By Ray Fleming

W ELL, I never! I never thought I would hear a Conservative minister calling on the left-wing Aneurin Bevan of Clement Atlee's post-war Labour government to help him get out of a hole he has dug for himself. But that is what Andrew Lansley, David Cameron's Health Minister, did yesterday when trying to defend himself against the widespread opposition to his NHS reforms among health professionals. I wrote about Mr Lansley's dilemma in a recent Looking Around article and will not go over the ground again now. However, Mr Lansley's attempt to liken his own self-made problems with Bevan's battle with the British Medical Association doctors in 1948 when he was building the NHS from the ground up is pathetic. Nor will he have helped himself by recalling Bevan's frustrated description of the doctors as “politically poisoned people” (he meant they were Conservatives!) because in doing so he gave the impression that after 80 years of NHS co-operation he may hold that view also.

In his speech yesterday Mr Lansley attempted to dismiss the attacks on his reforms by saying that the NHS “has always had its well-meaning critics”. The question he needs to ask himself is whether he has any supporters for his proposals beyond those who see his pressure for a greater role for the private sector as a good business proposition.