I thought the politician’s health debate on NatRad was about what you’d expect. Claims of past victories, accusations of past failures, and scaremongering of the future. Some assertions:

If the Labour government is tired, nobody seems to have told David Cunliffe, still less so Jim “I didn’t leave them, they left me” Anderton.  The guy knows exactly how to start out sounding calm and reasonable, then just at the end of his first sentence, inject a tone of holy injustice, gliding into a second clause of unbridled passion and righteous incourageability, and then push through the objections and moderations just in time to take breath and finish on “and THAT’S a fact!” or similar. He had me scared, and I was only listening on the radio, half a nation away.

I didn’t hear anyone berate Cunliffe for sacking the Hawkes Bay DHB. And he defended his gummint’s decision not to force Pharmac to extend the breast cancer drugs. His reason – reasonably – was that Pharmac are the experts, and non medically trained pollies have no place telling the experts how it should be. “Where” he asked “would that end?” Jim Anderton: “The day I go to Tony Ryall for medical advice will be the day we know there’s something really, really wrong.”

It is, indeed, extraordinary that Ryall, firmly entrenched in the hypocritical and two-faced “less is more” corner of the political arena, and who’s very own National Party introduced both the concept and the actuality of Pharmac last time they were in government, should now be advocating more political influence in that organisation.

It is however easy to explain: the National Party is shamelessly using the high public awareness and engagement in breast cancer to gain political leverage.

But it was Sue Kedgely of the Greens who was really making sense. She didn’t say a lot, so a bit more detail wouldn’t go amiss, but everytime she did say something, it had the tendancy to set the agenda for the next five minutes. Frequently, she defined the debate. And more than once, that message was: investment in primary, preventative health care saves you, me and everyone else a shed load of dosh.

The Greens have two problems that I can see. One is turning a large amount of moral support into votes. That another song. The other is the very thing that makes them good, which is that they’re holistic. And the difficulty with that is that either they can stray off topic, or they expose themselves to counter arguments which are similarly off target.

So when Sue K starts to talk abot primary health care, she’s not only talking abot preventative medicines, but also about preventative lifestyles. Exercise. Nutrition. While there was some badgering on budgeting from the cheap seats, it’s not a message any politician was capable of opposing with any degree of credibility.


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