Brown prioritises NHS

Gordon Brown has said improving the NHS will be his domestic priority as prime minister.

The chancellor, who will tour marginal constituencies later today, told the Today programme that healthcare will be his main domestic concern in power on the second day of his campaign for the Labour leadership.

He said improving access to healthcare outside normal working hours would be “serving the needs of the people” but avoided the suggestion that productivity within the NHS had fallen in the last decade.

“There is a huge debate about how you measure productivity. When I look at the health services that are provided at the local hospital, people see that they are better,” he said.

“We made mistakes. but with the health service, we’ve been trying to get an underinvested system into the modern world and we’ve had a great deal of success.”

On other issues, Mr Brown said he would “make my own assessment of the situation” in Iraq after consulting with army chiefs on the ground but said the fight against terror was vital for the “protection and security of people in this country”.

He appeared to backtrack on yesterday’s suggestion that the government’s support for ID cards was up for review, saying “we’re going through with the ID card plan”.

And he brushed off claims about his allegedly secretive work habits, saying “the style of government I want to see is open and accountable, a style of government for a new age”.

“I’m putting forward new ideas about how we can govern ideas but also about some of the policy directions we’ve got to take for the future,” he said.

“It’s an exciting time. a new opportunity both for me, politics and the country.”

Today’s focus on the NHS follows yesterday’s campaign launch by the chancellor, whose candidacy is unlikely to be threatened by either left-wing favourites Michael Meacher or John McDonnell.

Mr Brown received a boost from in an endorsement from former US president Bill Clinton, who said Tony Blair’s presumptive successor had attributes which “carry their own charisma”.

Yesterday’s endorsement from the prime minister will also have come as a welcome relief for Mr Brown.

On the issue of how many MPs had declared their support for him, the chancellor said, after Mr Blair’s backing: “I’ve at least got one now.”

The Labour party is due to announce its new leader and deputy leader – following John Prescott’s resignation – on June 24th.