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.

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The SNP retains power as Scottish Labour faces being beaten into third

Ruth Davidson’s Conservative Party looks on track to become the official opposition in Holyrood.

As expected, the SNP have performed well in the Scottish elections, with an increased vote share and some key gains – particularly from Labour in Glasgow, where Nicola Sturgeon’s party took all eight constituency seats. As it stands, they could be on course for a second successive majority in Holyrood, once the list members are fully counted.

The story of the night, though, is the demise of Scottish Labour, which put in its worst ever performance in Scotland (my stalwart liveblogging colleague Stephen Bush points out that it’s the party’s worst result since universal suffrage was introduced in 1928). The party’s vote share was done across Scotland, and the results are sufficiently poor that they could see them fall behind the Conservatives to become the third biggest party north of the border.

Losses for Labour include seat of Eastwood in Glasgow, where Scottish Conservatives deputy leader Jackson Carlaw defeated Ken Macintosh. Labour had held the seat for 17 years, though it had been Conservative beforehand.

Other key losses for Scottish Labour include Dumfriesshire, where they were beaten into third; Renfrewshire South (which went to the SNP); Cowdenbeath, where Gordon Brown's old constituency manager and protégé Alex Rowley also lost to the SNP; Glasgow Pollok, where former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont lost to the SNP’s Humza Yousaf. There was a close call for Labour’s Jackie Baillie in Dumbarton, where she held on by just 109 votes.

Rare successes came in Edinburgh Southern, where Daniel Johnson took the seat from the SNP’s Jim Eadie (although since the seat is effectively a four-way marginal, it’s not a particularly indicative gain), and East Lothian, where former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray managed to increase a previously slender majority.

Speaking to the BBC, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“A very bad night for the Labour party… There’s no doubt that the constitution has dominated this election.”

She also confirmed that “no matter what, 100 per cent, I will remain leader of the Scottish Labour party”.

In a great night for her party, Ruth Davison won her seat in Edinburgh Central, making her the first Scottish Conservative leader not to need the list system to enter the Scottish Parliament  since 2005. The Tories also gained Aberdeen West from the SNP as well as their success in Dumfriesshire.

The Liberal Democrats also had a better-than-expected night. Their leader, Willie Rennie, took the Fife North East seat from the SNP, and his party also had comfortable holds in Orkney and Shetland.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.