Is Hannan part of the Tory problems on the NHS?
Whatever the details of individual polls it’s hard to argue other than that the Tories have a big perception problem on the NHS. There’s a view that runs deep, a lot of generated by Labour campaigning over the years, that the blues are not fully committed to the concept of public health care.
Remember the Daniel Hannan interview on FOX News just eight months before the general election? The interview was repeated and repeated with his criticisms becoming the main story for days and however much Cameron said “we really really care” the mistrust was there.
It was not seen to be right for a British politician to be going on US television slagging off a revered institution. The Hannan affair did a lot of damage.
Many have observed that the NHS is a sort of religion in the UK – something in which people believe passionately – and “saving the NHS from the Tories” has been a major Labour theme in just about every general election that I can recall.
Cameron, on his election as Tory leader in December 2005, saw very quickly that he needed to give a big priority to neutralising the perception that they didn’t really believe in the NHS. His commitment to ring-fence spending was part of that.
With that background the Tory party of the coalition should have been ultra-sensitive to how any plan to change the NHS would be perceived. They should have moved forward very gently with a skilled minister with sharp political antenna. Lansley doesn’t have that.