Peter Hoskin

The day of the Lib Dem’s greatest ever triumph

Or so they will try to claim. For today is the day when Steve Field, the GP doing the listening part of the NHS listening exercise, will release his report into the government’s reforms. Judging from the convulsions of the grapvine, his recommendations will go something like this: more involvement for nurses and local officials, less private sector involvement and competitiveness, and a more relaxed timescale for introducing the changes. Although there are questions of degree hidden in that checklist, it is enough to have the Lib Dems heralding their “victory” for now. Paddy Ashdown was tapdancing across the airwaves yesterday, saying that Nick Clegg had “played a blinder”. “Am I celebrating today?” he added, “Yes, I am, and I think the Liberal Democrats will be as well.”

I’d advise CoffeeHousers to treat that with bucketloads of salt, at least for the time being. There is, no doubt, some element of post-AV political choreography to all of this, whereby Lib Dem successes are overplayed, and so on. And it should be said that the government will release its own take on the recommendations tomorrow, endorsing them and jettisoning them as it chooses. What emerges could, in theory, be a mildy tweaked version of the Lansley plan, with the Lib Dems crowing about the tweaks.

That said, however, the Tories do appear to be on the defensive today. Backbenchers are countering less the Lib Dems’ claim to success, and more the way it is being made. As Peter Bone put it yesterday, “Any other Cabinet minister who behaved in the way the Deputy Prime Minister has would have been fired by now.

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