Monday, 6 June 2011

Cameron's wake-up call, "It's the NHS, stupid"

It speaks volumes about the degree the National Health Service is supported by the English regardless of their political persuasions. Alarm bells are ringing more loudly in Downing Street about the public’s resistance to Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s NHS ‘reforms’ than voters’ concern that George Osborne doesn’t have a Plan B to revive Britain’s sickly economy.
The Chancellor has bet the farm that growth will compensate for the jobs being lost in the public sector as he attacks the deficit. Early optimism has faded; the economy is barely the right side of recession, inflation is growing, consumer spending depressed, and the housing market stagnant outside London. Meanwhile the US, our major export destination, has its own economic woes.
There are calls for Osborne to re-think the pace of his spending cuts. But there doesn’t seem to be the same anxiety yet in the national consciousness about the economy as there is regarding the future of the NHS.
Part of the explanation may be that many – including some of the Opposition front bench – have bought into the story of New Labour’s economic mistakes. The Tories are still benefiting from the disillusionment with the Blair/Brown years.
But neither have voters accepted the Prime Minister’s promise that the NHS is safe in his hands. The Tories monitored such apprehension from all quarters that David Cameron called for a “pause” in the passage of the Health Bill.
According to The Daily Telegraph the Prime Minister will put his reputation on the line tomorrow and make five personal pledges to preserve the health service’s core principles. It looks as though the keystone of Lansley’s plan – the transfer of much of the NHS’s spending power to GPs – will be re-thought. In which case Lansley had best resign. He cannot be in charge of a policy he has been strong-armed to support.
A U-turn is not in prospect; the Prime Minister has made clear that the status quo is not an option. Massive savings have to be found at a time of ever more expensive treatments and an aging population.
No doubt Coalition partners, the LibDems, will take credit for any reining back in the NHS restructuring. Cameron will have to let them enjoy some point-scoring to help prop up Nick Clegg’s leadership having done the dirty on him in the AV campaign.
With the uncertain economic outlook, Labour failing to make an impact under Ed Miliband, and the Lib Dems a busted flush , I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tories take advantage of any feel-good factor surrounding the London Olympics and the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations to call a snap General Election next summer.
But if the Tories do go the distance until 2015 and growth looks to remain lacklustre, Osborne might hope by moderating his slash and burn policy in time, he will be forgiven by the voters. I doubt it.


  1. Cameron never "did the dirty on him [Clegg] in the AV campaign". He had always made it publicly plain that he would support a referendum on AV, but come that referendum, would not support/vote YES for AV itself.
    That some anti AV elements in the campaign may have used 'dirty tricks' during the campaign in no way reflects on the PM's integrity.

  2. To quote you in your 'Post a Comment' section, [an unrestricted] "What do you think? GC";
    I think there is substantial 'street-level' anxiety regarding the economy. The media, having given the coalition the benefit of the doubt, are becoming aware that Osborne's policies may fail. The coalition deflects criticism by saying, [increasingly lamely], that international financial institutions, such as the IMF, endorse its policies. But one would have to analyse the make-up and vested interests of those institutions, before being convinced that their endorsement is itself valuable/valid.

  3. I watched Cameron's speech on the NHS today. He reads well, but the speech seemed to lack passion and it appeared that he was going through the motions in introducing the changes to the earlier policy.

  4. At this moment the Darling model is looking good.

  5. Not to forget the government's problems with justice and prison sentencing. The proposed 50% discount on one's sentence if one initially pleads guilty is likely to be abandoned/changed today.

  6. Which goes to show once again Cameron responds to party/public/focus group concerns - an election winning tactic even if it means any number of U-turns along the way. GC

  7. Exactly GC. David Cameron displays the high intelligence associated with a first class degree in PPE at Oxford Uni plus the experience that goes with with being 7 years, the Director of Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications. Always mindful, that he has a coalition to shepherd along, he has to be flexible to in order to do these U turns.
    Conversely, some critics are saying that the lack of detail in the policies, is forcing Cameron to become involved, having thought that he could leave it solely to the minister in charge to introduce the policy. He cannot afford to have too many ministers 'roughed up', with no resignations/sackings.


What do you think? GC