Byline: Helen Gabriel
The leader of the Conservative party rejected claims that he was using an NHS patient as a political football during a question-and-answer session with members of the public in Birmingham.
As the General Election campaign appeared to kick off in earnest, the leader of the opposition and former Home Secretary answered questions at a public hearing of the POWER Commission, anindependent inquiry into the state of British democracy, at the Burlington Hotel in New Street yesterday.
He was quizzed about declining election turnouts and the loss of public trust in politicians, as well as his decision to make Margaret Dixon's cancelled shoulder operation a feature of his election campaign.
Mr Howard was asked by a member of the public if hethought he should be focusing on the plight of individuals rather than issues. He said: 'Mrs Dixon came to me for help. She had already written to John Reid and told him all the details five weeks' ago and she had not had a reply. She has now been given a date for her operation so that is a result. Hers is not an isolated case. There were 67,000 cancelled operations last year and there is a real issue as to whether taxpayers are getting value for money.
'That is my complaint, we are not talking about one person.
'We have a particular case where a person is perfectly happy for her case to be made public and Mrs Dixon was very happy and if her caseexemplifies and illustrates an important point in the particular debate.' The POWER Commission was chaired by Helena Kennedy QC, and included journalist Ferdinand Mount, Radio 1 DJ Emma B and former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, …