Hannan `not one of us'

DAVID Cameron makes much of his support for the National Health Service, largely based on the care and treatment of his severely disabled son Ivan, who died earlier this year aged just six.

Graham Dines

DAVID Cameron makes much of his support for the National Health Service, largely based on the care and treatment of his severely disabled son Ivan, who died earlier this year aged just six.

So the last thing he needed was a silly season story about one of his Euro MPs travelling to the United States and entering a debate about health care reforms, telling a television audience that the NHS is a 60 year Stalinist failure which he “wouldn't wish on anyone.”

As President Obama looks at the US Medicare nightmare, adverts have been running in the States, homing in on the British postcode lottery of treatment, cash limiting care for the elderly for drugs and operations, and the lack of access affordable dental treatment.

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There is some basis for these adverts - you are very likely to find that primary care trusts ration or even deny drugs to patients, and there are virtually no NHS dentists taking new patients in huge areas of the UK. However, universal health care, free at the point of entry, is still cherished by the British, even though there are manifold weaknesses

We don't need Tory Euro MPs badmouthing it in a country where the wretched of the earth who cannot afford the insurance payments to cover huge hospital, ambulance and drugs bills have to struggle for access to proper health care.

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Between holiday breaks the Tory leader has had to fend off Labour critics, who have eagerly seized on this split as a means of diverting attention away from their own leader's shortcomings to allege that the Conservatives would dismantle the NHS.

Such a claim is nonsense, as the Prime Minister and the rest of the Labour Party know full well. That didn't stop Brown writing to Labour members over the weekend: “It is understandable that the Conservative leadership have tried to distance themselves from those in Tory ranks who criticise the NHS. But the reason why their comments have generated so much anger is that they spoke to a larger truth.

“That truth is that there are two Tory faces on the NHS. Behind all the recent talk of commitment, the party has not truly been reformed.”

Health Secretary Andy Burnham went further, calling on Cameron to demonstrate the Tories' support for the NHS, by withdrawing the whip from Hannan and banning US politicians who have lambasted the service from party conference. By taking these steps you could begin to reassure the British people that your colleagues' commitment to the NHS is not just skin deep.”

Cameron's answer, in an article in The Sun yesterday, was to describe the NHS as a “fantastic fact of British life. In every NHS hospital, every surgery, every clinic in this country you will find the best of human nature - warmth, kindness and humour.”

In other words, as Mrs Thatcher used to say in another context, Hannan “is not one of us.”

Dan Hannan, a soul mate of Harwich Tory MP Douglas Carswell with whom he co-wrote a book, doesn't speak for the Tory Party. But Labour wasn't responsible for Hannan's rant and who can blame Brown for trying to cause mischief in Conservative ranks?

Its put Cameron on the back foot - which is the ideal place for an opposition leader to be as a floundering Prime Minister looks at two new opinion polls pointing to a Conservative election landslide.

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