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Tory leadership moves into top gear to reaffirm party's commitment to NHS

1.30pm update: Andrew Lansley is again challenging Health Secretary Andy Burnham to match the Conservative pledge on NHS spending, having just released the following statement:

"Andy Burnham knows he is misleading the British public when he says the Conservatives are not committed to the NHS. The real question is will Labour match our promise for a real terms increase in the health budget?"

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The Tory leadership has moved into top gear in the last 24 hours to reaffirm the party's commitment to the founding values of the NHS and to increase the resources available to it. Andrew Lansley attacked Dan Hannan's "distorted" and "negative" view of the NHS and David Cameron blogged about his pride in the NHS.  David Cameron has just given an interview for Sky News in which, under questioning, he said of Dan Hannan that "he does have some quite eccentric views about some things":

I think David Cameron and Andrew Lansley are at their best when they are restating their own commitment to the NHS rather than making negative comments about Dan Hannan.  Labour want to portray the Tories as split on this issue.  I've just spoken again to Dan, who is on holiday, and he is turning down media request after media request.  He has no desire to inflame this issue.  His interview on American television was only a restatement of the views he set out in written form a year ago.  His account of the relatively poor NHS patient survival rates for many critical conditions is entirely factual.

Picture 13 David Cameron is absolutely committed to the NHS. He saw his late son Ivan receive extraordinary care from nurses and doctors and has developed an emotional bond with it. It is typical of Labour to try and score political points but they are making a mistake.  The politics of this aren't ultimately good for Labour.  The more David Cameron is on TV talking about the NHS - and his desire to improve it - the better for the Conservative cause.  I'm a believer in the rule coined by Political Betting's Mike Smithson: The more Cameron is in the media talking about anything, the better for the Conservatives.  Andrew Lansley's Today programme interview was also notable for his emphasis on the need to improve the NHS; to make it more efficient and more responsive.  That combination of reform and defending the NHS' provision of free-at-the-point-of-use care is a winning combination.

Tim Montgomerie

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