Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed as “nonsense” the controversy surrounding the provenance of leaked documents used by Labour as proof the Tories are planning to sell the NHS.
The Labour leader insisted the crucial consideration for the country was that the documents are evidence that the Government was at an advanced stage of negotiations with the US to open up the health service to American pharmaceutical companies.
The Government have never denied the authenticity of the 451 leaked pages that they refused to release to the public which detail trade discussions between UK and US officials then sent away for writing into treaty form.
Jeremy Corbyn revealed the trade documents to the public to show that Boris Johnson’s assurances about keeping the NHS safe in a post Brexit trade deal with the US could not believed, also revealing internal government documents showing that Johnson’s vows there would not be a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK could not be trusted.
But today Labour were attacked by the right wing media after social media platform Reddit said the US trade deal documents were disclosed as “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia”.
Labour responded with a call for transparency and for Boris Johnson to release the Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference which he has refused to publish until after the election despite questions about big Russian donations to the Tory party and the EU referendum.
In a statement, Reddit said its investigation had found a “pattern of co-ordination” between the now-banned accounts on its site and a Russian campaign uncovered by Facebook earlier this year. Information from the investigation into the “Secondary Infektion” campaign on Facebook was used to identify suspect accounts on Reddit. Reddit said that the US trade negotiation details had appeared on threads they had now banned.
Jeremy Corbyn was asked about the claims during a campaign visit to Barry, South Wales.
Boris Johnson is ‘sitting on’ report on Russian interference
He told reporters: “This is such nonsense. This is such an advanced stage of rather belated conspiracy theories by the Prime Minister.
“When we released the documents, at no stage did the Prime Minister or anybody deny that those documents were real, deny the arguments that we put forward, and if there has been no discussion with the USA about access to our health markets, if all that is wrong, how come after a week they still haven’t said that?
“The issues are that those documents show exactly what the British Government was doing in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration in the USA and also why the Prime Minister has refused to release the report on Russian interference in British politics, which he’s been sitting on for a very long time.”
He accused Boris Johnson of wanting to “hide the issues and the truth” over the future of the NHS in trade deals, adding: “We obtained those documents, we believe those documents to be correct, and nobody until yesterday had denied the correctness of those documents.
“The Prime Minister has answers to give, which he refuses to do, about Russian donations to the Tory Party or the report that he is sitting on about Russian interference in British politics.
“Of course there should be no interference in our British political system by Donald Trump or the Russians.”
Speaking at a news conference last month, Mr Corbyn said the 451 pages left Mr Johnson’s claim that the NHS would not be part of trade talks “in absolute tatters”.
The leaked papers evidenced months of negotiations with UK officials in which US pharmaceutical companies insisted on access to the NHS as well as patent extensions on medicines to be able to charge more for longer.
Reddit said the leaked files had first been posted in October and then reposted by a second account. Pockets of accounts had worked together to “upvote” the posts using vote manipulation to make them more visible to users of the platform, it added.
Johnson was asked about the dossier while visiting a Tory/Lib Dem marginal in Cheadle, near Stockport. “I’m afraid it was just another distraction from the void at the heart of Labour’s policy on Brexit and that still remains with five days to go until this crucial election,” he responded.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson expressed concern about claims of Russian involvement in the emergence of the documents.
“All of us should be concerned if a foreign country is trying to interfere in our democracy,” she said. “It is so appalling that the Prime Minister is sitting on a report that was written weeks before the General Election, that the Security Committee say should be published, into interference in UK democracy by foreign countries like Russia.
“He should have published that report. He is keeping it secret and it has to lead people to wonder what he has got to hide.”