Saturday, June 04, 2011


Trouble Swirls Around Key Coalition Issue oif Health Reform

The Economist's Bagehot diagnoses 'blood' flowing within the Coalition and prescribes the need to staunch it. Liberal Democrats are feeling awfully depressed following their loss of council seats and any prospect of voting reform this side of the next half century. This explains why they are giving the NHS reform legislation such a mauling. They hope giving the Tories a bloody nose on such a visceral core issue, will remind people of their existence and write large their vital influence as a check on the nasty party with whom fate has decreed they must in other ways support. Bagehot argues:

Modernisers around David Cameron have spent the past year arguing that, when times are hard and tough policies are needed, a coalition government is a better vehicle for promoting radical reform than a purely Tory government would have been, especially one hobbled by a narrow parliamentary majority. As modernisers tell it, because voters can see two parties from different political traditions thrashing out policies together, they are more willing to accept that the coalition’s bolder plans are in the national interest, and are not just a plot by “nasty” Tories.

Well maybe their analysis is correct but the present situation does not make it quite so clear. As the columnist points out later on in his article:

Were Conservative modernisers right to argue that two-party government makes difficult reforms easier to pull off? Or has the NHS row confirmed a deeper Tory hunch: that just as leopards have spots, Lib Dems are perfidious and sneaky, making the coalition an obstacle to bold policymaking? There is something to the first argument and, alas, the second too.

Maybe solidarity around the deficit, education and a new welfare benefits shake-up balance out the Lib Dem awkwardness over the NHS, but health is a 'sacred issue' and might even bring about the end of the coalition experiment. The worrying case of Southern Cross doesn't help one little bit. A major aspect of the Lansley NHS plan is a closer involvement of the private sector. However we see that in the care home area, where the private sector has been heavily involved form many years, this company has mismanaged its affairs spectacularly with the result that the welfare of thousands of old and vulnerable people have been put at risk. My feeling is that even more 'blood' will flow over this issue in the very near future.

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