THERESA May is today urged to launch a Royal Commission to stabilise the National Health Service’s finances as she prepares to undertake a major Cabinet reshuffle to reinvigorate her domestic agenda.
Those tipped for promotion include Jeremy Hunt, the long-standing Health Secretary, who is in the running to become the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy after Damian Green resigned as First Secretary.
Other candidates include Justice Secretary David Lidington and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling as Mrs May looks for a trusted lieutenant to run the Cabinet Office and chair key policy committees. The Prime Minister has been advised by Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith, her new Chief Whip.
Those reportedly at risk of being demoted, or sacked, include Justine Greening, the Rotherham-born Education Secretary, who was said to be under fire for not advancing grammar schools, and Business Secretary Greg Clark. Yet, with Brexit Secretary David Davis and other Cabinet big-hitters set to remain in place, Mrs May wants to shift the focus away from Britain’s departure from the EU after the first phase of negotiations and back onto the home front. Her dilemma is whether she can promote Mr Hunt, who has been in place since 2012, when the NHS is gripped by the worst winter crisis in years.
Former Tory chairman Maurice Saatchi, Margaret Thatcher’s election strategist, has added to the pressure by calling for a Royal Commission to modernise the NHS so it can better respond to the country’s medical needs.
“The wonderful dream of the NHS is turning into a recurring winter nightmare – and leaving it alone is a recipe for long-term catastrophe,” warned the peer. “A Royal Commission can cut through the Gordian knot, and put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the years to come.”
Although Mrs May sidestepped questions on long-term funding, claiming that the NHS had never been “better prepared” for winter pressures, she did acknowledge that “there is more for us to do”.
Yet, while Mrs May will need to balance her new-look Cabinet between competing Brexit factions, she wants to promote a new generation of dynamic Ministers. However, she faced calls last night not to undermine the Northern Powerhouse.
Henri Murison, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s director, said: “It is vital that in key roles like Transport Secretary and Education Secretary, where opportunities like Northern Powerhouse Rail and improving our worst-performing secondary schools are critical, we see Secretaries of State prepared to unlock the funding and devolution of power needed to rebalance our economy for the long-term.
“I would hope that supporters of the Northern Powerhouse, including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Middlesbrough-born Greg Clark, remain in influential roles. This will allow Mr Clark’s Industrial Strategy to continue making progress for Yorkshire’s key industries.”
‘Nothing’s perfect’: Page 4;
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