Sometimes, when a minister is sacked, he or she goes to ground for a little while, licking their wounds and avoiding journalists keen for a comforting chat about their new backbench life. Not so Paul Burstow, who can barely have cleared his desk in the Health Department before launching an attack in the Evening Standard on that same department’s policy.
Burstow has embarrassed colleagues by spending the past year campaigning against the closure of the accident and emergency and maternity units at St Helier Hospital in his constituency while working as a health minister. He tells the newspaper today that the plans are ‘dangerous’ and fundamentally flawed. Burstow adds that he hopes new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will drop the plans, saying:
‘I hope when it lands on his desk, he consigns it to the trash bin.’
Burstow must be relieved he can campaign with a little more freedom than he did before, although I understand that wasn’t the reason for his departure from the government. Instead, the Liberal Democrat leadership was frustrated by his failure to spot the political danger in the Health and Social Care Bill, in the same way as the Tories were frustrated with Andrew Lansley.
At one stage in the reshuffle negotiations the Liberal Democrats pushed to have a hospitals minister and an education minister. The former was dropped when they realised that said minister would not be spending their time being photographed outside award-winning accident and emergency units with cute children, but taking the flak for the programme of closures. The slogan ‘Liberal Democrats: closing hospitals here!’ was not quite so attractive, so they dropped the hospitals minister plan, and stuck with getting David Laws in to education.
P.S. I note that new deputy leader of the house Tom Brake is also campaigning against the St Helier closure.