The Sketch: Lansley - Horseman of the Apocalypse or Redeemer?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The health Bill. Lansley. Labour. The NHS. What's it all about? Many questions were prompted by Health Questions.

Who is out of touch with what? Who should stop pulling the wool over whose eyes? What is myth and what is misinformation? Are waiting times going up or down? More medics in the service or fewer? Reviled by the medical profession or enthusiastically taken up by 90 per cent of GP surgeries? Light: waves or particles?

Because Andrew Lansley is in charge, no one can say anything for certain. You ask a question, he answers three or four others. He speaks, minds wander. He's like a cloud of medical-grade marijuana. He starts explaining about how structural reform will promote the merits of the best qualified provider to... And you find yourself thinking, skin, it's amazing, I wonder how much skin gets discarded by the House of Commons in a decade? How much would that weigh?

There was one fact early on that stuck. There's a hospital repaying £1.8bn worth of debt over the next 30 years in a PFI deal. That's a lot of money for a hospital. That was all started under Labour, he said.

Maybe if he started out saying that, we'd have a better grasp of the Bill: "This is what Tony Blair tried to do but couldn't." At least a) we could understand it, and b) he'd spike Labour's guns enough to stop Dennis Skinner (among very many others) calling it a "savage attack on the NHS".

That's unlikely to be true. Waiting times have, after all, halved. Unless they've doubled. And Lansley is either a suffering, Christ-like figure giving his political life to redeem the NHS – or he's three of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Still, it's now essential to Labour's re-election prospects that the reforms – if they are reforms – fail. That voters die and suffer in unprecedented numbers. The ruinous result for Labour would be a better health service. The unofficial slogan being: "Better dead as long as we're red."

NB: Anne Milton said the health Bill would ensure that everybody gets the healthcare they deserve. I hope that's not true. From the way I've ignored their hysterical and malevolent warnings on drinking, drugs and obesity she'd say I deserved treatment from Harold Shipman.