Andrew Lansley pushes through the most madcap, unpopular legislation in the history of the NHS, then announces the coalition backs plans to reduce pay to staff in poorer areas of what will be left of the health service.
He inevitably cites how regional pay works in the commercial sector, despite the evidence it is unworkable, unfair and inefficient. The one group not just exempted from Lansley’s plans but who will need increased pay – the managers implementing the changes to the NHS.
Cue Lib Dem MPs saying this is outrageous and they’ll ensure it never happens. Yeah, right. We’ve been here before. Following their disgraceful shenanigans on the NHS bill, Nick Clegg and his party proved their consistency in professing outrage at proposals for wholesale surveillance of our emails and internet activity without a legal warrant, until it emerged Clegg was part of the group that initially discussed the policy.
It’s worth thinking a bit more about Mr Clegg. The Sheffield MP has openly pushed for policies that are predicted to cost up to 8000 public sector jobs in his city. He came to power promising to lead a party that would break the mould. And it has, breaking election promises with an unashamed enthusiasm rarely seen before. I hate it but understand it, if he can eventually get away with it.
It’s presumed it’s electoral suicide. But I think Clegg looks at the electoral landscape and calculates the Lib Dems are likely to continue holding the balance of power, whichever is the largest party after the next election. Ruin public services, upset a million public sector workers and there are no real consequences. Which means his brand of politics could be the continuity between different governments.
But the last thing the NHS needs is another barrier between nurses and managers – who will be on the front line of the regional pay issue. Navigating a path through the chaos of the next few years will fall to these two groups in particular and one of the few chances the NHS has of remaining functional. A new relationship is required that will take serious movement on both sides. Uniting against Lansley’s latest plans will be a start. Perhaps we should argue MPs pilot taking less money in poorer areas, Clegg included?