Consequences of the NHS reforms for the coalition

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 14 June 2011 in Diary
Events over the past few days have led to a serious deterioration in the relationship between the coalition parties

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley have announced their response to the Future Forum report on the NHS. Speaking to various MPs in Parliament this morning revealed just how serious the long-term consequences of the NHS reforms could be.  

“You can smell the burning rubber” was one description of this particular U-turn. Other Conservatives I spoke to dismissed the Lib Dem claim of victory as “bad politics which they will regret”.

“You’re supposed to work together,” said one, who is fed up of attending ministerial meetings after a weekend of Conservative bashing in the media from Lib Dems. He complained Lib Dem cabinet ministers then expect the departmental relationships to pick up as smoothly as before. Instead, some Conservative ministers are beginning to harbour grudges.

The arguments over the reforms mean that there is a danger that many more pieces of legislation will now be set to a Conservative v Lib Dem gauge. There will be debates about which side is gaining most, and can claim future victories.

Reforms could fail to progress amid inward-looking disagreements.

Some Lib Dems could consider the NHS victory payback after the AV referendum loss in May. Election victories and defeats always remain long in the memory of politicians.

One Conservative MP in an expansive mood predicted that tensions in the coalition will rise to the surface in a couple of years. It might not prove the downfall of the government but it will certainly significantly harm its ability to achieve things.

The challenge for those at the top is making sure these resentments don’t break out into the open soon. The NHS reforms may leave a long scar inside the coalition parties.

Tags: Andrew Lansley, David Cameron, NHS, Nick Clegg

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