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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Sharron Storer

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Tony Blair's visit to Birmingham was as choreographed as everything else in Labour's campaign. The hospital had been carefully chosen because it had a new cardiac unit. He ignored protests that there was much else wrong with the NHS. But upstairs, Keith Sedgwick was seriously ill with cancer. When he had come in, there had been no bed for him, and he had been sent to Accident & Emergency, where he spent half an hour on his feet. The news that the Prime Minister was arriving was too much for his partner.

SHARRON STORER:
They're understaffed. They've got terrible facilities. The toilets are appalling, and Dr Mahendra and her team of people, nurses and staff are doing their best. You're just not giving them the money to make the facilities better for them.

TONY BLAIR:
We are, actually...

STORER:
You are not. You are definitely not.

PAXMAN:
It was the first and nearly the last explosion of public feeling in the campaign. Today, Keith's cancer is in remission, thanks to the NHS, but his partner is unrepentant. So what's it like to be a national hero?

STORER;
I don't think I even realise that I am one. It doesn't all sink in. It's not sunk in what I did.

PAXMAN:
But it was one of the few moments of real excitement during the election campaign.

STORER:
So I believe, yes.

PAXMAN:
Had you planned it?

STORER:
No, not at all. I didn't even know that Tony Blair was coming to the hospital.

PAXMAN:
Anybody who had a loved one in hospital with very serious sickness, cancer in your partner's case, would be concerned about them, but what was remarkable about your encounter with the Prime Minister was how angry you were. What made you so angry?

STORER:
I was very angry, because we had gone through such a terrible ordeal for 24 hours. Keith had gone down to Admissions. He had been made to wait in the corridor, where there were people coming in from the outside. He is not supposed to get in any contact with infection whatsoever. We were made to wait in there, and this was six o'clock on the evening, and he didn't get a bed until about eight o'clock on that night. If it wasn't for the Government, who keep promising, and saying that they're going to help the National Health Service, and they're going to provide more beds, then that wouldn't have happened to Keith.

PAXMAN:
But the reason Tony Blair was visiting the hospital was because it was a place where there had been a lot of investment. It had a new cardiac unit, they are recruiting staff, they are going to rebuild the whole place.

STORER:
Oh, yeah, that is wonderful. But why can't Tony Blair come in to the real part of the hospital, which is crying out to be redeveloped, crying out to have new equipment? Why can't he come up there and see what's really happening?

PAXMAN:
What, something snapped when you saw him, or what?

STORER:
To be honest with you, I had gone up to Keith and said, "Tony Blair's coming", and he said, "I wish I could go downstairs and tell him what for". I said to Keith, "I'm going to the toilet". I just went downstairs. All that time, all I could think of was the terrible 24-hour ordeal that we had had downstairs. I just stood there, and then next minute he was coming towards me. And then, everybody knows the rest of what happened after that.

PAXMAN:
But you didn't let him get a word in edgeways.

STORER:
I know I didn't. I realised that when I was watching the tape afterwards, that here was this guy, and I was just going hammer for tongue, and just telling him exactly what I thought. And, no, he couldn't get a word in edgeways.

PAXMAN:
But you were clearly someone who was very angry, very distressed, felt passionately that something had to be done to improve the NHS in general. You took it out on Tony Blair. Did you actually vote in the election?

STORER:
No, I didn't. I think they're all as bad as each other.

PAXMAN:
But you can't believe that. You can't believe that whichever party is in government, it all stays the same, because that's not true.

STORER:
Of course it is true! Because everyone that tries to get into the Government spends all this time saying, "We're going to do this, improve that, make things better", and once they're in, not one of them does a goddamn thing to make it right, and to do what they promise that they're going to do.

PAXMAN:
Since the election, there has been a real change of tone in the Government. They are now talking about raising taxes to fund the NHS. You must be pleased about that.

STORER:
I am in two minds on that. I think that, yes, it's a good thing that they're going to put up taxes to put to the National Health Service, but then again, why should they be taking money off the working man?

PAXMAN:
You want to have your cake and eat it, don't you? You want a much better National Health Service without paying more taxes for it.

STORER:
Well, doesn't everybody. Everybody wants to be able to go to a hospital and get the treatment that they deserve. I have been in the hospital for eight months, and all that time that I was there, I never seen any improvements on the wards. I saw the doctors and I saw the nurses, working shifts all around the clock, not even getting a break, not even getting a dinner break. So if that money was going in, surely those things should be improving by now, but they're not.

PAXMAN:
The real problem is you wouldn't vote for a party that said it was going to raise your taxes in order to make all that available.

STORER:
No. I am not saying that I don't think it's a bad thing to raise taxes, as long as they raise the taxes and they say that the money is going into a nice new building, where they've got nice new equipment, where they've got more beds, they've got more doctors, they've got more nurses. Then you can say, "Yes, this is working".

PAXMAN:
But of course all that is happening at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, isn't it?

STORER:
Yes, but it's not going to happen until the year 2006, I think. So what happens in the meantime? The hospital at the moment is deteriorating very rapidly.

PAXMAN:
As regards Keith, your partner, whose illness it was made you fly into this fury with the Prime Minister, how is he?

STORER:
He's getting on very well now. He has had his bone marrow transplant, and he's improving day by day. He's building his strength up.

PAXMAN:
So the NHS hasn't failed him, then?

STORER:
No. I'm not saying that the National Health Service failed Keith whatsoever, because Keith got the best treatment right from the beginning, when he was diagnosed with cancer. What I'm saying is that there's not enough beds. If there was enough beds in the first place, then Keith would never have had to go downstairs to Admissions, and he would never have had to have the 24-hour ordeal which he had to go through.

PAXMAN:
And Tony Blair would never have had that tongue-lashing you gave him!

STORER:
No, he wouldn't, no. Obviously not!

PAXMAN:
Thank you very much.


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