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.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

0800 7318496