Nick Clegg's NHS letter: Now the nervous wait


There is at first sight something rather puzzling about the deputy prime minister writing a letter calling for his own government's legislation to be amended. This, you might think, is something he could have said behind closed doors to the prime minister and the health secretary.

Well, of course, he has, but the point of today's letter is to to try to give what Mr Clegg calls "final reassurance" to everybody who is anxious about the Health Bill, that the NHS won't be treated, in his words, like "the gas, electricity, or water industry".

Those Mr Clegg is really trying to reassure are in his own party - peers who have the chance to vote on important amendments this week and activists who are being urged to vote to kill the bill in an emergency debate at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in less than a fortnight's time.

That's why Nick Clegg has written his letter with the activists' darling and a member of the Lords - Baroness Shirley Williams.

Their message is that the Lib Dems have made what Mr Clegg's aides say used to be "a bad Bill" better. The message coming from the Conservative side of the Coalition is that if all that the Lib Dems need are what are being described as "minor changes" so be it. Mr Clegg will now wait nervously for the message sent back by his own party.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    If Clegg thinks he can ride two ponies at the same time, he is in for a shock. He is part of a government elected ( despite claims to the contrary ) to run the health service as efficiently as possible, and if he does not wish to participate, he should, like the employees of the NHS unhappy with their employers' demands , feel free to seek employment elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.


    Nick, that is what it is about as you well know.

    The fact that the NHS bill is daft and obscure in equal measure makes it absolutely essential that every party of the coalition (and Labour) finds someone to blame for the upcoming chaos. This foetid parcel is coming apart at the seams!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I have just come from the meeting of the Royal College of Physicians which voted overwhelmingly for a series of motions to directly oppose the bill in its entirety. The feeling amongst RCP fellows, as opposed its officers, is that this bill will lead to the end of the NHS as we have known it; a colaborative organisation with common goals will become fragmented and competitive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Hope Cleggy's got himself the promise of a safe tory seat for the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    How kind of Cleggy to help out his old mates the Conservative Party in their hour of need. No matter if the whole world is against you, I'll be there. Touching and of course the thought that he may need a plum job in the not too distant future doesn't come into it.
    No excuses for the 'noble' Baroness either. She sold out long ago and has been around too long not to know when deals are being done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I don't trust anything that Clegg or Cameron say about the NHS. They have both totally lost credibility on this issue. They are both reassuring salesmen e.g Cameron saying preelection "No top down reorganisation of the NHS". This health bill will be disastrous for the NHS and thank goodness people are finally waking up to this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Nick probably accepts that David Cameron ought to start again on this issue. I actually think that the public would support such action and we'll get better NHS reform (which is needed).

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    9 million + 'economically inactive' now in the UK? ( depending on what fiddled govt figures are used). Govt can end unemployment now by making sure that all public sector positions (as incluidng BBC) are subject to 'job sharing'. This can also be extended to include positions held by immigrants in private sector. BOLD RADICAL - action - get it done - the useless Lords can all be booted out later

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    True to form you got it wrong again Saga - as an ex banker? you should know that we have too many subsidised immigrants & not enough who pay for themselves.
    Clegg won't talk about this either as he's part of the 'double whammy' for ave. Brits seeing declining opps, wages, living standars & as ALSO paying higher taxes to subsidise immigrants + bankers & fat cats get better bonuses

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Frankly I don't give one for what Clegg says in his grandstanding letter. What I think now, is if both the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians now come out against the bill, as seems likely then surely, surely even someone of Cameron's monumental arrogance must see it is the end of this farce once and for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    These proposed "final amendments" do not reassure me atall. It doesn't sound as if competition and the role of the private sector will be limited very much atall. The NHS could still end up with a US-style market, which is probably what the Tories want. Cameron is probably happy with Clegg's intervention as it doesn't change anything much: they just think it will sound better to the public.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    This is all getting too painful - like watching a married couple bickering, but this is the NHS. Is there no way for the Government to implement some face saving device and abandon the bill (and why are the Liberal Democrats so craven on such a key issue?). This looks like dragging on and de-stabalising the Government. Watch this space (if you can bear it!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Reason Clegg is nervous is that at some point - now he's stuck his nose into the 'supply side' NHS tinkering mess - some nosey reporter at the BBC or somewhere is going to ask Clegg - "and what would you do with the NHS ?" and to which an honest Mr Clegg would say "I haven't got the faintest idea - I'm jolly lucky to be here & only because the other two parties messed up at the general election"!


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