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The times we are working in now need a great deal of accelerated change and there must be no negotiating that down. So my mission statement for this part of my consultancy career is to be clear that there needs to be and will be a lot of change from the work that I do with individuals and organisations and if organisations don’t want that, then it is probably best to go somewhere else.

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More right wing culture eating Conservative strategy on the NHS

Filed Under (Conservative party, Health Policy) by Paul on 24-08-2009

I ended my last post suggesting that the next few months would inevitably have examples of a different politics of the NHS being uncovered within the Conservative party and its supporters  from the one that is David Cameron’s official line. I argued that this would happen because of the long term cultural experience of most people of the right concerning the NHS and how that was at odds with David Cameron’s political strategy.

I thought the next example would be a few weeks away. Instead it occurred the next day and from those people who should be the most disciplined in their support for David Cameron’s strategy, that is the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs).

Being a PPC for an opposition party 10 months before an election is a very tense experience. You spend a lot of time developing contacts and relationships in the local constituency and working through policy handbooks and emails trying to ensure that you become a good representative for your party. Your party stresses that it will be the discipline of being a good member of that party which will help you with your personal electoral success and the success of your Party. You count the days off until the election with more and more work and more and more understanding of Party policy.

If there is one place where the Party political strategy should overcome your culture, it is with these people. This makes the results of a survey carried out by the private health group BMI worrying for the Conservative leadership.

PPCs of all three main political parties were asked if they felt that people who had private medical insurance should get a lower rate of income tax. They were also asked if those people with private medical insurance should get tax relief. Prime facie if you have grown up surrounded by people who have private medical insurance then this seems a reasonable demand. After all – the internal argument goes – “We save the NHS a lot of money by taking a burden off of it, why shouldn’t we get a tax rebate of some kind” An internal culture seems to find this entirely reasonable and fair.

So when a private medical insurance company send you a questionnaire   and asks you these questions they seem very reasonable. Then when the report is press released that 66% of Conservative PPCs think that you should get a lower rate of income tax if you have private medical insurance, and that the same proportion think that you should get tax relief for the same insurance this looks reasonable enough.

In both cases 1% of Labour PPCs agree with it. So this looks like a good political dividing line for the Conservative Party.

The only problem for the Conservative strategy on the NHS is that this is not the political divide that the Conservative leadership wants. They recognise that this commons sense cultural political position is a position that is against the basic principle of the NHS being free at the point of need with equal access to all.

For the tax pound that is given to subsidise the health services of the person with private medical insurance is a pound that will not be spent on the NHS patient who does not have that insurance. This policy uses the public’s tax money to subsidise inequality, and that money could be spent on the NHS.

So if this was enacted by any future Conservative Government the budget speech would have to argue that we want to spend this money subsidising that section of the population that can afford private medical insurance against the rest of the population, thereby undermining the equality that the NHS is based upon in its use of taxpayers’ money.

There is then a gulf between what the Conservative PPC thinks is a reasonable cultural position and the political line that they want to get elected on.

The problem here for the Conservative leadership is that this group of people will have been told two things very clearly. First the political strategy of the Conservatives believing in the principles of the NHS is very very important to their election. Second don’t answer random questionnaires that ask your opinion on things as they will be used against us.

Hmmm. Both those bits of political strategy have failed in the face of what for their PPCs is common sense internal culture.

I suspect we will be seeing more of this.

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