Did Norman Lamb really offer to resign over the NHS?

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 28 April 2011 in Diary
On the Politics Show, Nick Clegg’s PPS said he would offer to resign over the NHS reforms. On LBC last night he said he had and his offer was refused. Which is it?

It cause quite a stir when, at the height of the furore around the NHS reforms, Nick Clegg’s PPS Norman Lamb appeared on the BBC’s Politics Show and said that he would be prepared to resign if his proposals for a more “evolutionary” pace of reform weren’t adopted. Speaking to Jon Sopel, he said:

“I’ve said that if it’s impossible for me to carry on in my position I will step down. I don’t want to cause embarrassment, but I feel very strongly about this issue and I think it’s in the government’s interest to get it right in the way that I suggest.”

However, speaking on Iain Dale’s LBC show last night, Lamb seemed to change his story. Now, he says that he spoke to Nick Clegg prior to his television interview and offered to resign, but that his resignation wasn’t accepted. He said:

“I offered to resign. I said that that if it was easier to raise my concerns, openly without embarrassment, I would do that. But I don’t want to hold a gun to anyone’s head.”

When Iain pressed him on whether Nick Clegg was aware of his intentions beforehand, Lamb said:

“I told Nick of my concerns. I raised it with him beforehand and I did nothing behind anyone’s back. But I felt that it was right to offer to resign, but that wasn’t taken up.”

I spoke to Mr Lamb just now, and he emphasised to me that in going on the Politics Show he was entirely motivated by policy. He told me:

"There was no attempt to hold a gun to anyone’s head... I didn’t want to surprise anyone."

When I asked him about the disparity between his Politics Show appearance and his LBC one, he said the difference was down to a matter of wording. Here's our exchange on the matter:

NL: I can’t remember the specific words I said but I’ve made it clear elsewhere what I did, that..

CC: More a semantic confusion, then?

NL: Yes, absolutely, yeah.

You can listen to his appearance on Iain’s show in full below:


So what really happened? Did Lamb do the honourable thing and offer to fall on his sword in advance to avoid embarrassment for the coalition, or did he drop the bombshell live on the BBC?

Tags: NHS reform, Nick Clegg, Norman Lamb

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