The hoardings have gone up. A large head shot of David Cameron with “we can’t go on like this” all over the country.
The prospect of five whole months of electioneering is not an appealing one. Today I tuned in to hear David Cameron deliver his press release on the Health service. I did this because I really want to know. How is it that Dave sees the Health service, what is it that he actually intends to do and how does it differ from the actions that are already being taken by the Labour Government?
Dave’s promise of a less divisive kind of politics, in which he should acknowledge the positive in the actions of his opponents, is just two days old. So this event was a disappointment to me on two fronts. I did not get any of the detail that I was looking for and we were back into Dave’s habitual attacking mode.
My mind started to wander. I found myself asking does David Cameron suffer from a mild form of Tourette syndrome? The characteristic of Tourette is a tic, a little quirk that you are not quite in control of, most likely to appear when you are in a stressful situation. Playing the role of “the next prime minister” must be pretty stressful. His party, and those who hope to gain his victory if it should come have invested so much hope in him. It is not an enviable position. The scope for getting it wrong over a five month campaign is considerable.
I first became aware of David Cameron’s tic back in March 2009. He came to Stafford for a photo opportunity. It was a contentious thing to do at the time. A journalist questioned the appropriateness of his being there, and his response of “Rubbish” really upset me. At a time when emotions were running very high in Stafford it felt both unhelpful and gratuitously rude. It is only subsequently that I have realised that whenever he feels just a little under pressure his response is to pepper his speeches with words like “rubbish” “fake” ”huge” “Massive”. These are protective words used to discourage further questioning. They tell us something about his emotional state but little about the facts.
Because his speech this morning conveyed little I went to look at the draft manifesto. The tic is evident here too. Take the first paragraph after the preamble. (In this blog I am just concerned with the language. I will come back to analysis of what he is saying on another occasion).
“We will scrap all of the politically-motivated process targets that stop health professionals doing their jobs properly, and set NHS providers free to innovate by ensuring they become autonomous Foundation Trusts”. This is followed in the next paragraph.
“With power comes responsibility, and it is essential that doctors and nurses are properly accountable to patients for their performance. We will unleash an information revolution in the NHS by making detailed data about the performance of trusts, hospitals, GPs, doctors and other staff available to the public online so everyone will know who is providing a good service and who is falling behind.”
This is quite puzzling. There is the data that he likes, we need that and it will empower us, and there is the data he doesn’t like which has to be “politically motivated process targets”
A little further down the page we get to what can be cut and what is sacrosanct. It is unclear where the data for the “information revolution” lies. Is it a specially valued part of the health service, or is it part of the amount “that Labour is currently wasting on bureaucracy”?
So far I am not clear if we are just seeing muddled thinking, or if there is a real distinction which I am failing to see and need to have spelled out.
My concern is this. Most of us who take our politics seriously understand the scale of the challenges ahead. There will be a lot of words used over the next five months. This is a real opportunity to set out choices as clearly as possible and build a dialogue with the voting public. It can be a very creative process, one which actually changes the way in which our democracy works for the better.
At the moment that is not what we are getting. For me at any rate this is all too much about Dave and what Dave feels.
So now that we have reached day three of David Cameron’s campaign I can’t help feeling, “We can’t go on like this Dave!”
useful article “Come off it Dr Cameron” picks up on the fact that many of the proposals picked up by the Conservatives Draft manifesto are already in place http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/04/cameron-changes-nhs-happened-already