View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. The Staggers
22 November 2022

Rishi Sunak’s problem isn’t that he’s paying for healthcare

It’s that 12 years of Tory government have made it necessary. 

By Jonn Elledge

The first thing to say about the news that Rishi Sunak is registered with a private GP practice is that this might actually be the least shocking thing to happen in British politics this year. With a fortune, along with his wife, estimated at £730m, Sunak is one of the richest men ever to serve as prime minister. And for all the metropolitan liberal vibes that seem, strangely, to attach to the man, he’s been incredibly consistent in his support for right-wing economic ideas like a small state, individual responsibility and rich people being better than the rest of us.

So what did you expect? Of course he’s not ringing his NHS GP practice at 8.01am on a Tuesday like the rest of us, hoping against hope there’s a slot in the next fortnight to talk about that cough. What’s next? “Exclusive: Papal religion mystery solved”? “Arboreal ursine defecation sites located after decades-long search”?

That this was predictable, though, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. For one thing, like the bacon sandwich photo which (unfairly) made Ed Miliband look weird, or the Downing Street parties which (entirely fairly) showed Boris Johnson as callous, it’s the sort of thing that could crystallise concerns that the voters already have. Like his inability to use a cash card, or the fact he had to borrow a car to fill with petrol because his own was too nice for the photographs, Sunak’s decision to avoid the NHS the rest of us use could easily become a symbol of just quite how far his lifestyle actually is from the electorate’s.

Then there’s the fact he is inevitably going to get questions about all this, and just as inevitably look peevish when he answers them. Having become chancellor because of Sajid Javid’s sudden resignation, and grown popular by handing out money, Sunak has only ever played politics on the lowest of difficulty settings. One of his biggest problems during last summer’s Conservative leadership campaign was his inability to hide his irritation whenever anyone asked him a question; that veered uncomfortably close to anger when the person asking was a woman. There must be a chance the next few days will produce a clip so bad it’ll be popping up in Labour ads from now until doomsday.

Perhaps the most damning thing about this story, though, is the detail in the Guardian‘s report of what Sunak’s private West London clinic actually offers. It promises evening or weekend appointments, true, but the real selling point is the guarantee that patients with urgent health concerns will be seen “on the day”, for the low, low price of £250 per half hour. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

When the last Labour government left office in 2010, that was a level of service that we all expected, and if it wasn’t always honoured neither did it feel implausibly out of reach. Evening and weekend services were discussed, too, although the GP workforce not unreasonably pointed out that, if we wanted longer hours, the government would have to pay for them.

Now, though, waiting times run into weeks, rather than days, and if you want to be seen within hours your only option is to make like the Prime Minister and stump up the cash. The big problem for Sunak is not that he’s paying for healthcare. The problem is that 12 years of Tory government have made it necessary.

[See also: Labour must make sure no one forgets the Tories’ Brexit disaster]

Content from our partners
Where do we get the money to fix the world's biggest problems? – with ONE
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure

Topics in this article : , , , ,
Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU