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Is Dorrell bidding to rescue Coalition on health?

Michael Crick | 17:11 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

The speech from the former Health Secretary, Stephen Dorrell in the Commons this afternoon received approving nods from both sides of the Coalition benches.

From the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and his colleague Oliver Letwin, but also from two of the biggest critics of the bill - the Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, and the Conservative former GP Sarah Wollaston.

Mr Dorrell, who now chairs the Commons select committee of health, was speaking in support of the Coalition's health bill, though his committee has also published substantial criticisms of it.

In his speech Andrew Lansley briefly confirmed there would be "substantive" changes to the Health and Social Care Bill, yet strongly gave the impression in his rest of his pugnacious performance that he plans to stick to his guns.

Should David Cameron feel the need to move or sack Mr Lansley, or should the Health Secretary resign, then Mr Dorrell might be a good replacement politically. He's a fresh face; he's experienced; he'd be unlikely to rouse strong opposition; and his promotion from the backbenches would avoid a big ministerial reshuffle.

Mr Dorrell would be one option. Another, as I suggested a few days ago, would be to swap Mr Lansley with a Cabinet colleague, such as the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.

Another strong contender for Mr Lansley's job would be the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. His name is certainly being pressed by one figure close to the PM. Not least because it would give the Tories a chance to see what Mr Hunt - a probable future leadership contender - is made of.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think you are clutching at straws. Lansley will not lose his job. He knows the NHS inside out and has acknowledged there will be amendments to the bill after the "listening exercise". This political game playing is tedious and unnecessary. Both sides of the bench acknowlege there must be reforms to modernise the NHS but the issue of "cherry picking" and fragmentation due to "privatisation through the back door" should be laid to rest. I think Lansley will eventually see that amendments need to take place to get the bill through. The opposition debate today is a waste of time and I think Lansley is quite right. The unions have got to Healey to pick a fight and score political points off the Lib Dems. The chamber was not even a third full.

  • Comment number 2.

    Dorrell has certainly seen his star rise in the last few years and especially since he became chairman of the SC. I just don't see how Cameron can let Lansley go in the near future, however, as this would have an impact upon No. 10. It is impossible to believe that Cameron did not know what Lansley would suggest and certainly both sides of the coalition have supported it in the Commons thus far (some notable dissenters aside). It would seem even more of a u-turn if Lansley were to be let go before the year is out, at least.

    Hunt would be an interesting choice although it may be that his work regarding BSkyB still has some way to go if the NotW scandal gets any sleazier. Hammond would seem to be a safe pair of hands although he too may have some nasty surprises coming his way over HS2.

    Whatever the outcome, it has not been a triumph of management at No. 10.

  • Comment number 3.

    Big Society is not working because everyone is on Care in the Community and no prizes for who dropped that bomb shell on us all it was a Conservative government policy of yester year that swept across the silly isles of Wasteminster without a single objection or even a pause for thought as with the passing of the rotten tides from descent when all the sensible user requests get thrown in the bin of management because it might just reduce staff and cut down on inflation and so say all of you.

  • Comment number 4.

    As Director of the Institute of Commissioning Professionals, commissioning is about 'what to acquire' and includes a range of routes including making, sharing, mutualising or implementing 'right to provide'. It does not mean commissioning =procurement. Many groups are misinterpreting and misjudging the reforms.
    As the Parliamentary Health Committee indicated, Commissioning standards do need to improve and should be a major part of the reforms.
    Where are the commissioning standards, regulation, guidance, examples of good practice and why have the lessons of the past on commissioning not been learnt?


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