I have recently been travelling around the country, on your behalf and at your expense, visiting some of the chaps with whom I hope to be shaping your NHS. I went first to Wales, to Llwelliwindywillow, and there I spoke with the Welsh health minister, Ms Llwesley Griffiyd, and we exchanged many frank words in our respective languages, so precious little came of that in the way of understanding. I did however remonstrate with her that offering free PIP implants was reckless, and I am told she remonstrated with me that not offering free PIP implants was reckless.
I then went on to Scotland, and there I had talks with the young, vigorous First Minister of that great country, and danced with his very lovely lady health secretary. We talked of many things, including Scotland’s position on free health care. I agreed with him when he said no nation could be more freer, and he agreed with me when I chaffed him and said no nation could be unhealthier. This type of genial statesman-like banter often went on late into the night.
On my return, I went first to Richmond House, and spoke to my health secretary, Mr Andrew Lansley, about progress on our health reforms, and his role as an honest broker for the Health and Social Care Bill. I agreed with him when he said no secretary of state could be more honest, and he agreed with me when I chaffed him and said no secretary of state could be more broken. But I took the trouble to remind my former boss that however broken was his arrow, I would still stand shoulder to shoulder with him; that he would always be the string to my bow, as I would always be the string to his.
Now, while I was abroad, I was very moved to receive letters from cabinet ministers and other members of our government, all in acute distress. One in particular, from the Member for Charnwood, is indelibly imprinted on my memory. Let me tell you what he said. He said: ‘Dear Prime Minister, I am a time-served member of the House, serving on the health select committee. Yet you continue to ignore what I have to say! This is not good enough. What do you as prime minister propose to do about it?’ Well, let me say right away, Mr Dorrell, as one old member to another: be ye of good cheer! There are many MPs in this country today who are far worse off than yourself; and it is the policy of my cabinet to see that this position is maintained.
I have the honour to remain yours conservatively, etcetera