I read your response to my Huffington post article with interest, and a sense of weary familiarity. Weary familiarity of the continual opposition to essential change, change that is the only way to preserve the National Health Service for the years to come.
Interest, because it chose not to address the incongruity between Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham's respective positions on repealing the Health and Social Care Act. Just over a week ago, Burnham pledged to the House of Commons that, "we will repeal this legislation at the first opportunity." This was a clear statement of intent - to rebuild the weight of NHS bureaucracy that this government is successfully trimming. It is interesting then that his leader did not quite toe this new line, saying that only some elements would be reversed, but without restoring primary care trusts.
Which begs the question, who, if anyone, is in charge of Labour's NHS policy? Like two of Tony Benn's metaphorical weather vanes Burnham and Miliband shift with the prevailing wind, depending on whom they are addressing at the time. Given that the Health and Social Care Act is a moderate acceleration of the same Blairite reforms that both men backed when in the Cabinet, it is not surprising that when it comes to the actual meat of the policy, neither can offer a compelling alternative.
Indeed even your article does not put forward any vision for what the NHS might look like under a Labour government, only vague promises of what you won't do. It is the prerogative of opposition to oppose, granted, but it tends to be much more plausible to the electorate when opposition is backed up by a sensible alternative. As one of Labour's wisest supporters, Dan Hodges, put it, "Unable to accept changing political reality, Labour withdrew from it." Labour's only offer in the face of vital reform is to retreat back inside its comfort zone- pretending to the public that if they close their eyes and wish the challenges facing the NHS will just disappear.
Your concern over the NHS budget also seems somewhat synthetic, given that I understand that it remains Labour policy to cut NHS spending in real terms, year on year. At least, I assume that that was Andy Burnham's intent when he said that, 'It is irresponsible to increase NHS spending in real terms'.
It should surely be a matter for congratulation- that increased efficiency in the capital budget has saved hundreds of millions of pounds on IT spending. Although given Labour's disastrous record on this - squandering £12.7 billion on a national computer system that failed catastrophically - it is no surprise that efficiency has become an alien concept.
Clinician-led commissioning, a reduction in bureaucracy and more patient choice should be being championed. This is the legacy of reform that the Coalition government has inherited, and that Labour have shunned. Scaremongering and incoherent promises of repeal act only to undermine the very NHS staff that are already hard at work implementing the reforms.
The time for cheap point-scoring has passed, now comes the serious work of improving the health service, with power in the hands of the professionals. Labour politicians have made their choice- to stand in the doorway and block up the hall. When the dust settles, and the NHS remains standing, freer, more productive and more efficient, people will remember that Labour set themselves firmly against reform.