Amazingly, roboNick this morning wiped the Vaseline from his glasses, and saw the light. The BBC’s Innuendo-in-Chief, master of the C word, E word and R word, realised it was all about the D word.
‘Duty, that is, Huw. The duty [lugubrious sideways glance] of the Secretary of State, that is, to provide [meaningless pause] a comprehensive health service.’
‘Thanks Nick. That was Nick, ending his report for us from, err, Downing Street.’ That’s the nice thing about Huw: he always takes the trouble to make sure you know who’s who, what’s what, and where’s where, even when, err, he’s not quite sure himself.
Well – long may the light stay on. But although the preservation of that duty is quite literally vital to the continuing provision of a national health service, it is by no means the only vertebra in the backbone of our health service. The Tories’ 400+ page Health and Social Care Bill still contains such a list of measures that virtually no bone would be left unturned, were the Bill, or substantial parts of it, to be enacted.
Meanwhile, the politicking goes on. The Yellow Party, smarting from its drubbing in the polls, has lately been rattling plastic sabres with increasing vigour. In a reckless dice with that number that lies between twelve and fourteen, their leader cocoNick has been waving his NHS scorecard high and low. In reply, the hounds of the Blue Party are baying for the blood of the Yellow Bastards; and all the while, in a stadium far away, the Red Party remains stuck in a dead Ed, in a Balls up of its own making.
The trouble for cocoNick is that his boss, the Prime Minister, also claims to be victor ludorum. Having personally taken responsibility for the reforms, the PM intends personally to take responsibility for the revised and improved HSCB Mark II. This is the kind of pressure up with which a coalition cannot put. We shall find ourselves drawn inexorably towards the black hole side of Alice in Wonderland, where all may have won, but none shall have prizes. It may even – who knows – split the coalition asunder.
But the real danger for now – be it intentional or unintentional – is of a Clouseau/Kato moment. Caught off balance as the Bill revision door opens unexpectedly, opponents of the Bill risk a graceful but doomed flight through the door of history, across the floor of politics, before crashing – and disappearing – through the paper wall of fate. Behind them, the Tories once again shut and lock down the revision door, and get back to their privatisation plans.
For make no mistake: it is the intention of this government, as it is of all governments, to get the NHS, with its fearful risks, off the government books, and into private hands. Dumping the Secretary of State’s duty to provide would have made life easier, but its retention shall not dilute the government’s intention, nor hinder it in the execution of its plans. We must be wary of winning the duty to provide battle, and loosing the NHS war. There is plenty more to be tackled in this Bill if we are not to see the NHS set sail on the Southern Cross course.