Tory Modernisation (Part 4)

In the run-up to the 2005 election the NHS was the public’s priority. Survey after survey found that the NHS topped the voter’s list of important issues. However, the Conservative party’s ratings on health preceding the election make it apparent that the party either got its policy wrong on the NHS, didn’t focus on it enough, or both. YouGov put the Conservatives on 22% and Labour on 30%. ICM, 29% against 49%, and Mori, 25% against 42%.

Against this background David Cameron’s first policy announcement was on the NHS, specifically on scraping Michael Howard’s NHS Passports. The passport would have allowed patients to transfer some of the cost of their NHS treatment to the private sector providing that they could afford to meet the rest of the cost. Cameron employed classic Blairite language when he pledged to campaign for the NHS and not for the few who can afford to opt-out.

Most recently, Cameron has set-out his aim to make the Conservative party The party of the NHS. At a speech to mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of the NHS, Cameron laid his enthusiasm on with a trowel:

” I believe that Conservatives should never attack an institution which so many of our fellow countrymen and women look to as one of the great achievements of our past. It’s an institution which embodies, in its very bricks and mortar, in its people, in its services, something which is great about Britain.”

The Conservative’s change of policy and language on the NHS has transformed their ratings on health. ICM’s most recent key issue poll puts the Conservatives on 26% and Labour on 28%, a much tigher lead on health for Labour than historically the case. Furthermore, ICM found that in marginal seats voters think that the Conservatives would be better than Labour at ‘modernising the NHS’ by 44% to 33%. Reflecting ICM’s results, the latest key issue poll from YouGov puts the two parties both at 25% on health.

These figures seem to suggest that Cameron is close to making the Conservative Party the party of the NHS. This will be an excellent asset to the party as it heads towards the 2010 general election, especially as the NHS remains the public’s number one priority.

Tomorrow: Vote Blue Go Green

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