MP in Harry Potter-themed row with Nick Clegg

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A WEARSIDE MP has beaten the Deputy Prime Minister with a broomstick in a Harry Potter-themed row over health reforms.

Coalition Ministers are coming under increasing pressure to ditch their Health and Social Care Bill, which would put GPs in control of much of the NHS budget.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, a vociferous opponent of the mammoth shake-up, chopped into Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in a House of Commons debate.

She referred to Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe’s decision to ditch his support for the Lib Dems, saying the party had lost their magic and were being “used” by the Tories.

Mrs Hodgson said: “I am sure that the Deputy Prime Minister was rather disappointed to be described as the Government’s ‘whipping boy’ by one of his high-profile celebrity backers.

“One way in which he could cast off that awful image is by demanding that his Tory masters drop this disastrous and unwanted Health and Social Care Bill.

“Will he do so, and does he actually think that the Health Secretary is doing a good job?”

Mr Clegg hit back at Mrs Hodgson, however, claiming she was under a spell if she could not see her party had failed the NHS.

He said: “I think that the honourable Lady was referring to Harry Potter.

“I suppose that the Labour Party and Harry Potter have something in common – they both believe in magic.

“How else can we explain the Labour party’s economic policies and its complete, collective amnesia about its responsibility for failing to run the National Health Service effectively so that, as in so many other areas, we have to clear up the mess that it left behind?”

A number of health care bodies have now spoken out against the Government plans, which would spell the biggest shake-up since the founding of the NHS in 1948.

The Bill would see GPs and other clinicians will be given much more responsibility for NHS spending in England, tasking them with commissioning services, and is aimed at encouraging competition with the private sector.

The Faculty of Public Health became the latest healthcare body to call for the Bill to be dropped “in the best interests of everyone’s health” when it spoke out yesterday. But 54 NHS Trust directors backed the plan in a letter to the Times newspaper, saying there are “sound medical and clinical reasons” for it.

Downing Street has already had to rally to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s defence this week after an anonymous quote in the Times, attributed to a Downing Street source, suggesting the health secretary should be “taken out and shot” over the policy.

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