Monday News Review

Cameron to make desperate bid to convince public to trust him on NHS

David Cameron will commit to “five guarantees” on the future of the National Health Service in a speech on Tuesday designed to reassure critics of his controversial health reforms, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. The Prime Minister will promise to keep waiting lists low, maintain spending, not to privatise the NHS, to keep care integrated and to remain committed to the “national” part of the health service. Such is the concern in Downing Street at the damage the issue of NHS reform is causing the Government, that Mr Cameron will put his reputation on the line with a personal pledge to protect its core values. It represents his boldest attempt yet to assuage criticism from his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners and from many health professionals over the impact of the reforms. In his speech, the Prime Minister will admit that he is willing to act on their concerns after listening to the “profession and patients” during a two-month exercise which was held after Mr Cameron called for a “pause” in the Health Bill’s passage. His “five guarantees” are designed to show the Prime Minister is committed to the NHS, and “he is hearing what is being said”, according to one source. Mr Cameron’s promise on integrated care is designed to ensure patients receive continuity of treatment, without having to explain their condition from scratch each time to different doctors. – the Telegraph

We are told that he is in part moved by the polling evidence put before him by Andrew Cooper which shows the public losing confidence in the Coalition’s reliability on the NHS. Hence the panic in No10, where along with the economy and keeping the Lib Dems on board, keeping credible on health is considered an existential pre-requisite. Which explains tomorrow’s announcement, even if the detail is underwhelming. The pledges amount to the same message – the NHS is safe with us – but said with more words. The one about waiting lists has implications for spending, as the four per cent efficiency squeeze imposed by new spending realities are predicted to have dire consequences for what patients will experience. Last week, amid the quiet of the recess, it was evident in conversations with No10 that this issue remains the big preoccupation. Andrew Lansley’s ‘reform or die’ warning, with its prediction of £20bn a year shortfalls, underscored the anxiety (and not just about his job). Health still has the potential to derail all George Osborne’s election plans. Which is why Mr Cameron is wasting no time on his return to address the issue. He’s that worried. – the Telegraph

Lib Dems face wipe out

The Liberal Democrats face losing up to a quarter of their seats when a Tory-imposed plan to redraw the entire electoral map comes into force from September, figures seen by the Guardian suggest. The boundary review to equalise constituencies and reduce their number by 50, agreed by Nick Clegg in exchange for the AV referendum in the coalition agreement, is threatening the biggest upheaval to the Commons of this parliament. MPs have been warned that almost no seat is safe. The issue could force a mutiny in the coalition amid mounting evidence that the Liberal Democrats will fare far worse than predicted and withDavid Cameron facing further tensions with his backbenchers, some of whom are certain to lose their seats. The four Boundary Commissions of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are preparing to announce the new electoral map in September. But the most detailed analysis yet of what those new seats might look like, conducted by academics based at Liverpool University and published by the Guardian, suggests the Liberal Democrats will lose the greatest proportion of their seats. Fourteen out of 57 could be wiped off the electoral map. – the Guardian

The Liberal Democrats could lose a quarter of their seats under boundary changes currently being drawn up by the Government, more than four times that of Labour, according to a new study. Academics at Liverpool University found that the Liberal Democrats would lose 14 of their 57 seats, or 24.6 per cent, under the proposed changes. Labour would lose 17 (6.6 per cent), while the Tories would be least harmed, losing 16 seats, or 5.5 per cent. The current review on constituency boundaries was agreed by the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in return for a referendum on the Alternative Vote, and aims to reduce the number of MPs by 50. The study, published in The Guardian, was conducted by Democratic Audit, a research group working out of Liverpool University. It is the most detailed of its kind, and paints a much bleaker picture for the Liberal Democrats than previous studies. – the Independent

Cable warning to Unions

Union chiefs will be warned by a cabinet minister today that a concerted programme of industrial action against the Government’s austerity measures could result in anti-strike laws. Up to one million workers are expected to walk out on 30 June in protest against the spending cuts, and further shows of union strength are planned for the autumn. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, will tell a union conference that such moves could backfire by playing into the hands of senior Tories pressing for fresh controls on industrial action. Speaking at the conference of the GMB union in Brighton, he will acknowledge that “feelings are running high” in the union movement, but call for “cool heads” on all sides. He will say: “The usual suspects will call for general strikes and widespread disruption. This will excite the usual media comments about ‘a summer’ or ‘an autumn’ of discontent. And another group of the usual suspects will exploit the situation to call for the tightening of strike law. “We are undoubtedly entering a difficult period. Cool heads will be required all round. Despite occasional blips, I know that strike levels remain historically low, especially in the private sector. On that basis, and assuming this pattern continues, the case for changing strike law is not compelling.” – the Independent

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