I can’t help feeling that, should the Nats win the election, Tony Ryall will not make a good Health Minister. His latest gaff is to send a letter of warning to the Auckland DHB, saying he had received reports the board intended to promote Government achievements before the election. What he thought this would look like to the media no-one knows, but it throws grave doubt on his ability to handle that great destroyer of political careers, the health portfolio.
I don’t, for a moment, think that Ryall is incompetent. Indeed, he has generally handled the opposition portfolio reasonably well by staying on the obvious message. After nine years of Labour government and many extra billions of dollars, health is in a generally worse state than it was in 1999. And that’s saying something. Of course, Cunliffe would dispute that and cherry-pick some feel-good statistics to make his point. But it is unlikely that the man in the street would believe him.
No, Ryall’s problem seems to be that he keeps providing Labour with free hits. Take the GP fees debacle, for example. Why even mention it, when it wasn’t even in the discussion paper? And why didn’t Ryall immediately defuse the situation by pointing out that there actually isn’t a “cap” on GP fees – any restrictions negotiated are purely voluntary – thus giving the lie to the idea that GP fees would suddenly sky rocket. It should have been relatively easy to point out that all National was planning was to remove an entirely unnecessary piece of bureaucracy.
Now Ryall has sent a letter to the Auckland DHB. Does the man have no political instincts? If he has documented proof that the Ministry is getting the DHBs to roll out a litany of good news, then he should have simply provided it. If he had no proof then he should have waited until the litany of good was obvious to all, before pointing out his suspicions. This letter just makes him look like a bully. And slightly paranoid.
I, personally, think that Ryall is too hard-nosed and ideologically driven to make a good health minister. I would prefer to see him in a portfolio where much ass-kicking is required. Telecommunications comes immediately to mind (Williamson has too much past baggage to safely take this on again). If I were Key, I would take a chance on Dr. Jackie Blue, who has done well as associate health spokeswoman. A fresh face in the position may be helpful, and at least she has a medical background and knows what she’s up against. And health is one portfolio where her inexperience may help. The odd mistake that she is bound to make will be put down to lack of experience rather than some mysterious secret health agenda the National is supposed to have.