Young Dave and his jolly good chaps are clearly trying to regain the political initiative after their less than stellar showing in the Eastleigh by-election, and so, despite the assertion that there would be “no lurch to the right”, out have come the UKIP-Lite and foreigner bashing ideas. The daft idea of ditching the ECHR I covered yesterday, and today has come “health tourism”.
Obediently feeding this meme is Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, chipping in with a piece titled “The NHS cancer surgeon who blew the whistle on foreigners scamming the NHS”. Who this? Prof Meirion Thomas is the name, and he has “shared his concerns” after identifying “a potentially ineligible patient”. Nelson swiftly converts this to “industrial levels of international abuse”.
Who's an obedient Tory poodle, then?
He also fails to tell us that Prof Meirion Thomas has past form for “sharing his concerns” (so much for whistleblowers being gagged, eh?). No matter, Nelson has also moved to silence anyone talking such inconvenient things as statistics: “Of course, the official figures wouldn’t show a problem”. No, finding a one-off case is far more reliable, or maybe that should read convenient.
So what is the Government proposing as a solution to a problem that eats up rather less than 0.5% of NHS resources and makes the UK look half-decently humane to the outside world? Identity cards. Yes, identity cards, except in the brave new world of the Coalition, these would become “entitlement cards”. So they’d be different to rotten old Labour ID cards, which were by definition rubbish.
So why the attempt to get the electorate to “look over there”? Simples. The Government is coming under pressure from healthcare professionals over what looks very much like “privatisation by stealth”, which if true would mean going back on a previously made promise. This, to no surprise, is only reported in the deeply subversive Guardian and its Sunday stablemate the Observer.
Such actions could cause genuine resistance among that vast majority of the voting public that uses the NHS and would rather it be left well alone. So out comes the dog whistle and the usual suspects in the press are fed the “sponging foreigners” line as a means of both distracting attention, and making it look like the Government is being tough on those beastly Eurocrats.
There’s only one small problem: it hasn’t worked. Back to the drawing board, chaps.