One of the oddities about our Secretary of State is that he is both profoundly apolitical and politically partisan.
Filed Under (Reform of the NHS, Secretary of State) by Paul on 11-07-2012
The publication of last week’s draft mandate for the National Commissioning Board by the Secretary of State demonstrates once again the awkwardness with which he sets about explaining anything about the overall politics of his reforms. So much is old news. But the statement also shows how consistently partisan he is in his approach to working with (and mainly without) the main opposition party.
That the Secretary of State is a policy wonk with no appreciation of how to make things work through politics is an established fact. This provides one of the universal explanations for the car crash of his NHS reforms. For those that didn’t know it has become clear that, if you want to reform something as important to the public as the NHS, you need to be very good at working politically with the public.
Not only is Andrew Lansley not very good, but by the look of him he seems to think it is beneath him. He seems happier to leave this to his junior ministers whilst he – as the boss – gets on with higher, purer policy thoughts.
But an interesting counterpoint to this is that whilst he is not very good at politics he is profoundly politically partisan. The launch of his draft mandate was surrounded by a statement to the House of Commons which used every opportunity to say that NHS reform only really started with him in May 2010.
He sees no continuity at all between what previous Labour Governments did and what he is trying to achieve. In fact whenever he gets the chance he attacks everything ever attempted before. As we shall see this determined isolationism has had and will have political consequences.
Compare this with his Cabinet colleagues. Michael Gove lavishes praise upon his predecessor Andrew Adonis as a new Labour Education Minister. He claims – repeatedly – that the academy movement was started under Labour and whilst as far as Gove is concerned they did not go fast enough – he is continuing with greater pace what was started under new Labour.
Ian Duncan Smith says the same about welfare reform. New Labour had some of the right ideas but was too slow. This stance has brought a response from the Labour leadership which admits that there were elements of welfare that Labour needed to be much stronger about reforming.
Andrew Lansley insists that nothing happened until he came to power. Why psychologically he needs to do that we can only guess, but this isolationism has inevitably led to him being so completely….. isolated. His insistence on separation leads people like me to agree that what he is attempting to do is so radically different that you cannot draw any line between the reforms in which I was engaged and now.
Intellectually one could say that since we did some work on choice, pricing and competition and that Andrew Lansley is doing work on choice, pricing and competition, there is obviously a similarity between what we did then, and what he is doing now.
But given he, as the major architect of the reforms, insists that they are entirely new, and then most of us that carried out reform previously can only agree.
We may have been carrying out reforms that superficially looked familiar to his but since he insists his reforms are completely different – I agree with him.
Since he clearly has a psychological desire to be alone, we should all encourage him so to be..