Lansleys’ piece of pure theatre….

Andrew Lansleys’ ‘retreat’ on NHS Reforms today is pure theatre; a show put on to bewitch and bedazzle us. You don’t have to be particularly cynical or conspiratorial in your mind-set to follow the completely logical chain of events.

It was well trailed before the Liberal Democrat conference that the leadership was going to face a bumpy-ride on this issue so we can reasonably expect that Nick Clegg and other senior Liberal Democrats will have made their Cabinet colleagues well aware of this, and, since they will obviously want to assist Clegg and Co in maintaining their position, how to deal with this will have been discussed.  At this point Lansley was primed to make his ‘retreat’ carefully choreographed to coincide with the end of the Liberal Democrat conference; thus making weary activists feel like they have achieved something and spreading a warm glow inside of them. Lansley was then activated the moment the vote went through.

Sadly though he couldn’t resist adding a little flourish which makes the stage-managed nature of this production blatantly obvious – saying the Liberal Democrats have made a ‘big difference’ to his proposals.  Personally, I think it’s slightly disturbing if they make a bigger difference than the likes of the British Medical Association and actual healthcare professionals who Lansley has shown his tin ear too ever since they started criticising his brand of marketised madness.

This little episode is illustrative of a pattern which those opposing the cuts have to be aware of. First, we should be aware that a percentage of the cuts the government announces are in fact measures they never intend to take and whose sole purpose is to be retracted thus making the government look like its listening. I don’t know precisely how many or which ones but the proposed forest sell-off which never came to be strikes me as a possible candidate as do others like the attempt to cut Bookstart.

In general, I would say the dummy cuts are the ones where the amounts saved are small. The government thus ostensibly stands to lose more in political capital than it stands to gain in financial capital by making them.  A campaign is then given a decent run, attracts star support and some momentum, and a u-turn is duly announced. This is then filed away for a rainy day in the run-up to the next election or a period of an acute governmental crisis to be part of a ‘yes it was tough but look what we saved’ narrative.

However, this strategy is far from foolproof. In fact, in the end it could backfire rather badly because it obviously conflicts with the line that the ‘cupboard is bare’ (thus terminally undermine the public support for cuts as being ‘necessary’) and/or could build the confidence of the anti-cuts movement to the point where it wins a significant victory which turns the tide decisively and irreversibly against the government. If this happens then the Conservative right, already irked beyond belief by a government they see as weak may move to effect a quick termination. That’s the gamble. That’s the chance Cameron and Clegg are taking. Whether it will pay-off or not is very much up in the air.

Perhaps the most decisive upcoming battle will be over the Hutton Report because it is the one which is most likely to see the government directly confront the unions and also consequentially cause immense problems for Labour.  Some minor concessions will be announced during the consultation and then when the unions strike the ‘we did everything we could’ meme will be spun to high-heaven.

Of course, it will be said all this is conjecture and that’s largely true. None of this can be really definitively proved. In A Very British Coup, Harry Perkins is told by his Press Secretary of the conspiracy against him of which no proof exists since ‘these people do not sit in committee planning the downfall of the elected government, there are no minutes’; the point however, is not to prove its happening at all but to ‘know it is’.  Similarly here, none of this can be definitively proved but all that is required in order to beat the government at its own game.


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11 responses to “Lansleys’ piece of pure theatre….”

  1. ianrobo says :

    some very good points Darrell but once you retreat on one thing you keep having to, at some point you have to make a stand.

    following on from what we discussed yesterday, the right of the tories will hate ‘any willing provider’ being dropped, they obviously have the cover of the 57 BUT there will an issue where the right will side with Labour

    should we try and find it ?

    and what on earth could it be ?

    this is barely the first skirmish won though as the BMA are on the war path and can not be easily written off either


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Thanks. True, as I say thats the gamble but the question is also what you can sneak through under the cover of retreat as well. Look at the press and how they have given full spectrum coverage to Clegg’s comments but barely any attention to David Laws who has called for the effective introuduction of health care determined by what kind of health insurance you have and here you see the end game.

    I am sure they will but then again the PCT’s have already been decimated so they will remove this clause BUT make it de facto the case by removing the competition to the private sector. The end result will be the same as if this clause had stayed. There will and we will have to wait and see…..

    I wouldn’t write them off at all…


  3. ianrobo says :

    I don’t at all and this is a grave situation for EQUAL fair treatment regardless of ability to pay


  4. Gillig says :

    Many Americans claim evolution is a conspiracy theory. Your analysis makes sense to me.
    I don’t want politicians to run the health service, and think you should simply support the BMA.
    If Labour gets to run the country again, please concentrate on how to pay for the NHS.
    Leave changes for the NHS to decide.
    Perhaps Equity has a case against Lansley.


  5. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Sorry, you misunderstand what im saying I think. I mean the end game for them – Clegg and Cameron, ie, what they are aiming for not for us.


    Thank you. I too would like to see some democratisation in the NHS and NHS workers truly empowered with the proviso that the state as I think you ackowledge would practically speaking have to shoulder the financial burden.

    I hope we will because its an important issue.

    Lol they may well have yes.


  6. ianrobo says :

    Hi Darrell, look at how much these reforms will cost – £5bn and how we could see doctors in a PLC (posted on my blog)

    then we see the PM spokesman today say no changes and yet leave them over, we simply have to stop this and if means siding with like minded LD’s we have to do that

    the majority of the country are totally against them


  7. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Thanks for the link. I agree this reforms are truly horrifying and need to be stopped.

    Cameron is telling the truth and to be fair to Lansley he only promised to look at amending the bill to ‘reassure people’ which is hardly a wild promise in the first place.

    I dont deny this BUT where we disagree is where those like minded Lib Dems exist. I don’t think there are hardly any in the Parliamentary Lib Dems and those activists that are left are powerless as Mr Cameron helpfully reminded them today. Therefore the best and only way to stop these changes is to oppose this government and work against it at every turn. If they remain where they are then they are only helping them go through.


  8. ianrobo says :

    that is where we do disagree Darrell I think of the LD MP’s there are 20 or so who could be turned to go against this vandalism

    but the LD’s are a party where members are listened to and we need the numbers.

    By Nicholson’s own words that gives us a great opportunity to exploit. read the answers he gave, he actually is guessing at a lot of this


  9. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Maybe but they would do more damage now by leaving this government. That would rock it for a while and in the long term hasten its degeneration.

    No they arent. What happened with Free Schools? Were they listened too then?

    Im not denying that…I just think its best to say to Lib Dems now, your either with us or against us, you can’t continue to have your cake and eat it.


  10. ianrobo says :

    oh totally agree, make a play for them and if they do not pledge (that word again) to vote against sod them and try and entice their members to us


  11. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I think most of the ones that will come have to be honest…there are still a few left worth trying to entice though…a few but not many…


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