The discontent with Andrew Lansley’s health reforms has been rising since the New Year.
But, one or two threatening quotations aside, most of this has come from the government’s natural
opponents: Labour and the unions. That changes today. Over at ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie has "http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2012/02/the-unnecessary-and-unpopular-nhs-bill-could-cost-the-conservative-party-the-next-election-cameron-m.html">written a post calling for the
Health Bill to be dropped. It is, Tim says, ‘not just a distraction… but potentially fatal to the Conservative Party’s electoral prospects.’ And he finishes: ‘It must be stopped
before it’s too late.’
This would be striking enough by itself, but its impact is doubled by a single sentence: ‘Speaking to ConservativeHome, three Tory Cabinet ministers have now also rung the alarm bell.’
It’s no surprise that some Tory ministers are unhappy with Lansley’s Bill — but now that they are speaking out about it, that unhappiness is a good deal more signficant. When it was just
Labour versus the coalition, it was much easier for David Cameron: he could typecast Ed Miliband as a roadblock to reform, and one that wouldn’t lavish as much money on the NHS as the government
plans to. But now that tack is near impossible. How long before more Tories and Lib Dems broadcast their dissent? And how can Cameron respond then?
There are still reasons for thinking that Cameron will stick by the Bill, among them the fact that he has already gone through the torture of that ‘pausing, listening, engaging’
exercise last year, and may not want to waste that effort. But, really, it’s looking more and more likely that he will have to drop the Bill. The NHS was meant to be the bedrock on which the
Cameroons’ moderisation programme was founded, but their approach to it is now more self-harming than anything else. For all the reassurances about real terms spending increases, for all the
posters, the Tories still lag Labour on
the issue by 8 points, and that gap is likely to increase.
And as for Lansley, his fate is wrapped up, almost inextricably, with the Bill. If it goes, then he will find it difficult to stay. There are certainly some Tories who would
"http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7595453/lansleys-headache-becomes-a-migraine.thtml">prefer Stephen Dorrell in the role, enacting the sort of policy agenda that he has been advocating
from the chair of the health select committee. If Cameron comes to agree with them, then we may soon hear a
loud BANG from outside No.10.