Lynton Crosby firm denies NHS 'conflict of interest' claims

Lynton Crosby Lynton Crosby ran the Conservatives' 2005 election campaign

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David Cameron's election strategist has denied Labour claims of a "shocking conflict of interest" over his lobbying firm's work on behalf of private health companies at the time of NHS reforms.

Lynton Crosby's company told its client how to exploit perceived "failings" in the NHS in 2010, based on an opinion poll, the Guardian reported.

But Mr Crosby's firm said this had been "simply research" and "misrepresented".

Australian Mr Crosby has advised Mr Cameron since last November.

A Conservative spokesman said he worked for the party, not the government, and had never lobbied the prime minister.

'Pre-decided agenda'

The Guardian reported that a slideshow presentation had been produced for the H5 Private Healthcare Alliance by Mr Crosby's firm Crosby Textor towards the end of 2010, just months before the government's Health and Social Care Bill gained its second reading in the House of Commons in January 2011.

The presentation stated that people believed the NHS provided good health care, but it was "too bureaucratic with long waiting lists".

Crosby Textor advised its client that 63% of those questioned in a poll conducted for the presentation agreed that "going private frees up the NHS waiting list".

Mr Crosby, who masterminded the Tories' 2005 election campaign, was brought back into Conservative headquarters by the prime minister in November last year. The health presentation pre-dated his re-hiring by Mr Cameron by two years.

The Guardian story follows Labour leader Ed Miliband's call for an inquiry into whether Mr Crosby was behind the prime minister's decision to shelve plans for plain cigarette packs.

Shadow health secretary Mr Burnham said: "It is more evidence of a shocking conflict of interest that David Cameron has created at the heart of his government.

"Shortly after Lynton Crosby started work for the Conservative Party, the government shifted its position in favour of private health companies by trying to sneak NHS regulations through the House forcing services out to the market.

"At the time, experts expressed surprise at the sudden shift in position. Now we can guess why."

But, in a statement, Crosby Textor said: "This so-called leaked document is a presentation of research given to scores of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs at the House of Commons by H5 almost three years ago, full copies of which were widely circulated at the time.

"As is absolutely clear to anyone who has read the whole document, it is simply a piece of opinion research, like hundreds conducted every week by polling companies across the UK. Like any piece of opinion research, it merely summarises the views of those polled.

"The part-publication of this research, to fit a pre-decided agenda, completely misrepresents the research. And any claims that this amounts to more than a three-year-old poll, are completely wrong."

A Conservative spokesman denied that Mr Crosby had any influence on Mr Cameron's policy decisions.

"The prime minister has been clear that Lynton Crosby has never lobbied him on anything. Lynton Crosby is an adviser to the Conservative Party. He does not advise on government policy."

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