Peter Oborne

Harsh sunlight shines on a failing NHS, as fire consumes the Blairite vanities

Harsh sunlight shines on a failing NHS, as fire consumes the Blairite vanities

There was a definite gaiety among MPs as they came back from Easter recess this week. The winter has been longer and colder than any in recent memory. Westminster, cheerless and crepuscular at the best of times, has a way of magnifying the gloom. Now spring has finally arrived with a series of fine sunny days. Best of all, we have the local elections. Ministers are out in force on the doorstep, and as a result carry an enviably tanned and weather-beaten appearance.

This loosening of mood is palpable at the top of government. There are, for example, undeniable signs that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have been working together more harmoniously. Two weeks ago the Chancellor surprisingly caved in to Downing Street pressure over pensions reform. Last week Tony Blair returned the compliment. He has allowed the Chancellor to claim victory in the long, agonised internal debate over how New Labour should deal with David Cameron.

Gordon Brown has been given licence to target Cameron personally, and after long thought has chosen to depict the Conservative party leader as a chameleon, shamelessly telling voters what they want to hear in a ruthless quest for electoral success. If Labour’s light-hearted and enjoyable party political broadcast is the best the Chancellor and his strategists can manage, Cameron probably hasn’t got that much to worry about.

Meanwhile the atmosphere in Downing Street has changed. At times, during this difficult winter, there’s been an air of beleaguered defiance bordering on self-righteous despair. But now there’s confidence and self-belief. Downing Street insiders feel that the Education Bill, for all the concessions, is a triumph, and the prospect of a settlement over pensions means that the Prime Minister has gone some way to securing his legacy.

A self-confident Prime Minister has turned his attention to the NHS.

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