Lansley's woes continue to grow

NHS reforms an "unholy mess," say leading healthcare journals in joint editorial.

It just gets worse for Andrew Lansley. This morning, in an unprecedented joint editorial, the British Medical Journal, Health Service Journal and Nursing Times have launched a new offensive against his health reforms.

The government's plans, they write, are an "unholy mess" causing "deep distress . . . among those who must deliver the service". They go on to attack the coalition for its

. . . poor political judgement and reluctance to engage with criticism, [meaning that] what many people in healthcare considered "reasonable" objectives morphed into an old-fashioned top down reorganisation.

. . . The resulting upheaval has been unnecessary, poorly conceived, badly communicated, and a dangerous distraction at a time when the NHS is required to make unprecedented savings.

In spite of the legislative "pause" last summer, Lansley's reforms are fast becoming Cameron's biggest political headache. As Rafael noted last week, an increasing number of Tory MPs are convinced that the bill ought to be "killed" somehow. The latest YouGov poll puts Labour eight points ahead of the Conservatives on the NHS, and some Tories fear it could cost their party a majority at the next election.

Should Chris Huhne's legal travails force Cameron to reshuffle his cabinet, the PM may well take an opportunity to move the discredited Lansley.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.