First, Grayling now Lansley.
How many Shadow Cabinet members will the Cameron machine have to brief against this week?
The weekend gave us Chris Grayling demonstrating that it’s the same-old-Tories after all and that their commitment to equalities is skin-deep opportunism. So the briefing machine has to hint that Grayling may not be “up to the job”.
Now Andrew Lansley has started shooting from the hip with numbers (and a policy) that don’t add up, reinforcing the Tory insiders’ view that he too is dispensible as “he has gone native”.
The Shadow Health Secretary’s plan to allow more cancer drugs to be available to NHS patients at first sounds nice and caring – until you look at it more closely.
The problem is – as the respected independent think-tank, the Kings Fund, has pointed out – the numbers don’t add up. The money just is not there. It is typical George Osborne-style double-counting: it is to be funded from the “savings” from the National Insurance increase that Osborne wants to “cancel” (rather than getting on with reducing the budget deficit that is allegedly the Tories’ top priority).
In practice therefore Lansley is offering up the rest of the NHS for a double budget hit: first to fund the cancer drugs and second to cut the deficit (made larger by not proceeding with the National Insurance increase).
And that’s not all.
The cancer drugs that he wants to fund are those that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has ruled are either ineffective or far too expensive for the benefits they bring – so they are hardly a good efficient use of resources.
The key need in the treatment of cancer is early diagnosis – something that the Labour Government has prioritised. By contrast, the Tories have opposed giving people a guaranteed right to see a cancer specialist within two weeks if the GP suspects cancer. And presumably it is those primary care and diagnostic services that will now be threatened by Lansley’s double budget hit. And, of course, if patients are not diagnosed early they have a greater likelihood of needing more expensive drugs and treatment.
Opportunism, the desire for quick headlines and economic illiteracy are not a sound basis for policy formulation.
So which member of the Shadow Cabinet will be next?