Peter Hoskin

The Tories have been put on the back foot, but don’t expect permanent damage

The Tories have been put on the back foot, but don't expect permanent damage
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There's plenty to be sceptical about with this #welovetheNHS Twitter campaign - not least the manner in which it's falsely polarising the debate into "lovers" or "haters", given that 140-character "tweets" hardly allow for nuanced arguments.  But, as Fraser pointed out last night, there's little doubting that it's a spot of good luck for Gordon Brown: a campaign by the left, for the left, which he managed to seize on with uncharacteristic speed.  

Indeed, Brown beat David Cameron to the punch for perhaps the first time in months, and has put the Tory leader on the defensive.  Hence Cameron's blog post last night, which set out his own #reasonsforlovingtheNHSbutstillwantingittoimprove, so to speak.  Here's a key passage:

"That's why we as a Party are so committed not just to the principles behind the NHS, but to doing all we can to improve the way it works in practice. So yes, we will spend more on the NHS, but we will also improve it so that it is more efficient and responsive to patients. People working on the frontline will actually be able get on with the job they signed up for, without getting tied up in a web of targets. And we will put more power in the hands of patients by giving them better information about the care they can expect to receive."  

This episode caps what has been a strange old week for the Tories.  I think Osborne came out on top in his scrap with Mandelson over the progressive agenda.  But, apart from that, the Cameroons have spent much of their time on the back foot - first over Alan Duncan, and now over the NHS.  To my eyes, though, Cameron's responses have mostly been well-judged and promise to take much of the heat out of the situation.  Throw in the fact that it's a Parliamentary recess, and I doubt permanent damage will have been done.

UPDATE: Speaking on Sky, Cameron has just said that Dan Hannan – whose Stateside comments on the NHS largely got the #welovetheNHS campaign rolling in the first place – has “ some rather eccentric points of view”.