Ed Miliband, due to address Labour conference shortly, is to announce a £2.5 billion NHS Time to Care Fund for thousands more nurses, doctors, caseworkers and midwives. Time to Care will get its money from a £1.1 billion clampdown on tax avoidance, a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2 million and US-style fees for tobacco firms.
As James said earlier, this is crude but effective Labour politics and appeals to areas where they are strongest. It appeals to the party’s base by bashing the rich and big business, while appealing to the wider electorate on an issue they care about and that annoys them. For many people who feel frustrated that it takes so long to get a GP appointment, it is a tangible pledge.
It is also an attempt to take on some of the work that Jeremy Hunt has done in styling himself as the patients’ champion. Miliband will say:
‘Conference, it is time to care about our NHS. So that doctors, nurses, care workers, midwives able to spend proper time with us – not to be rushed off their feet.
‘The next Labour government will set aside funding so we can have 3,000 more midwives, 5,000 more home care workers, 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 more nurses in our NHS. An NHS with time to care – because there has never been a more important time to care about our NHS.’
The question is whether this pledge and the tone of the speech, which is from notes not memory, will electrify the hall out of its slumber. Ed Miliband needs to give his party a reason for turning up to this conference, a reason to fight with confidence that they will win the first stage of his planned 10-year reign, and give voters a reason to trust him.