By Sachin Ravikumar
LONDON (Reuters) – British rock singer Rod Stewart made a surprise phone call to a live TV news programme on Thursday to slam the “ridiculous” state of the health system, urge the government to stand down and give the opposition Labour Party a chance.
Stewart, known for his 1970s hits “Maggie May” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” called in to a Sky News programme about the crisis in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) that had been taking calls from members of the public.
“This is heartbreaking for the nurses,” Stewart said. “It really is heartbreaking. In all my years of living in this country, I’ve never seen it so bad.”
The state-funded NHS, until recently a source of pride for many Britons, is under severe strain after years of relative underinvestment and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting nurses and other staff to take unprecedented strike action.
“I think this government should stand down now, and give the Labour Party a go at it,” 78-year-old Stewart said, noting that he personally had been a Conservative for a long time.
Recent opinion polls have given Labour a strong lead over the Conservatives after a year in which the party ousted two prime ministers and Britons struggled with a cost-of-living crisis. The party has been in power since 2010.
Stewart also said it was “ridiculous” that he had checked into an empty private clinic for a health scan on Wednesday when there were so many other patients “dying because they cannot get scans.”
He then offered to pay for 10 or 20 health scans for members of the public and hoped others who could do so would follow his lead.
“I don’t need the publicity. I just want to do some good things,” he said, before ending the call by singing the opening lyrics to “Maggie May”.
“Wake up Maggie, I think I’ve got something to say to you,” he sang in his trademark raspy voice that made that song a hit in 1971 after Stewart went solo following stints in the Jeff Beck Group and the Faces.
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by David Gregorio)