Philip Pullman brands Tories a ‘bunch of crooks’ over NHS risk from post-Brexit trade deal

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (2nd right) with Matt Hancock. Photograph: Darren Staples/PA.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (2nd right) with Matt Hancock. Photograph: Darren Staples/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Best selling author Sir Philip Pullman has claimed the Tories are a 'bunch of crooks' after he suggested they could put the NHS up 'for sale' after Brexit.

Pullman made the remarks after Channel 4's Dispatches programme looked at the risks to the health service should the UK government seek a post-Brexit trade deal with America.

Health secretary Matt Hancock insisted he would protect the NHS after his comments, claiming that he "loves the NHS".

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He tweeted: "Liz Truss and I couldn't be clearer. In any trade talks the NHS is not on the table, the price the NHS pays for drugs is not on the table, and the services the NHS provides are not on the table."

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But it sparked Pullman to claim that he did not believe the Tory politician. He responded: "I don't believe a word you say. The FOR SALE notice would go up as soon as the exit poll says you've won. Bunch of crooks."

Hancock called for the author to retract his comments on social media, responding: "Hi Philip, I know you care about the quality of the political discourse, so I'd be grateful if you'd withdraw this wrong and unreasonable statement. All the best."

But a defiant Pullman said that it was difficult to believe the Tories when they are lead by the lies of Boris Johnson.

He continued: "Your leader sets the tone: an unending torrent of lies. We can't trust the organ-grinder: should we trust the monkey?"

Minister Hancock said the tweet was, however, "beneath" the author.

He said: "It just hold a hope that someone as eloquent as you could use that talent to raise, rather than lower, the tone of the debate. That tweet was beneath you. With all best wishes"

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