Losing our religion: Fox hunting and the NHS

Should he stay or should he go?

Yes, he made an error of judgement, but he showed remorse and apologised soon after. He’ll learn from this. Be lenient and in the future he’ll repay your good faith.

FIFA weren’t having any of it. But while the nation’s football team will see its attack cruelly blunted next year, the man tasked with the country’s defence may not survive until next week.

While Wayne Rooney may have put tabloid insinuation far behind him as he soldiers on with a commendable career in stupidity, David Cameron must surely be concerned by the possibility that retaining yet another tainted figure in his Cabinet will do little to help win the next election.

Liam Fox’s presence will not overshadow the economic context come 2015, but the economic argument is not won during a short campaign, and the Fox affair is only detracting from the Coalitions’ attempts to prevent the gradual erosion of public support

A criminally uncontested view in the first place; Labour seem finally set to test the resolve of those who seek to lay Britain’s debt at their door. The Fox scandal has drawn attention from Ed Miliband’s successful cornering of David Cameron at Wednesday’s PMQS, but if that event can be turned into a regular occurrence, then its significance will prove profound.

Miliband has now set off on a road show to deliver his invective to a broader audience than the political junkies that feast off PMQs, and while Labour’s leader can wheel out freshly rotated Shadow ministers to toe the party line, no Government minister can survive an interview without the fate of the Defence Secretary being raised.

On borrowed time: with every revelation the case for Liam Fox's defence becomes harder to make.

While it is refreshing that for once the Conservatives have sided with the victim of a Fox hunt, each new revelation serves only to eat away at the claim that the story is somehow illegitimate; designed by political enemies and itself tainted by the insinuation of a sexual relationship that now accompanies most conversations over the role of Adam Werrity.

Whether motivated by the impossibly complicated mechanisms of Coalition; by the simple wish to retain a talented if troublemaking colleague; or by the crude desire to keep a potential political enemy close, retaining Fox will be a major risk. As Andy Coulson’s appointment proved, the regrets of the past can at any time return to end political careers.

It was noted this week that Cameron’s philosophy as Prime Minister seems to be rather less aggressive in demanding the resignation of troubled ministers than when he led the opposition, reflective of a wider contradiction between claims made during the election campaign and actions now in Government.

Another of these high on the public agenda is the NHS. Prior to the election, the promise was made that there would be ‘no top down reorganisations’. Now, their opponents claim, that has been abandoned to accommodate the ideologically driven reforms Andrew Lansley has spearheaded.

On Thursday’s Question Time journalist Sarah Sands echoed Nigel Lawson’s sentiment that the NHS is ‘the closest thing the English have to a religion’.

It would be easy for me to sit here and castigate the Government for, say, setting us on a path towards the whole sale privatisation of the National Health Service, but I will not.

Like the vast majority of the public, I do not truly understand the exact nature of the reforms Lansley will introduce. While that may be seen as a failure in itself, it is not the point. The British public have judged the novel that is the ‘Health and Social Care Bill’ by its blue cover, and only a few like what they have seen.

The bungling of the process has only contributed to the rapid withdrawal of public trust that Cameron worked so hard to build on this issue.

Whether the reforms prove as damaging as the warnings suggest; notably emanating from both those who fully understand the proposals and those who don’t but wouldn’t trust Lansley as far as they could throw him, will become clear in the long run. What is painfully obvious is that, as the proposals move ever closer to becoming reality, there is a distinct sense that the British people may be losing their religion.

Having secured the vote in the Lords, the Government can move forward with their proposals for the NHS despite public opposition. Cameron’s most pressing matter must now be whether the Liam Fox revelations will produce a casualty of their own.

Rooney’s supposed contrition has drawn the England attacker little sympathy. It remains to be seen whether Cameron can, if he does choose to ride out this storm with his one-time leadership rival, present a sufficient case for the Defence Secretary.


Posted on October 14, 2011, in Coalition Government, Comment, Conservative Party, Looking Forward, Party Politics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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