Does the coalition know what it’s doing?

26 March 2011

On the morning of the March for the Alternative, a friend alerted me to the brilliantly angry Andrew Lansley rap (chorus: “the NHS is not for sale you grey-haired manky tosser”). Admittedly not the most sophisticated political polemic, but as agit-pop goes, pretty effective.

Andrew Lansley’s health reforms are fast become a deep embarrassment to the government. The Liberal Democrats hate them. The country is suspicious. Nobody quite understands how David Cameron took his eye so spectacularly off the ball on this one and now he is left with a policy nobody wants.

I have always been mystified that the coalition decided to reform and cut at the same time. While there may be a logic to getting potentially unpopular legislation through in the first years of a new government, this only makes sense if you are convinced by the reforms. Very few people appear to be genuinely convinced by what Andrew Lansley is doing.


I have been prepared to be agnostic about the Coalition’s reform agenda. As sold, it is the ideological continuation of the Blairite “What Works” philosophy. But I am becoming increasingly sceptical. There is a growing suspicion that the government simply does not know what it is doing. The whiff of incompetence is beginning to grow.

Cameron’s determination to devolve decision making to the departments is now looking increasingly reckless.

Today’s demonstration coincides with polling that suggests that a significant proportion of the population remains behind the government’s cuts. Ed Miliband is still failing to take advantage of the coalition’s discomfort. But there is now an equally significant and far more vocal section of the population which is not. The young, in particular, are beginning to despise the coalition. This month the Future Jobs Fund comes to an end, giving young people yet another reason to hate the government. As yet, Iain Duncan Smith (another minister given free rein to reform by Cameron) has failed to convince with his plans for the Single Work Programme. Indeed, does anyone outside the world of “Welfare to Work” even know what it is?

The attraction of coalition politics was that it appeared, for a while, to put an end to the knee-jerk sectarianism of two-party politics. The irony is that the consensus politics of the coalition is proving increasingly divisive.

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  • TrevorsDen

    Perhaps the question ought to be ‘Does Martin Bright know what he is talking about?’

    Where were you Mr Bright when under Labour Cumbria was introducing GP commissioning? its now in place and has been for some considerable time?

    Where were you Mr Bright when Gordon Brown was supporting private provision under the NHS?

    Mr Bright styles himself as a journalist so we can be confident he has read this before embarking on his pontification – cant we?
    (crikey am I being too ironic for my own good?)—White-Paper-model-work/

    and things are moving elsewhere

    The Future Jobs Fund was a Labour policy wan’t it? Set up with more money Gordon Brown did not have.

  • F

    The young are beginning to despise the coalition. This is the same young who don’t know who won the Battle of Waterloo, the same young who can’t name a single Victorian Prime Minister, the same young who have never heard of Mozart, the same young who cannot write a coherent sentence, that young. Oh, and they’d be the young who set fires in Trafalgar Square and throw ammonia at police persons. Imagine being despised by them.

  • Edward McLaughlin

    Just as an aside: well done on managing to post something this fortnight.

  • Fiona

    Broadly speaking I think the coalition knows what it wants to do – shrink the state – but it has no idea of the repercussions.

    With regard to health, the best Cameron can hope for is that at the next general election, we believe that he really didn’t have a clue what Lansley wanted to do.

    Not that it’ll save any of them.

  • Victor Southern

    Exactly how many permament jobs did the Future Jobs Fund produce and at what cost per job?

    I read somewhere that at least half of those placed in employment were back on benefit within 6 months. That compares with the DWP figures of 35% returning to benefits within 6 months if placed independently.

    The cost was £13000 per placement – £26000 per placement exceeding 6 months. That is about the new university top tuition fee for 3 years training by the way.

    Labour had a much-slated predecssor – the New Deal for Employment which was heavily criticised from many quarters as unsuccessful and expensive. I have no informed view on its merits but it had a cost per job of just over a quarter of that of its successor – £3500 per placement.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    As opposed to the last lot, you mean?

    Otherwise, Dr Massie might like this one for his collection of questions to which the answer is no.

  • Claire Hayward

    Reading this with “Santander” ads running in the background sort of defeats the point. Bet this wont get posted either :-(