Who would have guessed that a policy rigorously vetted in opposition by Francis Maude and Nick Boles would turn out to be a disaster? Yet here we are, with all the accumulated years of expertise in undermining colleagues, abdicating responsibility and denying the self-evident impact of one’s own actions that only a true Moderniser can bring to bear, and David Cameron is blaming the political failure of the government’s health policy on Andrew Lansley. Because this monomaniacal, politically clueless ex-bureaucrat was allowed to run off with health policy, in secret, without anyone noticing, for years and years, before covertly smashing through parliament a bill dead on arrival in terms of both its institutional and political impact? Patently not. Not when it’s the flagship policy of a man whose entire leadership has been about telling us that those three little letters, NHS, mean even more to him than, say, SAS did to dear old Michael back in the equally disingenuous day.
By far the sorriest rhetorical consequence of David Cameron’s approach to the NHS has been his constant invocation of his experience of it. This has been his defence against any and all criticism, in and outside the Commons. There’s only so much anyone can say in response to this; indeed, there’s only so very little you could want to say. But let’s leave it just at this: multi-millionaire, west London-dwelling Tory MP David Cameron’s NHS is not the NHS of desperately many other people in Britain. Indeed, given his position and influence, his anecdotalised murmurings are something more than unhelpful. They are, in short, even less accurate than his current effort to palm off responsibility for the fiasco of Tory health policy on the doggedly loyal Health Secretary. He really was only carrying out orders.
Lansley should learn the lesson of Norman Lamont and quit before his ‘friend’ the Prime Minister sacks him, in an equally vain effort to shift the blame for failure anywhere other than where it truly deserves to be. And just like the former Chancellor, the current Health Secretary, however poor his communication skills are too, actually does also believe in the policy he’s loyally defending. Andrew Lansley will only accentuate that self-same contrast with a cynical, insincere, gimmick-laden leader if he jumps before he’s inevitably pushed.