By Tim Hardy
While it’s cheering to see #LansleyOut trending on twitter, it’s not going to make a slight bit of difference.
Indeed if you look carefully at those now calling for Lansley to be kicked out, it’s not because of what he’s doing to the NHS – it’s because he’s not manipulating the media message well enough to keep people compliant.
A Conservative source suggests Lansley be “taken out and shot” and immediately the spin machine starts up, attacking the left as violent hypocrites for their jubilation at Tory language. This way critics of the bill are smeared at the same time as they are distracted
Cameron has no loyalty for his fellow ministers: he’ll gladly sacrifice Lansley and while critics are celebrating a minor victory at the fall of a hated minister, the bill to open up the NHS to privatisation will pass without effective opposition.
It’s up to us to kill the bill and to work out where best to put pressure. I was glad to see Ed Miliband finally making some noise about the bill but as leader of the opposition he needs to deliver more than comment in the Sunday papers: a firm promise backing Burnham’s pledge to reverse the bill if passed could make a difference; until then, he’s just posturing.
The following are the Liberal Democrats who voted for Lansley’s reforms the first time the Health and Social Care Bill passed through the commons.
You may recognise many of these names from those who voted for the Welfare Reform Bill.
These are the people who in theory are most likely to change their minds.
Clegg justifies breaking his promises to the electorate and sacrificing his values on the grounds that there isn’t a Liberal Democrat majority (which begs the question, what the hell are they doing backing the Conservatives in a coalition if doing so means they cannot stand up for their own values?). On putting pressure on the peers, he states:
Let’s be blunt: I am asking, day in, day out, Liberal Democrat peers to vote on things that they wouldn’t do in a month of Sundays if it was a Liberal Democrat government. So I don’t think people should judge the Lib Dem peers too harshly. I think they should be judged on what is finally decided. So, for instance, on the health bill, frankly I am incredibly grateful that people like Shirley Williams dug her heels in on the health bill because it’s a whole lot better than it would have been otherwise, a whole lot better. On this latest one this last week [welfare reform], I think you will find that the concern they expressed about… the transition with which, the manner with which you implement the [benefit] cap, were totally legitimate concerns.
Clegg appears to realise that he has committed too many crimes to change his mind and, like Macbeth “in blood / Stepp’d in so far”, is grimly committed to furthering the Conservative party agenda and his own eventual destruction. His fellow ministers, however, may be less happy to go down in history as the quislings who killed the Liberal Democrat party in the UK, brought shame on the democratic process and destroyed a health service built by heroes.
Those who want to lobby ministers to stop this bill might be advised to focus on these names first and also to look closely at the votes recorded in Hansard to see if any of the Conservatives who voted Aye might be convinced to change their minds. Not all Tories are free-market zealots. Many must have serious reservations about the impact of the reforms. They may not speak out in public but they won’t be so stupid as to ignore the almost unanimous opposition from the medical profession. No matter how many times Cameron lies at the despatch box claiming the opposite, health professionals overwhelmingly oppose the bill.
I’m too aware of the tactics Cameron uses to see this latest development as anything more than a distraction. There are less than three months left to save the NHS. Let’s keep our eye on the real target and not let the Conservatives sacrifice a pawn to win the game.