates he has pledged, if elected, to pass Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement and believes this can offer economic benefits to residents in the town.

He said: “What I am hearing most of all is get Brexit done. It’s holding back so much of the things that we should be doing right now and the electorate are sensible enough to know that.

“In St Heles it was a vote to leave and I just feel for the people that voted leave. There is so much intransigence holding up the process to leave that we’ve ended up not leaving.”

“The main way (the Withdrawal Agreement) will benefit is by not being in the European Union we can implement laws that will directly benefit people in St Helens without looking over our shoulder wondering what the EU might think about it.

“Something the people of St Helens need to be aware of is five per cent of our VAT goes to the European Union, we can’t reduce VAT any lower than five per cent and we can’t remove VAT from any product that already has VAT on there.

“By coming out we can immediately implement measures that mean we can reduce costs for people that need things currently subject to VAT that don’t need to be.”

Mr Short says, if elected, he would look to maximise St Helens’ “very high skill base”.

“The situation we have now is nothing like it was 30 years ago,” he said.

“Economic cycles and circumstances change. What does matter is how governments react to that.

“Back in the early 90s we had a good mining industry, the likes of Sutton Manor and we’ve got Pilkingtons as well. But the UK economy as a whole has been moving more towards a service economy.

“There has been a lot of criticism that we no longer have coal mining and Pilkingtons isn’t at the height it was, at least in manufacturing sense. But what we do have in St Helens is an awful lot of talent.

“There’s a very high skill base in St Helens so what I would be encouraging is to bring those skills into St Helens so that residents don’t have to go outside the area.

“That’s the sort of things I would encourage.

“At the time the coal mines closed, people were no longer working in the mines but actual unemployment has fallen in this constituency so the people have found jobs.

“I think what we should remember is if there were a massive coal mining industry now the market for coal would be very low because it’s not seen these days in being really savvy about climate change, coal isn’t the answer.

“I think we would have seen the decline anyway but it is how you react to that decline. St Helens has got its issues like many other communities, it’s how you tackle those issues that’s important.”