‘The new health secretary personally intervened to encourage the controversial takeover of NHS hospitals in his constituency by a private company, Virgin Care. Frustrated by delays to the £650m deal earlier this year, he pushed NHS Surrey officials to sign quickly…’

Plans afoot for Hunt’s next job even as Cameron cleared him

Former Culture & Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt was being ‘actively touted’ for the job as NHS boss from the start of July this year, The Slog has learned from Whitehall and media sources.

Within days of giving Jeremy Hunt ‘a clean bill of health’ on May 31st last, it has been disclosed, Prime Minister David Cameron mentioned Mr Hunt’s name in a discussion with colleagues about the future of Andrew Lansley. To the dismay of at least one senior intimate, it is alleged, the Conservative leader accepted an observation from advisers that Hunt’s toxicity was now too close to him (given their equally deep involvement with the Murdochs) but insisted that he could not be “seen to climb down” over his confidence in the beleaguered Culture Secrtary.

I understand that by the middle of August, his promotion to Health Secretary was “a done deal”. And around 22nd August, he gave an interview to the Mail on Sunday in which he “seemed extraordinarily confident about what lay ahead”. The interview when it appeared confirmed this in spades.

People close to the situation remain tight-lipped (or genuinely baffled) about the source of support for Mr Hunt. But one  journalist who has been close to events surrounding the new Health Secretary for some time observes, “There is without question a consortium of older Tory supporters and MPs who not only see Cameron as a disaster, but also believe they must have Hunt in a key position. As it happens, they view [Education Secretary Michael] Gove in exactly the same way. But the composition of this group is a movable feast. Very Right Wing is one way to put it, but whoever they are, their security is skin-tight”.

One Whitehall source – entirely new to me – was slightly more forthcoming this weekend:

“You can see the way the wind is blowing on this one. Senior officials use the term ‘business friendly’, but it’s a euphemism. I read your piece on ‘body-snatchers’ and it struck a chord. I would privately call it direct business sponsorship.”

I’m posting this new article slightly later than envisaged today because two MSM pieces have caught my eye this morning. They do tend to support the whistle-blower above’s vision of the future.

In the Mail on Sunday, a lead item accuses Michael Gove over ‘a potential conflict of interest over school meals after it was revealed that his constituency party has received nearly £50,000 in donations from a major shareholder in the Domino’s Pizza company…an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches has discovered the reforms have produced a drastic decline in the take-up for school meals –  now only 33 per cent at primary schools and less than half  per cent of pupils at secondary level eat in school canteens…[there is also]…a disturbing new trend for fast food chains – of which Domino’s is one of the most aggressive exponents – to exploit pupils’ dissatisfaction by opening premises close to schools….The Domino’s chain is a significant supporter of Education Secretary Michael Gove, [especially] Moonpal Singh Grewal..[who] is also chair of Michael Gove’s Constituency Party’.

Somewhat nearer to the opposite end of the political spectrum, The Observer this morning comes up with Jeremy Hunt and a Virgin Media deal in his own constituency. It seems the new health secretary personally intervened to encourage the controversial takeover of NHS hospitals in his constituency by a private company, Virgin Care. Frustrated by delays to the £650m deal earlier this year, he pushed NHS Surrey officials to sign quickly.The Virgin deal went through, despite concerns being raised in the local NHS risk register about the impact on patient care ‘following the transfer of management from the NHS’.
Regular Sloggers will know that there is already a trail of gravy on this particular front. Virginia Bottomley was a former Health Secretary and MP for SW Surrey, who now represents the interests of private healthcare in the House of Lords. Jeremy Hunt sold his Hotcourses services to the British Council while Ms Bottomley was there. He is now MP for SW Surrey and Health Secretary in the House of Commons healping Virigin healthcare. Mathematically, the chances of those two parallel career paths happening by chance are billions to one against. Dear old pals, jolly old pals.
There is an emerging trend here that gets harder and harder to ignore with every week: the British Government is in dire straits and deep debt: as I pointed out in yesterday’s post here, it is ripe for a takeover bid. And that takeover bid is in play.