As bad as it gets..
At 20 past 10 tonight I will be on the 5 Live Stephen Nolan show with Tim Farron MP, President of the Lib Dems, talking about NHS reforms.
Tim Farron reckons in today’s Observer that it wasn’t really that bad for the Lib Dems. They lost over 600 councillors in one night. Hardly surprising when you so often say one thing and then do another, the public are eventually going to see through you. 600 councillors in one night? That’s about as bad as it gets.
Lib Dem activists will blame the Lib Dem MPs and the cosy relationship. A schism will appear between the two. Lib Dem activists will want their MPs to disassociate themselves from the Conservative party in order to pull back their core vote.
Lib Dem MPs enjoy being in power. Why wouldn’t they? Let’s face it, if you had told Danny Alexander, former ‘parkie’ a year ago that within weeks he would be Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he would have called the men in white coats.
Lib Dem MPs are living the dream they never dared to dream, they won’t want to break the coalition.
Enter NHS reforms. David Cameron wants the coalition to stay. Why wouldn’t he? We have a deficit to pay back, a growth agenda to formulate and a country to put back on its feet. But here’s the tricksy catch – last week the people gave us a vote of confidence. We expected to lose up to a thousand seats, but we didn’t, we increased our net number of councillors. For us, last Thursday was as good as it gets.
In order to survive the pressure to break, Lib Dem MPs will need sparkly gifts from the cabinet to take back to their activists to calm them down.
I and other Conservative MPs fear that those gifts will be concessions to the Health and Social Care bill.
If concessions are given, Lib Dem MPs will be able to adopt a rhetoric which will dazzle and daze their own activists. They will be able to claim that the coalition has to stay. That they cannot leave because as a result of their very existence as part of the coalition, albeit a very small part, the Lib Dem MPs are protecting the NHS from the worst of the Conservative party reforms. In fact, they will be able to claim that they, the Lib Dems have saved the NHS and got rid of reforming Lansley (probably part of the deal)
There are some of us who are passionate about the reforms as they stand. We are 100% behind power being devolved to the patient. We will not stand back and watch the failing Lib Dems transduce one of our most radical policies into something we no longer recognise.
Because, we don’t have to.