Ed Miliband will know well enough not to put too much faith in this morning’s poll showing Labour 11 points ahead of the Tories. Better to be ahead than behind, but at this stage of the Parliament it is as much about bad things the Tories are doing – where do I start? – as about a reassessment of Labour, though I am confident that will not be far behind.
But there is one point in the Sunday Express poll that really should cheer Labour and worry the Tories. It is the part that asks people what they see as the most important issue facing the country. The economy was way ahead at 42%. But what about the NHS? – just 4% saw it as the most important issue.
I can remember when it was up there with and even ahead of living standards and unemployment. And why has it changed? Because Labour delivered on the promise to ‘save the NHS’. People get better quicker treatment in more and better hospitals. GPs are better paid and better funded and satisfaction ratings are higher than they have ever been.
So the message from the poll, and from people’s experience, seems to be ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. And what is the Tories’ answer? – to let their right-wing, anti-state ideology to run riot so that the very foundations of the NHS are broken.
They like to say they are following on from Blairite reforms. The difference is this: New Labour used the private sector to deliver better care for NHS patients; The Tories are using the NHS to deliver better profits for the private sector.
So that is one poll. And here is another, from The Observer. The government’s NHS reforms are backed by fewer than a third of people, despite the hard sell from David Cameron down. And the biggest opposition was among Lib Dem supporters.
The media still give the Tories a nice easy ride but the public are fast tiring of them. Tonight I am on the new Adrian Chiles’ Sunday night show on ITV which was recorded on Friday.
It is mainly light entertainment but during a technical break and Adrian asked me what I thought of the coalition and I went through all the things they were doing for which they have no mandate, and ended my rant by saying ‘so they’re just a bunch of twats really’ … which got probably my loudest applause of the evening. I know it was ‘off mic’ but unlike Andy Gray and Richard Keys, I hope they use it.
‘Bunch of twats’ … You maybe wouldn’t put it on a poster. But as the NHS reforms go through it is what doctors, nurses and patients will increasingly unite in thinking.