Filed Under (Conservative party, Health Policy, Reform of the NHS) by Paul on 08-10-2012
In two years time the Conservative Party conference of 2014 will take place just a few months from the General Election. The Conservatives will not want to go into that Conference with their opinion poll placing on the NHS as far behind the Labour Party as it is now.
The next election will be won and lost on whom the electorate trusts most with a very fragile economy. It is certain that this will be the most salient issue for the public when they decide who to vote for.
Based on past performance the NHS is likely to be the second most important issue for the electorate and the Conservatives will not want to be 30 points behind Labour on this issue – as they are with some opinion polls at the moment.
David Cameron’s long term strategy for the Conservatives and the NHS was, in the words of some, to ‘detoxify’ the Conservative brand. Up until the 2010 election this went very well and he must wake up some mornings and wonder what happened to that strategy.
Of course we know that Andrew Lansley is what happened to it…
…and for reasons that I will never ever understand the Prime Minister agreed to completely undermine his own careful 3 year-long strategy to quieten down the NHS by agreeing, in the summer of 2010, to Andrew Lansley’s plans to shake it all up.
So what do the Government do to retrieve this position?
Given that this is the NHS it is not possible to just do nothing. Whilst the public row about NHS reform has now quietened down a bit, those of us who know the NHS believe that in the real world of the NHS it will come under great pressure over the next couple of years and will provide stories of problems that have little relationship with the reforms.
Over the next few years the NHS will hit the headlines and doing nothing will not be an option. So the Conservatives need an active position – and they need to start that this week.
Let’s start with what they won’t be doing. They won’t be saying,
“For the last two years we have been really bold in developing and implementing an NHS reform programme in which we take pride”.
Michael Gove will say that about his schools’ programme.
Ian Duncan Smith will say it about welfare benefits.
But little mention will be made of the pride the Prime Minister feels every time he hears of a Clinical Commissioning Group outlining its intentions to remove care from its local hospital.
So given they can’t talk about what they have done, but have to say something, what will they say?
They will say they are proud of the NHS. They will point to all of the good stories about the NHS that Andrew Lansley had to be ambivalent about. (He couldn’t celebrate too many good stories about the NHS as good stories undermined the case for having to reform it.).
They will point out how they have frequently given preferential funding to the NHS when compared to all other services.
This will only be a sub subtext at the Conference.
The membership that attends the Conservative Party Conference does not thrill to every mention of the NHS.
So whilst the main text at the Conference will be how the Labour Party can’t be trusted with the economy the subtext will be,
- It’s the Tories that have at last had Abu Hamza deported.
- We are reforming welfare benefits.
- We are tackling the teacher’s unions over schools policy etc. etc.
These are the buttons that need to be pushed for Conservative Party Conference goers.
Celebration of the NHS will be merely a sub subtext..