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‘Bunch of twats’ – a fitting slogan for Tories on NHS reform

Posted on 30 January 2011 | 11:01am

Ed Miliband will know well enough not to put too much faith in this morning’s poll showing Labour 11 points ahead of the Tories. Better to be ahead than behind, but at this stage of the Parliament it is as much about bad things the Tories are doing – where do I start? – as about a reassessment of Labour, though I am confident that will not be far behind.

But there is one point in the Sunday Express poll that really should cheer Labour and worry the Tories. It is the part that asks people what they see as the most important issue facing the country. The economy was way ahead at 42%. But what about the NHS? – just 4% saw it as the most important issue.

I can remember when it was up there with and even ahead of living standards and unemployment. And why has it changed? Because Labour delivered on the promise to ‘save the NHS’. People get better quicker treatment in more and better hospitals. GPs are better paid and better funded and satisfaction ratings are higher than they have ever been.

So the message from the poll, and from people’s experience, seems to be ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. And what is the Tories’ answer? – to let their right-wing, anti-state ideology to run riot so that the very foundations of the NHS are broken.

They like to say they are following on from Blairite reforms. The difference is this: New Labour used the private sector to deliver better care for NHS patients; The Tories are using the NHS to deliver better profits for the private sector.

So that is one poll. And here is another, from The Observer.  The government’s NHS reforms are backed by fewer than a third of people, despite the hard sell from David Cameron down. And the biggest opposition was among Lib Dem supporters.

The media still give the Tories a nice easy ride but the public are fast tiring of them. Tonight I am on the new Adrian Chiles’ Sunday night show on ITV which was recorded on Friday.

It is mainly light entertainment but during a technical break and Adrian asked me what I thought of the coalition and I went through all the things they were doing for which they have no mandate, and ended my rant by saying ‘so they’re just a bunch of twats really’ … which got probably my loudest applause of the evening. I know it was ‘off mic’ but unlike Andy Gray and Richard Keys, I hope they use it.

‘Bunch of twats’ … You maybe wouldn’t put it on a poster. But as the NHS reforms go through it is what doctors, nurses and patients will increasingly unite in thinking.

  • I think you’ll find it’s you that’s the twat!!

  • ‘They like to say they are following on from Blairite reforms. The difference is this: New Labour used the private sector to deliver better care for NHS patients; The Tories are using the NHS to deliver better profits for the private sector.’

    Spot on. That’s a TV ad right there.

  • anon

    Do you mind pointing out who you’re quoting (“bunch of twats”)? If that’s a quote from yourself that’s pretty childish 😐

  • It is always at the beginning of a parliament that a Tory government is at it’s most dangerous. This is the time when it will push through toxic policies without any popular mandate and driven only by ideologically zeal, in the hope that when their true nature becomes apparent it will either be too difficult or too costly to undo the damage and like ugly scars and cheap tattoos they will become accepted as part of the fabric of the nation.

  • Gemma

    I was in the audience for the Chiles show at the Riverside. Like you I hope they use what you said, even thugh he said it was ‘off mike’ … As you went through the things the government was doing without mandate, I have never seen so many nodding heads around me (and apologies but I voted Lib Dem — never again) … so your twats comment, even if not meant for recording, summed it up brilliantly. I tried to speak to you at the end but you and Harry Redknapp were engrossed in football talk. Good luck

  • Tom Simple

    The most telling thing was the story that Cameron didn’t know what Lansley was preparing and was taken by surprise. The real surprise is going to come when they realise what the public think of these reforms

  • “Bunch of twats” encapsulates perfectly.Maybe it should be put on many posters….along with another phrase I can think of but won’t write….
    The existence of the NHS was fought for and must now be fought from sure death.

  • smileoftdecade

    The twats I know of are not so arrogantly sure of themselves – it takes a public school to add that ingredient.

  • Roger ODonnell

    Id put it on a poster, it’s the truth

  • Olli Issakainen

    The Tory-led government believes that it is possible to have reasonable growth alongside dramatic rates of deficit reduction. There is even supposed economic “theory” to back this.
    It is called Ricardian equivalence theory.
    Government´s entire economic strategy is based on belief that cutting the deficit will free up private sector to create jobs and growth. Government hopes that people will be spending more and businesses will be creating more jobs. Confidence should go up because future taxes should be lower.
    But this is an untested theory. George Osborne thinks that confidence engendered by cuts will offset depressing effects on demand predicted by Keynesian economics.
    All this is based on paper by David Ricardo in 1820. Conservative anti-Keynesian economists claim that cuts in borrowing will automatically boost private spending.
    But Ricardo himself said that the theory is based on UNREALISTIC assumption about human nature.
    Now there has been, instead, a slump in consumer confidence. Consumer Confidence index has dropped to -29!
    The US is recovering like China and India. They all have used stimulus and tax cuts. Ireland and Greece have had drastic cuts and suffered. So there is an alternative. It is called Plan B!
    Martin Wolf of the FT wrote that the government has now been warned. The US Treasury Secretary said in Davos that drastic spending cuts are not the responsible way to cut deficits.
    The economic policy of the Tory-led government is not credible.
    Labour would put GROWTH and JOBS first.
    68% of Britons think that Big Society will not work. The majority believe that the cuts are too deep and too fast.
    GPs will be handed the NHS money (£80bn) whether they like it or not. If they do not, private firms will step in. Regulation will now promote competition. There will be a transformation into a market.
    Will this work? Are there enough funds?
    David Cameron says he is heir to Blair. But Tony Blair doubled health resources. Under New Labour the NHS funding increased to £100bn plus.
    Under New Labour public satisfaction of NHS increased to record 71% from 55%.
    The biggest restructuring of the NHS since its creation in 1948 is risky according to NHS leaders. Nick Boles MP has spoken of “creative chaos”. The government is trying to do too much at the same time.
    Voters have not been prepared for the NHS reforms. Conservative manifesto forgot to mention them.
    Reforms will be bitter medicine to swallow.

    Ps. Crown Prosecution says that any keyword search would have unearthed the “new” phone-hacking evidence years ago.

  • Dave Simons

    The word ‘twat’ does actually mean something and is the equivalent of what is probably a neo-Cockneyism – ‘Jeremy Hunt’, or what Philip Larkin once referred to, in his poem ‘Livings III’, as ‘pudendum mulieris’ (‘High Windows’ 1974). Sorry to sound politically correct but I don’t think the word should be employed in this manner, and certainly not sullied by association with the Tories. David Cameron got away with it at the end of 2009 when some sycophantic TV interviewer asked him about tweeting – ‘How many tweets make a twat’ (guffaw, guffaw). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Alastair’s use of the phrase ‘bunch of twats’ elicits a chorus of disapproval from the Tory-supporting media, and indeed from Tory politicians, including even Cameron! Watch this space…..

  • Richard

    You have definitely won the argument, Al, when from your exalted eerie you
    describe your opponents as a “Bunch of twats” . How we laughed: the money spent on your education was not wasted.

    And then you preen yourself over your deft turn of phrase.

    It certainly shows the need for Comprehensive Education that a Grammar School Boy like you can be so ignorant and childish.

  • alienfromzog

    John Appleby of the independent Kings Fund writes the following in this weeks British Medical Journal:

    “The official ministerial briefing for the Health and Social Care Bill states that despite spending the same on healthcare, our rate of death from heart disease is double that in France. Although statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) confirm that in 2006 the age standardised death rate for acute myocardial infarction was around 19/100 000 in France and 41/100 000 in the United Kingdom, comparing just one year—and with a country with the lowest death rate for myocardial infarction in Europe—reveals only part of the story. Not only has the UK had the largest fall in death rates from myocardial infarction between 1980 and 2006 of any European country, if trends over the past 30 years continue, it will have a lower death rate than France as soon as 2012.

    These trends have been achieved with a slower rate of growth in healthcare spending in the UK compared with France and at lower levels of spending every year for the past half century. The most recent OECD spending comparisons show that in 2008, the UK spent 8.7% of its gross domestic product on health compared with 11.2% for France—28% more.”

    So, the justification for this massive and expensive reorganisation of the NHS is what exactly?


  • Dave Simons

    I hope you won’t mind if this ex-grammar school boy corrects your spelling. I think you mean ‘eyrie’, or ‘aerie’, or ‘aery’, or ‘eyry’ – eagle’s nest. Definitely not ‘eerie’ – that’s just weird!

  • alienfromzog

    Olli, you are wrong about Ricardian Equivalence. It is not an untested theory. As Joseph Stiglitz (another Nobel-prize winner in economics who has publicly critised George Osborne) points out. It has been tried several times and every time it makes things worse.


  • Richard

    On reflection I think that the phrase ‘Bunch of twats’ should be replaced by “An annulus of Twats.”

  • Sarah Dodds

    Is a Tory twat a twot?

  • Janete

    Alienfromzog – this is exactly the sort of detail we have to get across, before the Tories succeed in convincing voters that the NHS is broken. AC is right to say Labour used the private sector only to improve performance for NHS patients. My local hospital, where I and both my children were born, has been transformed, and it has become common practice for consultants to run evening clinics to meet their targets rather than lose funding to the private sector. How often did that happen in the past?

    We have missed Andy Burnham’s high profile, passionate defence of Labour’s record, and his warnings of the damage to this precious service if Tory policies are implemented. Too often, only journalists are present to challenge Lansley in the media, as happened on today’s Andrew Marr show. Marr either didn’t want to raise the very important issue you refer to, or was not well enough informed to use it to challenge the minister. He also allowed Lansley to state, unchallenged, that 140 existing GP consortia represented half the country, when he knows full well they do not represent half the patients, but only a general geographical spread.

    I am desperate to hear someone ask Lansley what proportion of the £100 billion we spend on health will be siphoned off in private profit. Perhaps the difference between ours and France’s total spend on health? But we know the Tories won’t spend 28% more, the lost funds will seriously diminish standards of care, as has already started to happen with increased waiting times.

  • Janete

    ‘Ignorant and childish’ Dick. Have you heard about glass houses and stones?

  • Laurapayneuk_

    Having spent the evening with a german doctor friend who is so disillusioned by the private insurance system in Germany he now wants to get out. Problem is that administrators of private insurance companies are now telling him as a cardio-vascular surgeon which investigations he should or should not be doing – not knowing anything about the body. They don’t seem to understand that certain conditions might, for example, surface in the leg but are caused by the heart (which is apparently higher up in the body) and being a private company they decide they wont pay for what they consider are superflous or unecessary treatments …making it almost impossible for doctor friend to treat anyone sensibly….a system soon to be imported to the UK????

  • Jose

    “all the things they were doing for which they have no mandate,”…it occurs to me that Labour didn´t have a mandate for bankrupting the country either! Whether you like the coalition or not, and before deciding to go with the Tories, Labour wanted the LibDems to form a coalition with. Would the Labour/LibDem coalition be oh so very different? The answer is we´ll never know but probably would be no!

  • Olli Issakainen

    The idea of reasonable growth alongside dramatic rates of deficit reduction is controversial. It has been done twice before in Britain in the last 30 years – in the early 1980s and early to mid 1990s. Few adhere to Ricardian equivalence nowadays.

  • Anna

    Cameron has been deliberately talking down the NHS and its continuing achievements under Labour:

    I can speak from experience here. Under the Tories, there was a waiting list of nearly 2 years just to get an appointment to diagnose my husband’s chronic disability. We had to raise £4000 from sparse savings for private consultations, scans, tests etc. Since Labour’s funding came on stream, we have had superb and compassionate care from our GP and hospitals, including fantastic emergency surgery at Frenchay Hospital Bristol (three cheers for them!).

    The Labour Party resuscitated and NHS that was dying under the last Tory government. Now they aim to destroy it again. A consultant friend of ours says that dostors will not have the time to research providers themselves and will outsource it to commissioning companies, who may well own or hav links to, the providing companies. They will siphon off all the quick, profitable procedures, the nice little earners that will keep them in Gucci shoes and flash cars, and leave the NHS to manage the complicated and long term.

  • Richard

    When your type resort to the “Bunch of twats” name calling you have lost the argument: can you not see that? When all the parties are busy cutting their cloth to appeal to the “squeezed middle” it does your cause no good to resort to such idiocy.
    The rabid, vitriolic name calling will never win you an election.

  • ambrosian

    Re Cameron’s use of ‘twat’ in a radio interview, he later said he had no idea what the word meant. His use of language is often a bit shaky. In a recent PMQs he spoke of terrorists prepared to murder themselves. Can you murder yourself? I thought that was suicide.
    So much for an Eton education!

  • John Fisher

    Toffee twat tories, runs off the tongue, sticks in the gullet.

  • Robert

    I thought that Twots were our problem, not the Tories’?

  • Janete

    My copy of The Oxford English Dictionary gives two possible definitions for the word ‘twat’. I wouldn’t describe the Tories as a bunch of female genitals but the second definition, a derogatory term meaning ‘unpleasant or stupid person’ seems fairly accurate to me.

    I’m sure several people of ‘my type’ are very pleased to hear you have seen the error of your ways and now condemn the idiotic use of ‘rabid, vitriolic name calling’.

  • Dave Simons

    Does ‘rabid, vitriolic name-calling’ include the following?

    ‘drEaDful Moribund’

    ‘Two Shags, Two Jags, First Class Stateroom on the Upper Deck Prescott’

    Now I wonder which blogger was name-calling when using these expressions on 3rd and 4th January 2011?

  • Dave Simons

    In defense of Twotsky let’s not forget that he sussed out the Nazi threat in the early 1930s, long before Churchill, and history proved him dead right. Twotskyists are another matter altogether – Twotsky would have been the first to disown some of them.

  • Andrew h

    A bit like the twats in your party who pissed more billions against the wall than any government I know of… The FireControl project… Connecting for Health, Tax Credits IT, ID Cards……

    And the biggest…. The NAO report that said the extra £20,000,000,000 spent on narrowing the gap between poor and middle class life expectancy has got worse or as the NAO put it… ‘Although life expectancy overall has increased, the gap in life expectancy between the national average and the [last labour] Government’s dedicated areas has continued to widen.’

    So thats close to £60,000,000,000 pissed against a wall…. Now howmuch did Iraq cost….

    TWATS is just the right word….

  • Andrew H

    I always wonder why nobody rioted or tried to smash Labours HQ when they brought in tuition fees….

    I think there is something else at work in this mindless ‘Stepford wife’ style Tory Hatred….