Big issues for us all

The prime minister has shown that she understands the two big issues facing the NHS.

First she identified the cause of the winter crisis that has eluded so-called experts: too many people are ill.

This simple truth has been ignored by all those with political axes to grind, who prefer to invent preposterous alternative theories such as that the government is spending too little money or that there are not enough doctors.

There is of course no shortage of doctors, just nowhere for them to go. Forced out of hospitals and GP surgeries by the influx of the needlessly sick, doctors have no option but to huddle together in TV studios giving interviews to keep their spirits up.

Chronic under-naming

Mrs May’s second eureka moment came during her much praised cabinet reshuffle where she took decisive steps to reverse the chronic under-naming of Jeremy Hunt. Mr Hunt entered number ten as the secretary of state for health and emerged as secretary of state for health and social care, a more than 30% increase in his job title.

Mrs May had been fully prepared to reward Mr Hunt for his efforts at the Department of Health with a promotion to the post of junior minister for business parks, but Mr Hunt declined the offer, gamely promising to stay on and steer his department through what promises to be a turbulent next few months. It was a brave decision, as anyone who’s ever led a corporate rebranding exercise will testify.

Extended wait

Mr Hunt kept the media waiting a long time. Some speculated that Mrs May had forced him into a dance-off with business secretary Greg Clark for the health job, and that Mr Hunt only prevailed because he has better legs and tighter trousers than Mr Clark.

A more plausible theory is that keeping Mr Hunt waiting for hours in a draughty corridor before telling him that there was nothing really wrong with him and sending him home appealed to Mrs May’s keen sense of fun.  

Mr Hunt certainly appeared to enjoy the joke. He left wearing his trademark expression of the cat who has been awarded distribution rights in perpetuity to the global cream franchise.

Monster Munch

While the charade of the reshuffle was played out for the sake of the media, ordinary people were bearing the brunt of the crisis. Ordinary people like Simon, who hasn’t left his sixth floor flat in south London for weeks because he’s terrified of going down with something that could be bad for his career.

Simon and his flatmates, who also work as NHS managers, have chosen self-imposed quarantine rather than run the risk of catching a nasty cold from one of the many journalists who roam the area. “We’re going to wrap up warm and wait until it all blows over,” Simon said.

“We’re knitting bobble hats and eating Monster Munch. It’s great fun,” he added.

Think-tanks full to capacity

Elsewhere essential services are close to collapse. Frontline professionals at some of London’s major think-tanks are ending their shifts in tears as demand for thinking reaches unprecedented levels.

“We’re close to capacity already. Even if you gave us more thoughts, there’s nowhere we could put them,” said one.

Despite promises to “keep publishing the same thing over and over again” healthcare analysts privately doubt whether the think-tank sector can survive without massive further investment.

The prime minister confirmed that universal access to think-tanks was the government’s second highest priority after the 25-year target for a 5p charge on all new carrier bags.

Political editor: Julian Patterson