Theresa May under fire after dodging hospital cuts questions on campaign trail
Theresa May has been accused of trying to "airbrush" the NHS out of the Copeland by-election after she repeatedly refused to say whether cuts to local hospital services will go ahead.
The Prime Minister hit the campaign trail in the constituency ahead of next week's crunch by-election amid increasing Tory optimism that they could seize the seat from Labour.
Plans to downgrade maternity services at the West Cumberland Hospital have formed the centrepiece of the by-election, which was called following the resignation of Jamie Reed.
Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison has said she is opposed to the proposals, which Labour have claimed could lead to babies dying.
Mrs May was asked four times by ITV News whether she backed Ms Harrison, but each time refused to do so.
She would only say: "There has been a lot of scaremongering about hospital services and the NHS here by the Labour party. There is no truth in the suggestion that A&E at West Cumberland Hospital is about to be closed. Trudy Harrison our candidate does indeed know the importance of these services. She is opposed to the downgrading of these services."
Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s elections co-ordinator, told the Huffington Post: "The Tories don’t have any answers and so have chosen to simply airbrush it out of the picture. They clearly don’t have any real understanding of what’s going on in Copeland."
It is not the first time Mrs May has appeared to avoid difficult questions. Last month she refused four times to say whether she knew that a Trident missile had misfired during a test.
Meanwhile, the GMB union criticised Mrs May for failing to provide any guarantees that a new Moorside nuclear power station in Copeland will definitely go ahead following suggestions that Toshiba could withdraw from the consortium finding it.
The Prime Minister said Business Secretary Greg Clark had gained assurances from the Japanese firm that they still supported the project.
She said: "It’s the Conservatives who are committed to the nuclear industry in the UK. Trudy Harrison, our candidate here, has made very clear to me the importance of Moorside."
Chris Jukes, the GMB senior officer for Sellafield and Cumbria said: "Theresa May has ducked the central question, just when strong leadership was required.
“It is crucial for the future of Moorside, for the economy and jobs in Copeland, and for the future security of Britain's electricity supply that there is a government-backed Plan B.
“Theresa May and Greg Clark just crossing their fingers and toes will not guarantee the lights stay on if there is a further wobble with Toshiba. The people of Copeland and the country as a whole will not forgive politicians who fail to secure our energy needs."