Diary: Bureaucrats bite back as politicians play NHS blame game


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Blaming bureaucrats is one of the easiest games in politics because, like the Royal Family, they rarely answer back and, unlike the royals, no one defends them. So Claire Perry, MP for Devizes and Cameron loyalist, must have thought it was easy to defend the Government's criticised NHS reforms by attacking officials whose jobs are to be axed.

The main reform is the abolition of Primary Care Trusts. Staff at PCTs were "unelected bureaucrats", she said, three times, in a local radio interview, blaming them for a delay in opening a minor injuries unit in Marlborough and for the absence of a primary care centre in Devizes.

Bureaucrats have retaliated. NHS Wiltshire chief executive Ed Macalister-Smith said it was a "nasty and intentionally derogatory attack on NHS staff." He said her assertion that the quangocrat PCT has been an obstacle to the provision of a Primary Care Centre in Devizes "is an unacceptable distortion of the truth... Why would the PCT put up obstacles to its own proposals?" And if the Tories had a good case why trash the reputations of NHS staff?

Ed's aide kills fears in Crouch End

During the recording of this week's News Quiz, for Radio 4, the studio audience was startled to hear one panellist, the comedian Roisin Conaty say that Ed Miliband is looking at a flat in Crouch End. For the record, Ed's people say residents of Crouch End need have no fear: the Labour boss is not flat hunting anywhere.

School tells PM, no more cuts

David Cameron was not equipped to cut the ribbon at the opening of six new classrooms in Northern House School in Oxford yesterday because, as he put it: "They haven't given me the scissors because we don't want any more cuts."

Bearded lord has a cunning disguise

It would be an understatement to say there is zero public sympathy for MPs who fiddled expenses, so news that ex-Labour MP Margaret Moran has been judged unfit to plead to charges she faces is likely to be met with a disbelieving "oh yeah?" But the professional advice is unequivocal. She has a serious depressive illness, and so she is deserving of a measure of compassion. But a few known expenses fiddlers are sitting comfortably. Pola Manzila Uddin is expected to resume her seat in the Lords because the £125,000 she wrongly claimed has now been repaid.

This is a mystery, because when she was suspended from the Lords for 18 months, in autumn 2010, she said she had no money to pay back what she had fiddled. Now that the debt is cleared, the Labour Party is spared the embarrassment of more bad headlines, had the Lords voted to renew her suspension. "There are some very wealthy, very generous Labour peers," I'm told.

And the former Tory, Lord Hanningfield, has been putting in daily appearances in the House of Lords this week, having served his prison sentence for fiddling his expenses. However, not many of his fellow peers have spotted him – perhaps because his face is now partly concealed behind a beard.