Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Has Cameron cocked up on the NHS?

Earlier this week David Cameron promised a 'bare knuckle fight' over the NHS as part of a campaign highlighting plans for 29 district hospitals to downgrade or close either their A&E or their maternity units.

Almost immediately the media were reporting (after frantic briefing by Labour spin doctors) that several hospitals on the list were denying any plans to close and in one case a Conservative MP was said to have apologised to his hospital for being 'wrongly' included on the list; which the media took as proof that the list was indeed incorrect.

In fact the MP for Kings Lynn Henry Bellingham later said he apologised because staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital had felt "singled out" by being on the list when there were three other maternity units at hospitals in his constituency which were also considered under threat- but this 'minor' detail went largely unreported.

Closer inspection of the denials was also to reveal that many were selective, hospitals discussing or planning to close A&E put statements out denying categorically any plans to close their maternity unit; and vice versa.

So was this a 'cock up' by Camerons people or not?

I am certain we won’t have an election for at least a couple of years yet. Cameron always has been playing a tactical long game and I am very glad that he still is.

The facts are that every hospital on his list (and many more besides) really are undergoing either consultations, or in the later planning stages of changes that will reduce neighbourhood services for residents by closing or amalgamating maternity units, A&E units or both.

There will be a drip-drip of news stories over the next few months and years as each of these trusts tries unsuccessfully to bury the bad news and fails, eventually having to admit their plans. And Cameron will be able to say ‘we told you so’; ‘we warned about this’ ‘we were right all along’,'You can’t believe this Prime Minister any more than the last one’ etc. etc.

Hell hath no fury like a news reporter misled, so if Cameron and Lansley are right, the angry press backlash against Labour could come at a very critical moment, i.e. in the lead-up to an election.

It would have been a far better strategy - especially for ‘new’ New Labour to have said ‘this is all about repositioning services, and yes, several district hospitals will have services shuffled about between them; but when you running anything as big and complex as the NHS difficult decisions have to be made…..?

Whatever happened to the mature and spin-free Government we were promised by Mr Brown just two months ago?


Barrie Wood said...

So Cameron promises a 'bare knuckle fight' with Brown. Would this be the same man who also promised an end to 'Punch and Judy' politics upon becoming Conservative leader ?

I think the 'big clunking fist' of the heavyweight PM Gordon Brown is politically accounting for the light-weight contender Cameron !

It is said that the impression created in the early days of being party leader is one that often sticks - Brown has surprised quite a few of his critics and is proving to be sober and serious in contrast to the attempts at being personable and all things to all people that Cameron tries to be.

The same comparison could be also made vis-a-vis Menzies Campbell and David Cameron. It's now a fascinating test of nerve, resolve and political acumen for Cameron. The next months may well decide the GE, whenever it is finally held.

Windsor Tripehound said...

I think the 'big clunking fist' of the heavyweight PM Gordon Brown is politically accounting for the light-weight contender Cameron !

Blimey Marcus! This Barry Wood don't half post some tripe, and I thought that was my prerogative.

Let's see how Broon makes out with the European Constitution, now that some of the major unions (his erstwhile power-base) are opposed to it.

Red Flag said...

Please do keep banging on about Europe as it nicely divides your [Tory] party and is low down on the public's list of priorities !

Think Barry Wood was just pointing out the spin of Cameron - from no 'Punch + Judy' to 'bare-knuckled' politics in just a few months ! You can't believe a word he says and many even in his own party don't believe him.

Union barons being for Brown is different from the TU or Labour rank and file - where there is little enthusiasm for Brown and absolutely none for Cameron !

By the way Barry your left wing views challenging New Labour should be from with Labour not from inside that minor party of yours ! Lib Dems too right wing for you surely ?

Windsor Tripehound said...

Please do keep banging on about Europe as it nicely divides your [Tory] party and is low down on the public's list of priorities !

Sorry Mr Anonymous Red Flag, you're wrong on both counts.

1. There is no division in the Conservative party over this, and
2. People who are otherwise indifferent to the EU do care about the European Constitution being foisted on us.

Anonymous said...

No division in the Tories on Europe - oh C'mon ! Since when did John Redwood and Bill Cash sing from the same songsheet as the Europhiles like Ken Clarke. What bollox !

Still happy for the Cons to be rattling on about Europe again too - will help them appear divided and hopefully lose them an election.

Windsor TH please take the ' carpet bagging' career politician, 'Windsor man' Marcus back into your local bosom. We don't want this grockle !

Barrie Wood said...

The problem with Cameron is that the 'liberal' Conservative of his early days of leadership and talk of 'inclusion' et al have been replaced lately by the traditional themes / responses to : crime, Europe, tax and immigration. Will the 'real' Cameron please step forward !

Add to this the unconvincing £20 married persons ' tax bribe', the grammar schools debacle, the potential abolition of mildly progressive inheritance tax, the Redwood 'Economic Competitiveness' report and it looks like the Tories are reverting back to their core 30% base vote once more.

The Daily Mail and the Torygraph are coming more on board again [predictably] and 'outing' him as a traditional Tory. I'm not sure how this will play with floating / centre ground voters.

Blair moved Labour to the centre but had pivotal allies within the party - Cameron looks relatively isolated - and shows what many activist Tories think and want - the old, election losing tunes. People like Tim Montgomerie seems to be helping more those opposed to the Tories than his own party - long may he continue !!

BTW 'Red Flag' whilst I have no problem with being broadly seen as being on the 'left' - much to the chagrin of some LD's - I think the liberal / authoritarian axis is equally important. Therefore, I can agree with the socially liberal free-marketeer David Laws often more easily than 'left wing' social conservatives / authoritarians like George Galloway. So, on their own the terms 'right' and 'left' wing hide nuances of difference, and as such, could hide the very core values and emphases that separate me from the 2007 Labour party.

Windsor Tripehound said...

No division in the Tories on Europe - oh C'mon ! Since when did John Redwood and Bill Cash sing from the same songsheet as the Europhiles like Ken Clarke

As opposed to the harmony displayed by Brown, Blunkett and Vaz on the matter of a referendum on the European Constitution I presume?

Windsor Tripehound said...

"Conservative leader proposes Conservative policies shock horror !!!"

I was right first time; Barrie Wood does post tripe.

I wonder what "social liberal" Barrie's views are on IDS's proposals, particularly in the light of a 12-year old being found guilty of manslaughter today. What's your solution Barrie?

a LOCAL voter said...

"Windsor TH please take the ' carpet bagging' career politician, 'Windsor man' Marcus back into your local bosom. We don't want this grockle"

And they used to call the Tories the 'nasty party'!!!

You MUST be on to something Marcus when your opponents get so catty!

Keep it up, my son!

Barrie Wood said...

Local Voter : It was Theresa May a senior Conservative that called the Tories 'the nasty party'.

Windsor - You say Conservative leader proposes Conservative policies - my point is Cameron turns back the clock with the kind of themes / policy direction thats lost you three successive elections. That is fine by me !

We've seen similar centrist noises from previous Tory leaders before retreating into the Tory bunker and offering messages to your core 30% vote but nothing more.

Anon - right, obviously, although Labour are struggling too (as may the Lib Dems).

But Tories not divided on Europe ? Really ? It is one issue that is ALWAYS a subject of friction for the Tories.

Lastly, Anon, whatever differences I have with Marcus the tone remains civil from him (if not all Tory supporting contributors). There's surely no need to be discourteous.

Marcus Wood said...

Barry, I think for once even your party are divided on Europe, Ming opposes calling a referendum yet his predecessor says there should be one.

According to the Lib Dem blogosphere I'd say Ming is just about in the minority but it splits pretty evenly for and against.

It's daft to make consitutional issues - especially Europe - party political anyway; why can't we treat the debate as an issue of conscience and let MP's vote whatever way they want?

Barrie Wood said...

Fair point Marcus.

Speaking personally I support a EU referendum. There is, as you say, a balance of opinion in LD blogosphere - although how representative of the party that is I'm not sure.

However, it is your party for whom Europe is totem issue and creates the deepest divisions.

Marcus Wood said...

Actually Barry I feel the heat has gone from our Party on this - in the sense that those who ardently want us out have left and gone to UKIP; and those passionate Europhiles like Hestletine and Clarke have receded or retired; and not been replaced (can you think of a europhile Tory under 65? No, neither can I).

So we are left with 80% of party members and MP's being mildly Eurosceptic and adamant that further integration is a bad idea, but not in favour of pulling out.

Barrie Wood said...

Not pulling out but reforming and democratising the EU is the only sensible way forward.

On a personal level I am more EU 'neutral' - judging issues on merit - than some Lib Dems.

Marcus, what's Cameron's position now re EPP and the Tories, having flip-flopped on this previously ? The other Euro groups you could join feature some very unsavoury grouplets.

I'd like the EU to be less of a party oriented issue as pro / anti / 'critical support' positions are apparent in all parties, even in an ostensibly pro-Euro party like the Lib Dems.

It would be helpful for you if a few more Euro-obsessives went over to UKIP ! I think you downplay the heat that Europe generates in your party, but there may be some truth to your analysis about UKIP.

Marcus Wood said...

Barry, nice try but Cameron has never 'flip-flopped' on the EPP withdrawal.

What he did agree to do after a great deal of lobbying by Conservative MEPs was to wait until the new Parliament comes in in 2009.

Barrie Wood said...

Well that's your spin on it Marcus ! A simple question ? Do you think the Tories should pull out of the EPP or not ?

Marcus Wood said...

I think being in the EPP contradicts our position on Europe and as such I support withdrawal.

I understand why MEP's get all protective about this as undoubtedly we will lose some influence in Strasbourg if we drop out of this group - we could lose places on committee's for instance and I understand why MEPs wouldn't welcome that for their own status and influence.

The EP website boasts about how it's powers have grown over the years; but the tide of public opinion across Europe is that citizens want the opposite to happen; more power returned to national Governments and less power to Strasbourg.

So, if National Governments truly have the power and the EU really is subsidiary as we are assured, why do we need influence there anyway?

Barrie Wood said...

In one sense you are right about your party's position on Europe and EPP membership not sitting easily together.

Three responses to this : surely Euro MEPs are the best judges as to which grouping to belong to in the Euro parliament ? Secondly, the message that would be sent out by withdrawing from the hugely influential and mainstream EPP - Europe's moderate centre-right grouping - may not be what you wish for . Thirdly, are the alternatives surely even more unpalatable ? Do you join up with a rag-bag of hard right groups or go it alone and your MEPs will have no influence over Europe at all ?

As it is we have a fudged position of staying in the EPP until 2009, whereupon no doubt Cameron hopes that a GE will be out of the way. All round, your present position is less than satisfactory. Don't you agree ?