Andrew Lansley knows the danger of real voters
He must have known the game was up when he arrived at Downing Street for the latest in the now regular series of crisis meetings on re-organisation of the National Health Service to find the gates closed.
But even he – Dead Man Walking since Primer Minister Dave pledged total confidence in him last week – could not have expected the fatal blow to come from an assassin cunningly disguised as a pensioner.
History however will record that it was Jean Hautot who uttered the sentence on the lips of so many hidden away beyond the gates: “I’ve had enough of you.”
You would have thought that all politicians would have learned from Gordon Brown the dangers of being caught unprotected in the company of real voters following his Mrs Duffy moment in Rochdale.
But it was car-crash time all over again as Jean blocked his every attempt to break into Downing Street leaving him desperately trying to hide behind the rictus grin that politicians reach for when facing voters, not to mention TV cameras.
Prime Minister Dave ,the Health Secretary should have remembered , made his latest foray into the NHS by visiting a hospital in Newcastle last week, but wisely did not tell the sometimes over-exuberant Geordies of his plans.
He tried the old pledge that the NHS was safe in Tory hands but he clearly was not safe in Jean’s, and only after police obviously felt he had been humiliated enough for the tea-time news bulletins was he allowed to squeeze through the now reluctantly opened gates.
Inside Number 10 the PM had gathered those few within the NHS who so far have not expressed outright opposition to its re-organisation. But as the guest list appeared to exclude anyone who might want to scrutinise a patient’s body rather then their pockets it did not take long to get through the agenda.
Despite at least half his own side being off-side on this, Dave still apparently believes that giving ground would grant his enemies an unnecessary victory.
He is also in trouble with the vast mass of the Lib Dem end of the Coalition which has just about run out of the space they have been staring into to avoid being embroiled in this one.
Nick Clegg and his mates have spent the last 19 months defending their membership of the chauffeur-driven section of political society by claiming the conscience, albeit the well-paid one , of the Coalition.
But with the party spring conference just three weeks away, and local elections due in May, those at the door-knocking end of the political process want action now to avoid translating their present opinion poll nightmare into electoral reality.
This has also given Ed Miliband his first real chance to rattle Dave’s cage on a regular basis.
Ed M (supported by Ed B) has mounted a very successful sniping campaign at Prime Minister’s Questions in recent weeks since realising that Dave is not good on detail and will display all his natural Flashman tendencies if poked enough. They look forward to a lot more bully-boy behaviour as the campaign continues.
The Prime Minister is going to tough this one out , says Number 10, believing the three years left to the next General Election will be long enough for the benefits to shine through.
But no-one at Number 10 or anywhere else is expressing the same optimism over the man who thought them up. Ask Jean.Tagged in: Andrew Lansley, david cameron, ed miliband, health, Health Secretary, hospital, Jean Hautot, nhs, nick clegg
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