Friday, 14 August 2009

Round-Up: Health Battle Causes Election Headache

Local Labour blogger Andy Peacock has published an (ill-fitting) button describing how his party is attempting to coordinate a political campaign around healthcare and the NHS as a means to reestablish their electability.

As Elizabeth Thomas describes, this fits in with the "increasingly bitter debate over President Obama's healthcare reforms". She stimulated an 4-nation discussion about the issue of insurance vs tax-funded healthcare, which as one commenter notes has helped "counter the disinformation" surrounding the subject.

Meanwhile LibDem blogger Cllr Warren Swaine digs into the causes of this sudden outburst of debate - and finds tory party activist favorite Dan Hannan MEP has been attacking the pillar of the welfare state.

On Sky News' anchorman blog, Reading-born Adam Boulton covers the emerging dispute (though more often than not from an editorial position).

Firstly Mr Hannan was interviewed on US TV to provide an 'objective' right-wing analysis in support of the Republican party cause, which was quickly responded to from the left by John Prescott.

Sky News then asked whether Mr Hannan's characterisation of the NHS as congentitally failing at a most basic level is actually a fair representation of the truth, also noting how the attack is a godsend for Labour, given their perception as the defender of the institution - which then health minister (and former Britwell postman) Alan Johnston MP reinforced when he toured RBH after assuming the position.

Ruth Barnett then reports on Labour's use of a twitter campaign to circle their wagons as the political backlash began, which they hope will reinvogorate their demoralised base.

Meanwhile the man himself points out the inescapable conclusion that the fluent expression of tory ideology is massively off-putting for the wider electorate and the divisions in the party that this exposes is causing a headache for Conservative leaders.

Oranjepan asks:
Will David Cameron make a sacrifice of the sacred cow of the NHS, or excommunicate the golden idol of his faithful?


Update: That other national institution, the BBC reports current Health Sectretary Andy Burnham weighed in to denounce Mr Hannan, pointing out that total expenditure on the healthcare in the UK is approximately half of that in the US.

Conservative party leader David Cameron called Mr Hannan's views 'eccentric' as he attempted to fight the fire threatening his electoral chances of becoming Prime Minister.

Howard Thomas asks: would Hannan decline a tax-payer funded ambulance?

Steve Borthwick notes how Stephen Hawking became enmeshed in the furore when he was honoured by President Obama recently.

Explaining that this debate is wrapped in misinformation, Steve says, "the inference that the UK operates some Orwellian euthanasia scheme via the public health service is frankly disgusting".

Meanwhile, Kezia Obama (Barack Obama's stepmother - who lives in Bracknell) has come out with praise for the NHS in the News Of The World.

Former Slough policeman Michael Pinkstone calls it 'bad timing' on his part that he had to pay for an accidental cut to be stitched up in a Canadian walk-in clinic.

Elizabeth Thomas is impressed by Janice Turner in the Times, who dismisses Daniel Hannan as a 'marginal self-publicist'.

Bracknell Blog reminds us how proposed reforms in the NHS are actually affecting services on the ground within the Berkshire East PCT area - it means downgrading Ascot's Heatherwood Hospital to pay for expensive specialist services and leaving many local people without basic services.

Reading's two Labour PPCs perk up from their recent silence to point out that Conservative shadow health minister, Andrew Lansley MP, has provided the official party line - that they intend to slash wages of health workers as part of an overall 10% cut in spending. In other words, Mr Hannan does not represent an isolated view within the Conservatives, but actually represents the mainstream opinion of activists (although where that leaves Mr Cameron is not stated).

Windsor LibDems report the front-page news in The Observer detailing the extent of anti-NHS sentiment on the opposition frontbench.

Mark Thompson returns to derride the politicised nature of this debate. He says while there is some merit in reforms which give patients choice as a mechanism which will drive up standards, the focus has so far been all on finances, and whether 'reform' means cuts in spending.

The flawed discussion descended into a slanging match, Mark reckons, as a direct consequence of partisan misrepresentations which missed the point of the real and substantial debate.

Finally, over on his Telegraph Blog, the south-east England MEP makes his excuses while congratulating himself for the ability to create a firestorm.

He also makes it clear that this is not a row about personality by advertising his book on the subject (price £10 from Amazon), before allowing his ego to assert that 'dispassionate discussion of healthcare' will only be possible after he returns from holiday in France on August 25th.
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  1. I think you forgot another reading blog on the subject;

  2. You're welcome, Adrian, thanks for saving me the trouble.

    According to the time stamp on your article you posted it about two hours after I had collected my sources, written it up and published, so it would normally have been collected later and put in the updates section to provide you with a link. But thanks again for giving me the opportunity to explain how this blog works.

  3. This is certainly a "distraction" that DC does not need but to say "threatening his electoral chances of becoming Prime Minister." is a little over the top, wouldn't you say Orangepan?? Everyone knows the NHS is its present form is unsustainable..You need to be a trifle more objective and impartial in your Posts.The words "making a mountain out of mole" springs to mind or indeed the "silly season"..

  4. 'Everyone knows the NHS is its present form is unsustainable' - er, no Tory Boy, they don't. Enlighten us and tell us what is wrong and how it should be fixed eh?

    'You need to be a trifle more objective and impartial in your Posts' - er, no he doesn't. It may be tosh, but it's his tosh and he can angle it how he likes as other blog writers do.

    "making a mountain out of mole" - Even allowing for the possibility of a typo here, the reputation of the NHS is not a molehill and the reason that some of us become protective is that some of you want to ruin it.

    Enough said.

  5. "some of you want to ruin it"

    Anon 10.41: think you will find no one wants that along with the country's economy. Have you heard of efficiency drive and cost effectiveness?? it appears being progressive does not appear to be your "forte". The times calls for these attributes. Am sure you would agree.

    Enough said

  6. Cameron does not even need to worry about being elected- it is a given considering that the majority of those who vote will do so thinking that it is just a choice between NewLabour and the Tories...

    I think the debate about the US/UK healthcare systems should be focused in the UK upon the current state of the NHS. I think in Britain, most of us are proud of the ideas of the NHS and i think we want free healthcare. However since the late 80s early 90s the NHS has been taken in such a horrible direction- namely through PFI (i have seen somewhere that the interest the government will have to pay back over the next few decades is around £50billion more than it would have cost for the government to pay to build/run new hospitals themselves). Also there seems to be a depressing movement that for a hospital to survive or to get extra money, then it has to 'balance the books' so to speak... causing a detriment to the care on offer and standards...

  7. I absolutely adore the phrase 'everybody knows' - it is the biggest pile of horseradish out there - not even everybody knows where their own bellybutton is!

    As far as I'm concerned the result of the next general election is undecided and the future of healthcare in this country is an open question.

    However two things are certain - that I haven't yet even been issued my vote yet, let alone been able to cast it, and that there are millions of people who will resist any loss of health treatment 'free at the point of service' among whom I can be counted.

  8. Orangepan: how long did you have to wait and what was the state of the ward ( if applicable)when you were in! Personal experience here too tells me there is room for vast improvement since we are funding it ( right?) and subsidising many who do not necessarily view it as a priority to try to remain healthy. Fundamental reform we are talking of here NOT axing it. Get it right..

  9. Fundamental reform - such as what? The Tory trolls on this blog (and the excessive use of the ! gives the clue to the source of the 'musings') need to say what it is exactly they want to change and why. All this tut tutting about the 'state' of the NHS and the supposed needd for reform is just a smokescreen for what they really want, which is the end of it.

    Oh, and who introduced the concept of PFI....ummmmm, the Tories.

  10. "Fundamental reform"

    Does that mean increasing spending or cutting spending?

  11. assume the position, Mr Johnson. oo-err missus!

  12. Will David Cameron make a sacrifice of the sacred cow of the NHS, or excommunicate the golden idol of his faithful?

    He will do neither. Cameron is committed to the NHS. Dan Hannan was speaking his mind, something people in the Conservative party are allowed to do. He did point out many times that he was at odds with the leadership.

    You only have to go onto YouTube to find a certain Reading Lib Dem Cllr talking against her own parties policy.


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