Tony Blair has made a big speech on public health today and has called on people to take more responsibility for their health to relieve pressure on the NHS (BBC). Mr Blair argued that public health problems were "not, strictly speaking, public health problems at all" but were "questions of individual lifestyle – obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, diabetes, sexually transmitted disease."
Iain Dale was unimpressed:
"I have just watched Blair’s Health Speech in Nottingham on Sky. He had the usual heckler interruption which was quite entertaining, but as for the speech, well, I couldn’t quite see the point he was trying to make beyond blaming the ills of the National Health Service on all these irresponsible people who dare to fall ill. If it wasn’t for them, the whole thing would be running very smoothly indeed, was his implication. It is self evident that people should try to improve their health, but for their own sake, not for the benefit of a buregoning bureaucracy which is becoming unreformable."
I am more willing to be positive about the Prime Minister’s message although I accept Iain’s view that improved public health is no substitute for NHS reform. So many individual choices are contributing to the growth of government and anti-government fundamentalists need to overcome their opposition to publicly-funded programmes that, in the medium term, may produce more independent citizens and lower taxes. I wrote this in January:
"The road to a smaller state lies in healthier marriages, less obesity and more drug rehabilitation (among other things). It is essential that small government conservatives find ways of delivering such social goods."
And, for once, I appear to be in line with Tory policy! Andrew Lansley has welcomed Tony Blair’s speech and has helpfully issued a press release comparing Blair’s rhetoric today with Cameron’s in January (when the Tory leader addressed the same subject). The graphic below summarises four key sections of ‘Blameron’ language (a subject discussed by Simon Heffer today):
Another example of New Labour stealing Tory ideas or of our Dave being the heir to Blair?