Opponents of the government’s reforms of the NHS have warmly endorsed the Labour party’s announcement that a popular former health minister is to return to the opposition benches to lead its campaign against the health and social care bill.
Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, 114, who was minister of health in 1948, has been named as the successor to shadow health secretary John Healey, who resigned last week.
The appointment surprised some commentators, who had assumed that Mr Bevan’s death in 1960 would rule out a political comeback.
A spokesman said: “You should never assume anything in politics. Nye was a fantastic founder of the NHS and his depth of experience makes him the perfect candidate for the shadow job.”
Asked about the issue of Mr Bevan’s exhumation, the spokesman said: “Just because someone is dead, it doesn’t mean they’re past it.”
Critics of Mr Bevan said he had little experience of reorganising the NHS, mainly because it didn’t exist before his first term of office.
Former colleague William Beveridge said: “Any fool can create a national health service. It’s quite another matter to fiddle about with it. I worry that Nye has no track record of abolishing institutions or coming up with new names for things.”
After only a few days in post, Mr Bevan has already pledged to give GPs “everything you love about clinical commissioning, without any of the hard bits that you don’t like the idea of doing”.
“All I ask in return,” he said, “is that you bring me back from the dead.”
Mr Bevan was scathing about the reputation of health secretary Andrew Lansley as a radical reformer.
“Everyone knows the NHS was really invented by Alan Milburn,” he said.