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Labour's latest salvo in the NHS "debate" is pathetic and smacks of desperation

I thought that the "Tory split" story about the NHS had run its course by the close of play on Friday: it was then that Sky News's Peter Spencer made the eminently sensible observation that it was "palpably absurd" that David Cameron agreed with Daniel Hannan on the NHS and rightly dismissed it as a silly season story.

As Tim pointed out on Wednesday when the media began to get excited about Dan Hannan's comments, he is  a backbench MEP who has zero influence on Tory health policy.

Yet by the most spurious of means, Labour and their allies in the media (some of whom aren't even allies, but just desperate for copy at this time of year) have managed to ensure that the "story" is still live, albeit I suspect gasping its last breaths, in today's papers.

And today's coverage (see, for example, the Telegraph and Times) is based on this Labour press release in which Health Secretary Andy Burnham makes a series of preposterous demands of David Cameron. 

Mr Burnham wants any American politician who disagrees with David Cameron on the NHS to be barred from attending the Conservative Party conference; he says the Tory whip should be withdrawn from Dan Hannan; and says that shadow ministers should be forced to resign from a group (Cornerstone) which once published a pamphlet calling for reform of the way health services are delivered.

That the so-called debate has come to this pathetic level on the Labour side suggests how desperate they have become.

Will Labour be refusing entry to its conference to the assorted dinosaurs who are fellow members of the Socialist International? Will the Labour whip be being withdrawn from backbench politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, Frank Field and Kate Hoey who regularly dare to question and vote against the party line on any number of issues? Similarly, will ministers be banned from being members of any group or faction which may have, at some point, allowed views to be aired which challenged party policy?

No, of course not, on all three counts.

All political parties are broad coalitions where there is room for those with differing viewpoints - and the same is inevitably even truer of international alliances.

It is preposterous to suggest that every politician in a political party should have to agree 100% with every word his party leader says: not only would it be dishonest if they did, but it would also stifle debate in what should be a grown-up democracy.

Jonathan Isaby


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