There has been a lot of speculation that Andrew Lansley will be moved from his disastrous stint in the health brief at the rumoured summer reshuffle. I’m sure this is right, just as I’m sure Michael Gove must wake every morning thanking his lucky stars for Lansley.
In the linked article above, one of the names suggested as a potential replacement is David Laws. If he gets it, it will be because David Cameron has decided that it is better to press on with the reforms. If that’s the case Laws is the perfect choice. An economically right wing Lib Dem who would have been a Tory but for Clause 28 wouldn’t have a problem with the policy, and was an early proponent of the Lib Dem strategy of taking full responsibility in coalition for all decisions, and the clear relish he took in announcing the first £7 billion of cuts shows he would be more comfortable than most with being the minister to see through reforms hated by so many.
However, if Cameron has decided to kill the Bill, egged on by Lib Dems both emboldened by the members conference resolution and desperate for a win after the local elections and AV referendum (I’m publishing and preparing to be damned today) there is no way he will allow a Lib Dem to be the front man – the visual savior of the NHS. It would be needlessly handing their weakened party a win at the expense of the Tories, would further underline the good cop bad cop act that has the Tory right enraged and would do nothing to staunch the hemorrhaging of trust over the shibboleth issue of the NHS so personal to Cameron’s attempt to detoxify the Tory brand. In addition it could cause a thaw in relations between Labour and the Lib Dems, which is the last thing Cameron wants to risk in case he once again fails to win a majority at the next election.
So watch closely. Who is put into the essential brief will tell campaigners all they need to know about what is to come on the health reforms.