Opposition to the coalition’s NHS reforms spreads

Norman Tebbit and David Owen warn that the plans will allow private firms to “cherry-pick” care.

The coalition's inept health reforms have achieved the rare feat of uniting Norman Tebbit and David Owen. Following the news that Downing Street is attempting to water down Andrew Lansley's bill, the former Conservative chairman and the former SDP leader unleash fusillades against the plans this morning.

Tebbit warns that the reforms will allow private firms to "cherry-pick" care from the NHS. He says: "It's fine for the private sector, which doesn't have responsibility for teaching and bringing on young surgeons, to take the straightforward and easy stuff. But that means the public sector is then left without the base of work to subsidise the more difficult surgery and the teaching of surgeons."

Elsewhere, Owen, who previously wrote in the New Statesman that the Lib Dems would no longer be "the heirs of Beveridge" if they failed to oppose the reforms, warns that the House of Lords will feel free to make significant amendments to the bill because the coalition "lacks a mandate" for many of the policies set out in it. In his new pamphlet, Fatally Flawed, Owen, who supported the introduction of the internal market in the 1980s, warns that the reforms are of "staggering ineptitude" and will create a "destructive external market" in health care.

In addition, Ed Miliband has repeated his call for David Cameron to withdraw the "confused, expensive and reckless plans" and has demanded three key amendments in a letter to the PM:

  1. Measures to protect the NHS "against the full force of UK and EU competition law".
  2. The reintroduction of guaranteed waiting times.
  3. The withdrawal of plans to break up commissioning into hundreds of small GP consortiums.

We're likely to see significant movement from Downing Street on this front over the next two weeks.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Labour slumps to fourth place in North Hykeham and Sleaford by-election

Conservative candidate Caroline Johnson eased to victory as Labour tumbled from second to fourth place.

Caroline Johnson was elected as the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, while Labour slumped from second to fourth behind Ukip and the Liberal Democrats, who finished second and third respectively. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Stephen Philips.

The seat, which has been safely Conservative since its creation, backed Brexit by a 20-point margin on 23 June. The Tory victory, with 53.5 per cent of the vote, is one of the party’s all-time best by-election performances while in government. 

Johnson won with 17,570 votes. In second was Ukip's Victoria Ayling, with 4,426 votes. Ross Pepper recieved 3,606 votes, while Labour's Jim Clarke got 3,363 votes.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.