Some things in politics are technocratic. Some are ideological, some things are pragmatic, some are defensive, some optimistic. Some things are designed to make things better, some to make things less worse.
The best advances combine the best of our passion with the best of our ideology and the best of our know how. The NHS is all of this and more.
Other parties should understand how Labour activists feel about the NHS. It is our Thatcher; it is our Churchill; it is our religion; it is our monarchy, our republic and our patriotism. It is our Potemkin, our Bastille, our Gettysburg. It is our Brittania, our John Bull, our Uncle Tom Cobley and all. It exemplifies for us the very best of the Britain we believe in. It goes to the heart of our values, and it lives in our hearts.
If the coalition had want to ensure the most ferocious election campaign ever, they couldn’t have gone about it more bullishly. Every Labour activist in the Party has been fired up by this Bill. Every doorstep in every marginal in the country will be hearing about the NHS and the damage done to it from now until 2015.
But Labour mustn’t just focus on the NHS as an electoral issue. We need to take that passion and commitment and apply it equally to planning the future of the NHS and long term care. Andy Burnham has, quite rightly, said that we will repeal the Bill. But we will need to do so carefully. The NHS will have gone through enough shocks and any re-reorganisation will take care, time and most vitally the support of the professionals. We need to work with the experts with whom we have built such a strong coalition in fighting damaging change. We need to listen to them, to work with them and to draft together a strong, long-term, sustainable future for the NHS. One that once again reflects everything we want to present to the world about what it means to be British.