Sunday, August 16, 2009

Key Tory MPs backed call to dismantle NHS.

It's hard to emphasise enough to American readers just how controversial calls to dismantle the NHS are over here. I spoke earlier this week about the fact that Cameron came out to defend the NHS, despite the fact that the Republicans are publicly denigrating it in an attempt to undermine Obama's healthcare reforms.

So, for a Tory to choose this moment as the time to attack the NHS, is for a Tory to decide to attack Cameron himself.

The Observer can reveal that leading Tory MPs – who include Cameron's close ally Michael Gove – are listed alongside controversial MEP Daniel Hannan as co-authors of a book, Direct Democracy, which says the NHS "fails to meet public expectations" and is "no longer relevant in the 21st century".

Others listed as co-authors in the book, published shortly after the 2005 general election, include shadow cabinet members Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt and frontbencher Robert Goodwill. Clark and Hunt were unavailable for comment last night.

Gove is also one of a group of more than 20 Tory MPs and MEPs who are cited as supporters of Hannan's views in another book, The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain, published in December last year, in which Hannan and Tory MP Douglas Carswell describe the NHS as "the national sickness service".

Both books call for the NHS to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts, which they could then use to shop around for care from public and private providers. Those who could not afford to save enough would be funded by the state.

The revelations follow a furious row over Hannan's recent appearance on US television, in which he told Fox News that the NHS was a "60-year-old mistake" and urged Americans not to adopt a similar system if they wanted efficient, effective healthcare.

Hannan was rapidly slapped down and branded an "eccentric" by Cameron, who has pledged to preserve the health service, and to increase spending on it, without subjecting it to radical structural reform.

Much as Hannan's comments might help the Republicans as they attempt to stop Obama's reforms, they are simply suicidal in a British context, which is why Cameron has immediately labelled Hannan, "an eccentric".

If it becomes believed that Hannan is voicing some secret Tory policy, then the Conservatives would, in effect, become unelectable. No British electorate would ever elect a government dedicated to destroying the NHS. And Cameron is labelling him "an eccentric" because of some of his other controversial views, the funniest being his continual praising of the Icelandic economy:
Being outside the EU, Iceland has been able to cut taxes and regulation, and to open up its economy. For 70 years the Althing has been dominated by the splendidly named Independence party, which has pursued the kind of Thatcherite agenda that is off limits to EU members.


Icelanders understand that there is a connection between living in an independent state and living independently from the state. They have no more desire to submit to international than to national regulation. That attitude has made them the happiest, freest and wealthiest people on earth.
So, when Cameron states that Hannan is "eccentric" he's actually trying to explain that this man is on the loony wing of the Conservative party, despite his popularity on Fox News after he made a certain speech berating Gordon Brown which went viral on You Tube.

Other Tories have been falling over themselves to put a distance between Hannan's beliefs and their own:

Last night Tories listed as co-authors and supporters of Hannan's writings moved to distance themselves from his views. Gove said: "Dan and Douglas produce many interesting ideas. There are many … that emphatically I do not share. I certainly do not share Dan's view of the NHS."

The shadow transport minister, Robert Goodwill, said he believed in some of the suggestions on the NHS, but could not comment further because health is not his brief. Goodwill distanced himself from Hannan's views expressed on Fox News. "There are many things that should be done to the NHS, but scrapping it is not one of them," he said.

But Labour sought to capitalise, saying that Tories were split on a core policy. Andy Burnham, the health secretary, said: "This shows that, while Cameron says he is pro-NHS, he is at odds with a large section of his own party."

Hannan might have handed the Republicans a precious gift in their attempt to derail Obama's healthcare reform, but he has, simultaneously, handed Labour a possible life saver going into an election which they are sure to lose.
Gordon Brown last night broke off from his holiday to issue a statement declaring he would place the future of the NHS at the heart of the next election. "I will not stand by and see the NHS and its brilliant staff denigrated and undermined, whether that's by the right wing in the United States or by their friends in the British Conservative party," he said.
No Tory government has ever proposed dismantling the NHS in the sixty years since it's inception, and Cameron certainly isn't going to run on such a suicidal platform. Labour will now be able to use Hannan's comments as a way to undermine public confidence in the Tories ability to effectively manage the NHS.

The American health system is one which no country in the world seeks to emulate. Hannan has implied that the Tories do. And, in doing so, he has handed David Cameron the largest headache he has so far faced.

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