Cameron stands by deadbeat Lansley – but for how long?
New YouGov poll putting Labour five points ahead shows Cameron out of step with public
DAVID CAMERON is standing by his Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, despite signs of panic in the Tory ranks and calls for Lansley's resignation.
But for how long? As the Government faces another beating up over the proposed NHS reforms in the Lords today, the Mole hears that Cameron is less than happy with being dumped in this crisis by his Health Secretary.
Things are bad for the lumpen Lansley. Even Janet Daley at the Torygraph is today calling for his head for his failure to handle the reforms.
For the moment, the PM cannot sack Lansley. That would be an admission of failure for the Government's policy on the NHS (whatever it is). But he would be mad to fall for Lansley's private pleas that he be allowed to put the changes into effect. That would give Lansley a lease on his Cabinet seat until the next election, and hand Labour a big stick with which to go on hitting the Government.
The row over the NHS reforms has exposed the extent to which Cameron's coalition appears out of step with public opinion. The latest YouGov poll in The Sun shows that Labour have gone into a stunning five-point lead (Conservatives 37 per cent, Labour 42 per cent, Lib Dems nine per cent).
This is down to a string of cack-handed blunders by Cabinet ministers, including Lansley's proposal to inject competition between GPs into the NHS, which has left the public afraid they will soon be charged for going to the doctor. (It's a complete lie, but that shows had badly Lansley has sold his own policy.)
Then there's the split between Chancellor George Osborne and Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable over fat cat bankers' bonuses, which has left Cameron wide open to charges that his Cabinet is dominated by Old Etonians who are looking after their pals in the banking business.
And now Home Secretary Theresa May has been made to look impotent over her efforts to deport the radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada. (BBC reporters have been ordered not to call him a terrorist because it's a “value judgment”.)
All of which has led to rumours trickling out from Number Ten that there's a spring/early summer reshuffle on the cards. Those already being tipped for the chop are Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan, who sold her house near the new HS2 rail line, and the troublesome Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, jokingly referred to as the leading Lib Dem in the Cabinet.
But is that enough? Cameron needs a wide-ranging midterm spring clean if he wants to give his government enough vim to take it through to the General Election in 2015.
Both May and Lansley have failed. Chris Grayling, who in opposition was an attack dog on home affairs, has watched youth unemployment rise to more than one million as Employment Secretary.
But the biggest failure of all is George Osborne. His Plan A – all austerity, no growth - is clearly not working. Cameron risks suffering the same fate as Tony Blair with Gordon Brown if he lacks the guts to cut his Chancellor down to size.