Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley has used an interview with The Spectator's Fraser Nelson to talk about a stroke he suffered 14 years ago whilst playing cricket:
"‘I went to pick up a ball, stood up again and suddenly I couldn’t stand straight,’ he remembers. ‘I tried to stabilise myself on the pitch, but I had lost my balance. I walked down to the pavilion and sat down, but it got progressively worse.’ He collapsed and was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a simple ear infection and sent home the next day.
But his then wife, a junior doctor, was instantly suspicious. ‘She said I had no symptoms of ear infection, no raised temperature, nothing. Now it was true, and continues to be true, that if you have somebody who knows their way about, you can argue your way through the system without being dismissed by the authorities. We badgered the GP so much that he eventually sent me off to have an MRI scan.’"
Lansley was referred to a private hospital, where the staff invited his wife to look at the scanning machinery, then quite new. ‘She is a doctor, so they talked her through it. They were all chatting away merrily as the results came in, then they suddenly all went a bit quiet. The pictures came up with bits of dead brain.’ It was thought at first that the cause was a tumour, but then the picture became clearer. At the age of 36, and in full health, Mr Lansley had suffered a stroke.
While most strokes are suffered by pensioners with heart disease, they also affect the young. For reasons Mr Lansley’s doctors have never managed to establish, a vein in his neck had been damaged and the blood had started to clot internally. When he picked up the cricket ball, a clot had temporarily blocked the blood supply to a part of his brain. He was shocked by the randomness of it all: had blood been denied to a different area of the brain he could be paralysed or worse. ‘It could have killed me. It was just a chance event that the net result for me was just losing my balance.’"
Fraser Nelson writes that Mr Lansley's decision to talk about his condition "fits a pattern of behaviour in the Cameron Conservatives":
"At a time when the party does not have a health policy, Mr Lansley has the unusual job of championing ideas which do not yet exist. But he can pick themes and plot personal narratives, which are increasingly considered more powerful than political policy."
The interview also reveals that Mr Lansley was encouraged to stand in last year's Tory leadership election by Oliver Letwin. Mr Letwin later became Mr Cameron's first big backer.