Labour aims to turn the NHS crisis into Cameron's tuition fees moment

The party's new attack video shows how it will maximise the damage for the PM by reminding voters how he promised in 2010 to protect the health service.

To date, David Cameron has avoided his own version of Nick Clegg's tuition fees moment: a profound breach of trust that inflicts permanent damage on his party. But with increasing evidence of an unprecedented A&E crisis, the NHS could provide it. 

After Ed Miliband challenged him on the subject at yesterday's PMQs, Labour has released a new attack video, set to a Jaws-esque soundtrack, reminding voters just how much emphasis Cameron put on protecting the health service before the election. Noting that the public rank the NHS as the most important policy area after the economy and immigration, one senior figure told me yesterday that the party intended to put the issue "back at the top of the agenda". 

Despite a concerted attempt by the Tories to pin the blame for the Mid-Staffs scandal on the opposition (including a lengthy section in Cameron's conference speech) , Labour retains a double-digit lead on health. One party source told me that focus groups reacted "particularly strongly" when they were reminded of Cameron's past pledges on the NHS. 

If not the "split-screen moment" that No. 10 has long sought to avoid (when footage of a politician saying one thing is run alongside footage of them saying the reverse), the video is the closest Cameron has come to suffering this wound. 

The Tories will seek to avoid the blame for the A&E crisis by arguing that the NHS has long-standing problems that afflict all governments, aiming to scrape a messy draw with Labour. But their decision to impose Andrew Lansley's reorganisation on the service (for which they had no mandate) makes that task significantly harder. 

If the bad news on the economy appears to have passed, the danger for the Tories is that the bad news on the health service is just beginning.

David Cameron makes a speech on NHS reforms at University College Hospital in London on June, 7, 2011. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Gordon Brown contemplated making Alastair Campbell a minister

The move is revealed in Ed Balls' new book.

Gordon Brown contemplated making Alastair Campbell, a sports minister. Campbell had served as Tony Blair’s press chief from 1994 to 2003, Ed Balls has revealed.

Although the move fell through, Campbell would have been one of a number of high-profile ministerial appointments, usually through the Lords, made by Brown during his tenure at 10 Downing Street.

Other unusual appointments included the so-called “Goats” appointed in 2007, part of what Brown dubbed “the government of all the talents”, in which Ara Darzi, a respected surgeon, Mark Malloch-Brown, formerly a United Nations diplomat,  Alan West, a former admiral, Paul Myners, a  successful businessman, and Digby Jones, former director-general of the CBI, took ministerial posts and seats in the Lords. While Darzi, West and Myners were seen as successes on Whitehall, Jones quit the government after a year and became a vocal critic of both Brown’s successors as Labour leader, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn.

The story is revealed in Ed Balls’ new book, Speaking Out, a record of his time as a backroom adviser and later Cabinet and shadow cabinet minister until the loss of his seat in May 2015. It is published 6 September.