George Osborne thinks that the Conservatives' policy on National Insurance will win the the election. It won't. The public know that there has to be tax rises and they see the Conservatives' plan to be exempting employers, while raising other taxes (eg VAT) on the rest of us. The issue that will lose the election for the Conservatives is their plan to start the privatisation of the NHS.
As his justification for their National Insurance policy David Cameron quotes one of his advisers: Sir Peter Gershon. Sir Peter, he says, has identified £12bn efficiency savings which can be used to pay for the NI policy. Many people point out, of course, that if £6bn or so of those "efficiency savings" are used to pay for the services that the NI rise would have paid, then that £6bn will not be used to cut the deficit. Cameron is showing that the Conservative party are the party of tax cuts, not the party of deficit cuts.
However, more concerning is Sir Peter Gershon's place in business: he is the chairman of General Healthcare Group, the largest private sector health firm in the UK. This is not a worry in itself, but it does become a worry when Cameron accepts his advice on the NHS. In a strategy paper, General Healthcare Group says:
the NHS may face a "very severe contraction in its finance with an £8bn-£10bn cut in real terms likely in the three years from 2011". It continues: "Given this lack of funding growth, there will be an increasing role for the private sector, even if NHS efficiencies can offset some of the budget pressure."
As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, it is Cameron's plan that the private sector will have a much larger role in providing NHS services, in fact Andrew Lansley intends to force the NHS to hand services over to the private sector under the direction of his super quango, the NHS Board.
Further, the Guardian reports:
The company has also just commissioned a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit that calls for "new thinking on funding and a growing role for the private sector".
When will David Cameron come clean about his plans to privatise the NHS?