David Cameron set to delay NHS reforms bill
The Mole: Why the bookiesare offering short odds onLansley going this summer
It began with U-turns on the funding of competitive sport and the sell-off of the forests – and there could be a big one to come with the defence review, following the unplanned adventure in Libya. Right now, David Cameron is expected to oversee another retreat - this time over Andrew Lansley's radical reforms of the way the NHS is funded.
Lansley has been widely criticised for failing to lay the groundwork for the policy of giving family doctors control of the purse strings for the greater part of NHS funding – a policy that was never in the Tory election manifesto and which has been opposed by the GPs' union, the BMA.
The public sector unions opposed to the reforms are delighted by the success of their campaign, helped along by MC NxtGen whose Andrew Lansley rap - "The NHS is not for sale, you grey-haired manky codger" - has gone viral on YouTube.
Lansley himself is trying to put on a brave face, saying he’s impressed anyone could get lyrics about GP commissioning into a rap. But according to the Guardian’s sources, Cameron is no longer even listening to his health secretary and is taking his advice instead from Sir David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive.
The PM now plans to take personal charge of selling the policy to the public and, despite denials from Downing Street, is expected to delay the NHS bill beyond Easter, possibly for as long as three months.
As well as giving the Tories a chance to get their act together, the pause should ease the pressure on the Liberal Democrats, their coalition partners, who rejected Lansley’s plans at their spring conference.
Lib Dem support has fallen so far because of the coalition’s unpopular policies – on student fees in particular - that there are fears the party could be wiped out in some seats at next month’s local elections.
Nick Clegg's brand has become so poisonous that Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to have him on the same platform for the launch of the Yes to AV campaign last week.
Cameron's allies would prefer him to simply abandon Lansley's scheme on the grounds that the government is now fighting on too many fronts. But Cameron knows he can't get away with ditching the policy entirely, because it would look like he had lost the plot completely after the forests debacle.
However, he can't sit back and see the Tories involved in a car wreck on the NHS. He has to signal a change of policy. Some would like him to signal a change of health secretary, too. The bookies are offering short odds on Lansley and hapless party chairman Baroness Warsi being reshuffled at the end of the summer. ·
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