Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Could Cameron really make the NHS a "Tory" issue?

There was no mention of "sunshine" in David Cameron's keynote speech to the Conservative conference this afternoon, which was probably just as well. I still can't believe that a political leader with apsirations to be taken seriously ever came out with the comment which he came out with last Sunday.

But leaving that and Gideon's "autistic" gaffe aside, it has been a reasonably good week for the Tory leader, although the "row" over tax cuts versus economic stability was far too manufactured ever to rank as Cameron's Clause Four moment.

His speech today provided few further clues to the make-up of the next Tory manifesto, but it was nonetheless notable for one rather breathakingly audacious move - an attempt to steal Labour's historic mantle as the party of the NHS.

Normally such an initiative would be doomed to failure. The NHS is "one of the 20th century's greatest achievements," Mr Cameron reminded us in his speech, neglecting to mention that it is, of course, a Labour achievement for which, historically, Labour has always reaped the political dividend.

But these are not normal times. As I wrote in my last column for the North West Enquirer - the one that didn't actually appear because the paper went bust the day before publication - a Government which came into power to "save" the NHS has ended up closing hospitals.

The prospect of this, in the tenth year of a Labour Government, offers a stark illustration of the gulf between the hype and the reality of Tony Blair’s administration which Mr Cameron is right to seek to exploit.

Don't get me wrong. I still think DC is essentially a jumped-up PR man who deserves to be smashed out of sight in a style v substance election against Gordon Brown in three years' time.

But by highlighting the NHS as an issue on which Labour is now deservedly vulnerable, he has done his cause no harm at all.

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Richard Bailey said...

An outstanding post, Paul. Only the penultimate paragraph keeps us from hugging like old friends.

On my blog just a day ago I wrote:

"I don't want tax cuts. It is our society that needs fixing, not our economy. It is not 1979."

36hrs later, David Cameron said this:

"When our Party was last in power, our task was to restore economic responsibility....The task for us today is different...Our fundamental aim is to roll forward the frontiers of society."

I have always agreed with David Cameron, but I had no idea he agreed with me.

Liam Murray said...

I'm given to understand that the attempt to 'colonise' the NHS as a Tory issue will step up a gear or two in the next few weeks as well so it'll be very interesting to watch.

Granted the NHS was a Labour achievement and one it should be rightly proud of but that was 60 years ago. The thrust of Cameron's pitch is that Labour tends to have an ideological attachment to aspects of delivery in the NHS whereas the public attachment to it revolves around the 'free at point of use' angle. I don't think the public share the concerns of some in the Labour movement about market mechanisms and private involvement - their sole concern is what works (to steal another Blairite soundbite).

I think Cameron is trying to squeeze between this ideological attachment and a more pragmatic outlook for what actually delivers - as a moderate Tory (no sniggers Paul) I'm hoping he succeeds.

MorrisOx said...

Paul, calm down. You're over-intellectualising again.

We're only talking about a general election, after all

Rigger Mortice said...

'I still think DC is essentially a jumped-up PR man '

I agree and I'm a Tory member.I want a leader who will say no to the public sector unions.I want someone who will defend me,he's a girls blouse,although I hope I'm wrong.

by the way for those who don't think we'll be sorting out a ruined economy,get real.the govt and householders are in debt up to their eyeballs and tax receipts will not rise unlike unemployment.the only reason inflation has not pushed harder and higher is because of the way GB calculates it.he has hit his growth targets by force of debt nothing else.