BBCs Laura Kuenssberg names surprising MP as most crucial to Tory future

BBC political broadcaster Laura Keunssberg has revealed how a rising star of the Tory ranks could be a surprising key vote winner in the election battle with Labour next year.

Ms Keunssberg said new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins might be a good outside bet to help the Conservatives finish first past the post as the country goes to the polls.

Writing ahead of her BBC show tomorrow, on which Ms Atkins is appearing, the seasoned political interviewer said “how she (Ms Atkins) fares in the coming months is absolutely vital for her party’s prospects”.

Ms Keunssberg continued: “One of her MP colleagues told me: ‘I’m not sure she realised it when she took the job, but for a lot of us, whether we win is dependent on her'”, before adding “no pressure, then”.

NHS waiting lists are seen as a key election battleground, alongside immigration, including the small boats crisis, and the tax burden and economy.

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Ms Atkins has been seen taking a fresh approach in pay disputes with junior doctors saying she has “respect” for them, in a marked contrast to her predecessor Steve Barclay who had effectively shut down negotiations.

If Ms Atkins can make any progress in slashing NHS waiting lists, on which currently 7.8million patients still languish, while at the same time solving the doctor strikes, she could prove a key vote winner for Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives.

Ms Keunssberg conceded: “It is not, of course, all bad. Every day millions of people receive brilliant life-saving care. The government trumpeted meeting its manifesto promise to hire 50,000 extra nurses this week, and there are amazing advances in some forms of treatment.

“But there is acute concern about what is going on in wards, clinics and practices all around the country.”

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Ms Atkins has a strong track record in campaigning for health and social care in her Lincolnshire constituency of Louth and Horncastle, and she has also been a supporter of diabetes research as she herself has type 1.

Speaking after her appointment as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care the 47-year-old refused to echo Mr Barclay’s labelling of the BMA (British Medical Association) as “militant”.

She said: “I can only speak as I find and I had the pleasure of meeting the two leaders of the BMA junior doctors’ committee and I found them to be very constructive.

“I’m not going to be able to meet some of their asks. I think they understand that. But what I do want to look at is not just pay, but also that we value them as members of the workforce.

“Of course I respect junior doctors. I have admiration for our doctors but also nurses and our volunteers.”

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