A Level Politics

Improving your grade

The NHS – a political ‘sacred cow’

Posted by Matt Walker on August 16, 2009

Rt Hon David Cameron MPPrime Minister Harold Wilson once said that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. On Tuesday George Osborne laid claim to being a Progressive Conservative. By Friday, David Cameron was on the defensive, having to convince people of  his commitment to the NHS, an institution which is arguably the most progressive  innovation of the 20th Century.

No doubt there are some, perhaps many, Conservative MPs who would support the idea of a privatised NHS. Perhaps they watch the Fox News Channel with envy as US Republicans extol the virtues of the market, criticising the state-run NHS which apparently has ‘Death Boards’  which decide who lives and who dies.

David Cameron does appear to have a genuine commitment to the NHS, but even for those in his own party who are ideologically opposed to it, public opposition to the NHS is not politically viable. Even Margaret Thatcher, who claimed to want to ‘roll back’ the frontiers of the state and privatised much else, dared not privatise the NHS (in fact she increased health spending). And after 3 general elections during which the British public have voted for higher public spending, Cameron cannot win in 2010 unless he shows his commitment to the NHS.

Hence, apart from the odd Conservative like Daniel Hannan, you won’t find British Conservatives aping their American counterparts. If you want to the point proven further, check out Tory proposals for healthcare on their website.


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