Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Lansley’

Despite a “concession” the lobbying bill is still a shambles

10/09/2013, 12:45:14 PM

by Wayne David

This afternoon, the house of commons is considering in committee the second part of the so-called lobbying bill. This is the part which puts restraints on the campaigning ability of charities and third sector organisations to campaign in the run-up to general elections.

The government is seeking to get this bill on the statute book as quickly as possible and with as little debate as they can get away with. Their aim is get this restrictive legislative agreed in time for the 2015 General Election.

Even though the bill was only published just before the summer recess, charities and campaigning organisations – from the WI and Oxfam, to the British Legion and Friends of the Earth – responded quickly to the threat which they faced. MPs were inundated with emails from concerned charities and even the impartial Electoral Commission came out strongly and criticised the poorly drafted legislation.

At second reading the government had a ‘bloody nose’ with many Conservatives as well as Labour MPs attacking the Bill. The leader of the house, Andrew Lansley, has indicated that the government will make a ‘concession’ to try to placate the groundswell of opposition. He has said that the government will not now seek to redefine what already exists in legislation with regard to what can be “reasonably” regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success.

This move is welcome, but it only loosens the stranglehold that charities are facing. The concession does not go nearly far enough because the bill is fundamentally flawed and requires a whole host of changes before it can even begin to be considered as acceptable. In short, it is still a shambles. The Electoral Commission has made the very good point that the government should open up an immediate dialogue with all those affected by the bill “before putting amendments before Parliament”.

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The right Labour attack on Lansley’s health bill

20/02/2012, 07:00:41 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“The trick is to keep doing outrageous things. There’s no point passing some scandalous piece of legislation and then giving everyone time to get worked up about it. You have to get right in there and top it off with something worse, before the public have had the chance to work out what’s hit them. The thing about the British conscience, you see, is that it really has no more capacity than … a primitive home computer, if you like. It can only hold two or three things in its memory at a time.”

Thus spoke Henry Wilshire, cut-out evil 1980s Tory of Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up. And Wilshire was half right. But only when certain conditions hold.

The conditions are that the central principle of the reform enjoys both popular mandate and sympathy.

This brings to mind, not for the first time, the contrasting fortunes of Iain Duncan Smith and Andrew Lansley. The first is at the peak of his career, the second fights for his.

The latter is taking forward legislation that voters did not vote for, while the former is doing broadly what the last Conservative manifesto promised. If we wish the next Labour government to be transformative, our manifesto must, to borrow a supposed Cameroon maxim, seemingly forgotten by Lansley, roll its pitch.

Pitch rolling should connect proposed policy programmes with popular values. Duncan Smith’s core argument is that work should pay more than welfare. This resonates so strongly with popular values that he has reduced much of the public to Wilshire’s 1980s’ home computers.

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If Labour wants to save the NHS it must change it

16/02/2012, 07:30:58 AM

by Peter Watt

Almost everybody agrees that the NHS bill is dangerous. Except, probably, the health secretary Andrew Lansley. Patients groups, trade unions and most of the royal colleges are seemingly all united in their condemnation. And opinion polls indicate a sceptical public. The legislation is so dangerous that the end of the NHS is apparently nigh if you listen to the most hysterical opponents of the legislation.

And increasing numbers of Tory MPs allegedly think that the bill is bad for their political health. If the economy is Labour’s weakness, then they know that the NHS is theirs.  Much of the public may not yet have caught up with the reforms, but they fear that they will soon.

Up until now the government has successfully blamed all of the country’s ills on the last Labour government. It has been easy, and on the whole very successful. But they know that between now and the election, every winter crisis, unclean ward or staff shortage is an opportunity for Labour to blame them and their NHS legislation. And that risks their seats and may just put the outcome of the next election, which up until now they were feeling optimistic about, in some doubt. (more…)

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The polling that explains why Andrew Lansley is safe

13/02/2012, 07:00:36 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Dead man walking. That is one of the more polite descriptions of Andrew Lansley’s current state of political health.

His bill is an unmitigated disaster. This mish mash of compromises and quangos is trapped in the quicksand of parliamentary process, generating ever worse headlines for Lansley and the government.

Yesterday he suffered perhaps the greatest indignity to date: Simon Hughes ventilating on the right time to shift the health secretary.

Setting aside the nonsense at the heart of what the Liberal Democrat party president was saying – that Lansley should be moved only after the damage has been done when a bill that Hughes himself describes as not the one “we wanted”, has been passed – even hard Labour hearts will have felt a little sympathy for Andrew Lansley having his career dissected by Hughes at his most sanctimonious.

So the conventional wisdom is clear. Lansley is finished.

In one sense, this is right. The secretary of state for health will be moved, but then in the long run so will most of the cabinet. Where many commentators will be wrong is on timing.

For all the pressure, Andrew Lansley is still safe in his job. Yesterday’s Sunday Times YouGov poll held the key to why.

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This Fox has been ripped to pieces, but his colleagues elude the hounds

21/10/2011, 02:47:55 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The blood lust of our “feral” media, combined with the unmistakeable whiff of a politician in distress, always ends the same way. But despite Liam Fox’s exit this remains quite simply, the luckiest government in living memory.

There have been no shortage of political scandals and pratfalls over the past 17 months that could have seen any number of Dr. Fox’s colleagues beat him to the ignominious honour of being the first cabinet minister kicked to Whitehall’s curb.

But Tory and Lib Dem ministers seem to be blessed with nine lives. Perhaps rabbits’ feet are handed out to ministers with their red boxes?

Take Andrew Lansley. Surely it is only a matter of time before a piano drops on his head? He has made a complete hash of the health bill, finding himself in the curious position of pleasing absolutely no-one with his proposals, yet he remains in situ.

And then there’s Michael Gove. Although he is a true Cameroon, of which great things were not unreasonably expected, his career has never quite been the same since he was pranged early on by Ed Balls, colliding into him over the scrapping of the building schools for the future programme. He wobbled, but has recovered, of sorts, only to now find himself caught up in revelations that he and his advisers operated a secretive email network, by-passing his department’s official channels. If compelled to publish the messages under freedom of information obligations, he may find he has strayed down a Fox-hole in terms of ministerial propriety.

Before Liam Fox, the previous holder of the dubious title “cabinet-minister-most-likely–to-resign” had long been held by energy secretary Chris Huhne. He has spent the past few months on the precipice of a resignation, as the excruciating half-life of his messy divorce sees both him and his ex-wife embroiled in an unseemly “he said, she said” squabble over one or the other’s penalty points for speeding. Although a fairly mediocre crime, in the grand scheme of things, it has acquired epic proportions given the energy secretary’s career is essentially being strafed by friendly fire.

Yet he clings on. Your average rhino resembles an Oil of Olay model in the skin suppleness stakes when measured alongside Huhne. His leader, however, is forced to develop a thick hide on the job. Nick Clegg has spent most of his 17 month tenure as deputy prime minister as a pariah. He is the unhappiest looking bloke in British politics, and with good reason; he is the most hated. He has scuppered the very essence of the Lib Dems’ brand by doing the coalition’s dirty work, and now his own constituency is set to be eviscerated in a pointless parliamentary boundary review he only signed up to in order the secure the doomed referendum on AV; yet he hangs on too.

But these are just the top-drawer near-death experiences of the coalition. There are another set of ministers who have had a close shave through good old-fashioned political bumbling. Take Ken Clarke’s howler of a radio interview about rape sentencing, coming on top of his faltering handling of his brief, which has seen Tory backbenchers turn puce at what they see is the forfeiting of their credibility on law and order due to Clarke’s leniency on sending criminals to jail.

Or Vince Cable’s silly self-aggrandising, bragging that he could bring down the government if he chose to by deploying his “nuclear option” as he sought to impress a couple of fetching young female undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph. Dufferish, old bloke failings, but indicative of senior politicians who have difficulty keeping their political antennae erect.

The last category is the weird and wonderful. Think of William Hague’s hotel arrangements. Or Oliver Letwin’s curious al fresco filing system. Or Caroline Spelman not being able to see the wood for the trees in relation to the flogging-off of national forestry management.

Any one or all of these ministers could have plausibly walked the plank during the course of the last year for either political or personal difficulties. Paradoxically, Liam Fox looked likely to become a cabinet mainstay. Meanwhile, the scalp to end all scalps, remains tantalisingly out of reach. For now.

The jet-black pelt of the chancellor is worth a dozen Fox skins. Osborne’s eventual embrace of a plan B for the economy warrants his resignation. The change of direction that will eventually come – and which Osborne puts off for the narrowest political considerations – should make his position utterly untenable.

Liam Fox will doubtless feel rather lonely as the first occupier of the cabinet’s sin bin. But he should content himself. He won’t be the last.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut.

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The Tories are destroying Labour’s golden NHS legacy

04/10/2011, 12:09:20 PM

by John Healey

Another day, another 400 senior health professionals raise their alarm over the Tory-Lib Dem NHS plans.

They make the same arguments in today’s Telegraph as Labour made first last Autumn, and have been leading in opposition since – that the biggest internal reorganisation in NHS history is wasting billions on new bureaucracy, while the legislation will break up our health service with market competition replacing medical collaboration at the heart of the NHS.

David Cameron claimed a month ago “the whole health profession is on board for what is now being done”. He’s in denial about the depth of opposition to his NHS plans. And he’s in denial about the damage his government is doing, as NHS staff and patients see services cut, treatments denied and long waiting times rise.

Since he became prime minister, more than a million patients have had to wait longer for treatment in hospital and A&E than Labour’s waiting time guarantees.

More David Cameron declarations that “I love the NHS” at his conference in Manchester this week simply won’t cut it for the public.

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Tuesday News Review

26/07/2011, 06:36:38 AM

Pressure piles on for Plan B

The Government could come under pressure later today to produce a ‘plan B’ for the economy if official figures show no sign of recovery.  City forecasts of 0.5% growth for the last three months have been trimmed back by most economists to around 0.1% or 0.2%, and some have even predicted the Office for National Statistics figures could show the economy contracting. Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted there is no room for fiscal stimulus through tax cuts or spending increases, and the only solution is to “get on top of your debt”. Labour has been calling for a economic plan B, saying the Government’s policy of tax rises and spending cuts to erase the national debt cuts “too far and too fast”. They point to earlier figures showing a decline of 0.5% in the final quarter of 2010 and growth of 0.5% in the first three months of 2011 as proof of the coalition’s ineffective grasp on the economy. – Sky News

David Cameron yesterday ruled out tax cuts or spending increases to kick-start Britain’s economy as ministers braced themselves for figures showing growth has ground to a halt. Official statistics to be released today are expected to show that economic growth fell to about 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year. Last night it emerged that the top civil servant at 10 Downing Street has raised concerns with the Treasury about George Osborne’s failure to kick-start growth. Jeremy Heywood, permanent secretary at No10, met senior officials in the Treasury and the Department of Business to order urgent action to tackle the problem. Confidential Whitehall documents are reported to have found that the Chancellor’s ‘growth agenda’ is failing to meet key targets. – Daily Mail

An unrepentant David Cameron prepared consumers and the markets for publication on Tuesday of gruesome growth figures by admitting Britain’s “path back to growth will be a difficult one”, but insisting no shortcut lay in either a fiscal or monetary stimulus. The chancellor, George Osborne, also set out his defence ahead of an expected political battering by claiming he had “turned Britain into a safe harbour in a storm” by focusing so rigidly on deficit reduction. He admitted: “There are risks to current and future growth.” The figures are expected to show Britain’s economy has flatlined for almost a year, contrasting with strong growth in Germany and, to a lesser extent, France. Most economists believe the economy ground to a halt in the three months to the end of June after a big slowdown in the manufacturing sector, which has been instrumental in preventing the economy sinking back into recession over the last 18 months. – the Guardian

EDL links probed

Police are trying to track down two Brits who agreed to fight a global anti-Muslim terror crusade with mass murderer Breivik. Before slaughtering 76 and wounding 97 in his sickening spree, Breivik, 32, posted a 1518-page terror plan on the internet. The Norwegian killer claimed he re-founded a fanatical group called Knights Templar Europe with “an English ­protestant” and “an English Christian atheist” in April 2002. The three held two ­meetings in London with five members from France, Germany, Holland, Greece and Russia – who Scotland Yard is trying to identify. – Daily Mirror

As further details emerged of the connections between Anders Behring Breivik and the English Defence League (EDL), the group’s founder warned last night that a similar attack could take place in Britain. The anti-fascist group Searchlight is preparing to release further information today about the killer’s links with the EDL. The EDL was the organisation mentioned most often by Breivik in the 1,500-page personal “manifesto” he posted online before embarking on his killing spree. EDL organiser Daryl Hobson wrote in an online posting: “He had about 150 EDL on his list … bar one or two doubt the rest of us ever met him, altho [sic] he did come over for one of our demo [sic] in 2010 … but what he did was wrong. RIP to all who died as a result of his actions.” However, a senior member said he understood Breivik had met EDL leaders when he attended the demonstration in March 2010, and described him as “very affable”. – the Independent

Boy George regrets recommending Coulson

George Osborne has expressed his regret for recommending Andy Coulson as the Tory party’s director of communications, as an opinion poll shows most people believe Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp is not a fit and proper company to hold a broadcasting licence. Osborne said : “Of course, knowing what we know now, we regret the decision and I suspect Andy Coulson would not have taken the job knowing what he knows now. But we did not have 20/20 hindsight when we made that decision.” In a further development, lawyers Harbottle and Lewis have responded to a letter from the chair of the home affairs committee, Keith Vaz MP, setting out their inability to disclose information and naming the lawyer who originally advised News International. Harbottle and Lewis explained their previous unwillingness to disclose contents of advice they gave to News International on the scale of any illegal activity at the paper. – the Guardian

Health tsar launches scathing attack on reforms

One of the most senior doctors in the Department of Health today launches a scathing attack on NHS reforms. Sir Roger Boyle, who retired as the Government’s National Director of Heart Disease at the weekend, accuses the Health Secretary of squandering past gains in treatment because of his obsession with opening up the NHS to private contractors, at the expense of patients. Sir Roger told The Independent: “The allegiances [of the private companies] will be to their shareholders, not to the users of the services. If the market was going to work, the Americans would have cracked it.” Mr Lansley’s plans are “the ideas of one man acting without an electoral mandate”, Sir Roger added. Sir Roger says Mr Lansley had never bothered to visit him until a fortnight ago, despite his success in halving heart-disease death rates and slashing waiting times in the past decade, with minimal involvement by the private sector. – the Independent

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Monday News Review

25/07/2011, 06:57:59 AM

Gunman’s EDL links

Supporters of the English Defence League have blamed the Norwegian government’s immigration policies for the attacks that killed at least 93 people, provoking outcry from anti-fascist campaigners who are calling for the EDL to be classified as an extremist group. The comments come amid increased scrutiny of links between the man arrested for the attacks, Anders Behring Breivik, and the EDL. Since the attacks, campaigners have called for the EDL to be formally classified by the government as a far-right organisation, rather than a legitimate political entity. Nick Lowles, director of anti-extremist campaign group Hope Not Hate, said yesterday that the decision not to classify the EDL as an extremist right-wing group “severely limits the capacity of the police to gather intelligence on the EDL, its members and its activities”. The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has said Norwegian officials are working with foreign intelligence agencies to see if there was any international involvement in the attacks. – the Independent

Anders Behring Breivik, the man behind the Norway killings that left 93 people dead, began his journey in extremist rightwing politics at a small meeting in London in 2002, according to his online manifesto, and may have attended a far right demonstration in the UK as recently as last year. In a 1,467-page document that contains chilling details of his preparations for Friday’s attacks, Breivik outlines his UK links, claiming he met eight other extremists from across Europe in London in 2002 to “re-form” the Knights Templar Europe – a group whose purpose was “to seize political and military control of western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda”. The manifesto, signed “Andrew Berwick London 2011″, contains repeated references to his links to the UK far right group the English Defence League. On Sunday there were unconfirmed reports from one of the organisation’s supporters that the 32-year-old had attended at least one EDL demonstration in the UK in 2010. – the Guardian

Lansley’s letter

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has privately attacked the Government’s public-sector pension reforms in a letter to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury which has been leaked to The Daily Telegraph. Mr Lansley warns that the reforms outlined last month will not meet the Coalition’s “commitment to maintain gold standard pensions”. He says the proposals are set to prompt public sector workers to stop contributing to their pensions which “would increase pressure on the social security budget” as people rely on state benefits to fund their retirement. The Health Secretary describes parts of the reform proposals as “inappropriate” and “unrealistic” and warns they will hit women health workers particularly hard. The emergence of a Cabinet rift over one of the most toxic areas of Government policy is likely to alarm David Cameron, who is facing national strikes over the issue in the autumn. It had previously been thought that Conservative ministers were wholly supportive of the plans. – Daily Telegraph

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has privately attacked his own Government’s controversial shake-up of public sector pensions, it emerged last night. In a letter to Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, he appears to side with NHS staff rather than with his own Cabinet – describing elements of the reforms as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unrealistic’. Mr Lansley’s views are likely to be seized on by unions, who have threatened national strikes over the controversial issue in the autumn. Previously Tory ministers were thought to be supportive of the plans. Under the reforms outlined by Liberal Democrat Mr Alexander last month, public sector workers will retire later, contribute more to pensions, and receive payouts based on average career earnings, rather than final salary. But in his letter, Mr Lansley said planned reforms would see more NHS workers opting out of the pension scheme – meaning they would be forced to rely on state pensions; costing the Treasury more. And he warned of a damaging wave of strike action in the Health Service, if the unions are ‘pushed too hard’. – Daily Mail

Too far, too fast

Fresh doubts over the efficacy of the Government’s economic medicine are expected be raised tomorrow after another gloomy set of figures underline Britain’s frail recovery. Labour is preparing to seize on the gross domestic product (GDP) figures as evidence that the Chancellor, George Osborne, has killed the recovery by cutting “too far, too fast” – notably by raising VAT to 20 per cent in January. Further evidence of a faltering economy emerged in a ComRes survey of 165 business leaders for The Independent. Asked about growth in their own sector, 26 per cent said it was decreasing, only 22 per cent that it was increasing while 47 per cent said it was staying the same and 5 per cent replied “don’t know”. Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, blamed the predicted poor figures on decisions taken at home rather than abroad. “We are making the mistake, even though we don’t have to, of undermining growth,” he said. “We’ve got the fastest cuts in any country other than Greece in all the world, and the fact is it’s not working.” – the Independent

Ed’s hacking bounce

Ed Miliband continues to profit from his decision to lead the charge against News International. The latest YouGov/Sunday Times poll shows that the Labour leader’s net approval rating is now higher than David Cameron’s for the first time since last September. Miliband’s rating is now -15, up from -21 a week ago and from -34 three weeks ago (before the Milly Dowler story broke), while Cameron’s is -16, down from -12 a week ago. Nick Clegg’s approval rating is unchanged at -42. However, it’s important to note, as UK Polling Report’s Anthony Wells does, that this simply means people think Miliband is doing a better job as Labour leader, not that he’d make a better prime minister than Cameron. A YouGov poll earlier this week gave Cameron a nine point lead over Miliband as the best PM. But, one hastens to add, this is the lowest lead recorded to date. Miliband has grown significantly in the eyes of the public over the last two weeks. Given that personal approval ratings are often a better long-term indicator of the next election result than voting intentions, this is encouraging for Labour. The party frequently led the Tories under Neil Kinnock, for instance, but Kinnock was never rated above John Major as a potential prime minister. – New Statesman

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Lansley’s failed NHS reforms: a pyrrhic victory for Labour?

27/06/2011, 03:00:50 PM

by Rob Marchant

So, government reform plans stymied. The smile wiped off Cameron’s face. Lansley humiliated. Been rather a good few weeks, hasn’t it?

Not so fast. A few thoughts, before we raise our glasses in unrestrained Schadenfreude, might give us pause.

What has certainly happened, over and above any disagreements we might have with them on policy, are two major errors: first, that the Tories foolishly bit off more than they could chew. They tried to completely restructure the largest employer in Europe with a rather hastily-put-together plan, while simultaneously trying to make real terms cuts. They needed an administrator of global stature – think the chief executive of a multinational, the former prime minister of a minor European state, or something similar – to plot out a gradual-but-radical approach to reforming this huge, complex beast over a number of years. Instead they had the luckless Andrew Lansley, a career politician who enjoyed one brief period as a civil servant. In short, this job is not like restructuring the passports service (and look how difficult that turned out to be).

Their second error was political: they failed to win the political support for their ambitious plans, with the public, their coalition partners and doctors. Most healthcare observers are aware that the latter, vital, vested interest has a history of not-very-helpful conservatism with a small “c”: Nye Bevan as health secretary under Attlee famously “stuffed their mouths with gold”, that is, bought them off with a sweetheart deal. Not to mention the public, who have a special fondness for the NHS which often borders on the sentimental, especially when the word “private” is mentioned in the same breath. None of these important constituencies bought into the plan, and the plan failed.

So where does that leave the NHS? With a revised plan, so lacking in any kind of meaningful change as to be worse than useless. Increased productivity through mixing public and private provision (not private funding: a vital distinction) – which Labour first introduced in a modest way, which is practised widely on the continent and which an LSE study has shown to save lives – has been all but removed. Also, bureaucracies have been removed in secondary care, but then others put in their place, which look worse. As the Economist succinctly puts it:

“…a fudge now may well lead to more dissatisfaction and shortfalls in the future. Meanwhile, the rejig has spawned new layers of bodies to ensure accountability. There will be ‘clinical networks’, ‘clinical senates’ and a central, powerful commissioning body with local arms. So much for the bureaucratic cull Mr Lansley once promised”.

All in all, we are no nearer to giving patients the choice and standards of service required for a twenty first century service. As my esteemed Uncut colleague Peter Watt – a former nurse – has pointed out, there are in any case still serious existing problems with standards of care in parts of our health service, a point with which the Economist concurs:

“Scandals over the care of vulnerable patients and hospitals that fall below acceptable standards suggest the service is more prone to failure than its uncritical admirers admit”.

Whether or not you agree with all, any or no parts of the Tory reforms – and clearly there is a big debate to be had – one thing is certain: the NHS for the next few years will function at best the same, and probably worse, than it has been doing to date.

But the real issue is that the NHS is crying out for reform, and any major reform is now surely off the agenda for either party until after 2015. Cameron surely will not attempt it without the mandate of a full majority, and neither will we. Meanwhile, the system will tread water, whilst all the time new and more demands will be made of it, as medical technology advances and, with it, public expectations.

So, we have rightly criticised the flawed reform program of the Tories, and perhaps helped bring it down, although we should perhaps modestly admit that the above-mentioned constituencies were probably much more important than us. And we have bought some time to develop the distinct policy of our own which is so far lacking, still pending the policy review. We have a political win: fair enough. We have done the best we could, from the constraints of opposition.

But, without trying to apportion blame in this complex picture, the judgement of whether no reform at all is better than a Tory reform is a finely-balanced one. There are real losers in this botched outcome of the reform plans: your family, and mine. Who will now wait at least four years for any meaningful reform to be started and, realistically, perhaps ten or more for it to be completed. Ten years more treading water, while we continue to lag behind other countries’ healthcare.

We all deserve better.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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The government’s NHS changes tell you everything you need to know about the Tories

06/06/2011, 08:29:05 AM

by Michael Dugher

When Parliament returns this week after the half-term recess, the spotlight will once again return to the battle over the government’s changes to the NHS. The so-called “listening period” is at an end and we will see if Andrew Lansley has really listened, or if the pause to the health and social care bill was merely a cynical, cosmetic exercise designed to shore up Nick Clegg’s position and maintain the coalition as a going concern. John Healey, Labour’s shadow health secretary, has done a brilliant job exposing the true nature of the government’s proposals for the NHS. He will table nearly 40 amendments once the bill comes back to the Commons to test the government’s willingness to listen and think again. But the government’s approach to the NHS tells us everything we need to know about the Tories and Labour’s attack might similarly apply to other areas of government policy too.

First, the changes to the NHS demonstrate that the Tories are reckless. Like in other areas – the so-called strategic defence and security review leaps to mind – the changes were rushed, careless and ill-thought through. The new bill is the largest legislative document in the history of the NHS. With its 136 clauses, the original text of the bill was so large that the chief executive of the NHS, David Nicholson, joked that it was “the only reorganisation you can see from space”.  The coalition agreement stated that it was the government’s intention to “cut the bureaucracy at the heart of the NHS”.  Yet the British medical association (BMA) claimed that the changes will “replace one bureaucracy with a perhaps even more dangerous one”. As John Healey has highlighted, the usual process for sound public policy, namely that of consultation-legislation-implementation, has been reversed.

David Cameron has tried desperately to “detoxify” the Conservative brand. He knew that central to the old image of the Tories as the “nasty party” was consistently polling so badly in the “who do you most trust to protect the NHS” question. Cameron has also read Tony Blair’s book. Blair once famously said: “Every time I’ve ever introduced a reform, I wish in retrospect I had gone further”.  But when it comes to the proposed changes to the NHS, the Conservatives are guilty of seriously over-reaching themselves. They simply do not understand that the national health service is a cherished institution for the British people.  We all want to see improvements – big ones – but all governments must proceed with care.

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